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The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

There’s a code for that

Dariela Rodriguez ’00, M.A. ’08

On April 15, 2013, when two bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon, rapid communication was paramount. The job of imparting information to the public fell to law enforcement, health officials and even local marathon organizers.

Making that process better and more efficient is one of the goals of UTSA alumna Dariela Rodriguez, who is helping to combine health, risk and crisis communication studies into one program at Ashland University in Ohio.

Rodriguez, an assistant professor of communication studies at Ashland, has been integral in revamping the communications curriculum and creating Health and Risk Communication programs at the graduate and undergraduate level.

“We looked into health communication issues, [and] risk and crisis communication issues and pulled a program together—where most of these are usually separate,” Rodriguez said.

The Master of Arts program is online-only, making it the first of its kind in the nation, Rodriguez said. It will launch this summer and Rodriguez couldn’t be more excited.

“We decided to do [online courses] basically because we wanted to be able to give as many people as possible the opportunity to try to benefit from the program,” Rodriguez said.

The university recruited top scholars from across the nation to teach the classes, and with a projected 24-percent growth in employment of health and risk communication professionals by 2018, the timing is impeccable.

The program garnered attention from agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and student interest from India after the program was promoted in the Journal of Risk and Crisis Communication out of London.

As she makes a name for herself at Ashland, Rodriguez said she cherishes the time she spent at UTSA and hopes to return one day as a professor.

Rodriguez earned her bachelor’s degree in 2000 and a master’s in communication in 2008. She completed her doctorate at the University of Oklahoma.

Rodriguez said the idea of what safe means and how safe we are has changed since the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. No longer are concerns about risk and safety communication under the exclusive purview of governmental officials, the San Antonio native said.

“Everybody needs to understand how to communicate risk now,” she added. “Your sports team needs to understand how to communicate risk. If I go to my rec center here at Ashland and I pass out—there’s a code for that.”

–Lucille Sims Thomas


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