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Hu received her Ph.D. in Mass Communication from Pennsylvania State University, M.Phil. in Communication from Chinese University of Hong Kong, and B.A. in Journalism from Renmin University of China. Hu’s major area of study is the uses and effects of new media and digital technologies in health communication, with a particular focus on mental health awareness, prevention and treatment. She has a secondary concentration in intercultural communication.
Hu has published in journals such as Communication Research, Journal of Communication in Healthcare, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Atlantic Journal of Communication, Electronic Journal of Communication, The Open Communication Journal, Florida Communication Journal, Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, among others. Her research has also appeared in books, conference proceedings, and encyclopedias. Hu’s research has been supported by Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Department of Health, State of New Jersey, and various TCNJ grants.
Hu is also on the Editorial Board of Atlantic Journal of Communication, and actively reviews manuscripts for more than 20 journals, many of which are top ones in the field. She is frequently invited to review books and grants as well, and serves as an external reviewer for tenure and promotion for colleagues from other institutions.
Before the era of social media, Hu called for nuancing internet-use measures to reflect the variety and layers of online health sources. She based her recommendations on a rigorously designed experiment that was published in Communication Research, a top journal in communication. Since its publication in 2010, the article has been cited 324 times according to Google Scholar (dated August 11, 2019). The online health source typology she developed and published in this article has profoundly impacted the work of scholars in the field and has been adopted in the 2nd edition of Handbook of Health Communication, which is arguably the best reference for all graduate students in health communication and a graduate level textbook.
Hu’s current research focuses on utilizing a series of new communication technologies for mental health and substance use prevention and intervention. Specifically, she and a faculty member from Interactive Multimedia are leading a multidisciplinary team of students from Communication Studies, Public Health, and Interactive Multimedia to design and develop an interactive video game with narrative immersion that promotes mindful drinking among college students. When the video game is complete, Hu will examine the effectiveness of this innovative alcohol intervention through a randomized controlled trial. Hu is also working with a multidisciplinary team of faculty from Engineering, Nursing, and Economics on designing an enhanced CO monitor with motivational messaging and gamification features as part of a new tobacco dependence treatment program that aims to reach low-income individuals remotely, and on their schedules. Both projects, if prove successful, could be scaled up and replicated nationally. In addition, Hu is writing a book chapter on the role of technology in supporting civic engagement and partnerships for health equity.
Hu is constantly sought after for speeches, guest lectures, and interviews outside of TCNJ. Recently she has been invited to deliver an interactive Webinar, “New Media Technology and Public Health,” to the American Medical Student Association and received a Certificate of Appreciation in recognition of her outstanding dedication and commitment to the Association. She was also interviewed by WELL, a communication platform that connects patients to healthcare organizations via text, phone, email and live-chat, on “How Texting Helps the Healthcare Industry.”
Hu believes in the cultivation of future public health communication professionals and researchers who are more compassionate when communicating with patients, and are equipped with digital technology tools to help patients who are difficult to reach due to location, culture, language barriers, age, or disability. Hu thus created and developed an advanced interdisciplinary course, New Media and Health Communication. This is a key offering in the interdisciplinary concentration of health communication, the public health major, and the Master of Public Health program. Taking a critical social science perspective, this hands-on course surveys a wide range of technology applications in health and healthcare, including, but not limited to: ehealth literacy, electronic health records and open notes, telehealth, varying forms of patient support groups, social media health campaigns, mobile health design, virtual/augmented realities, serious games, and artificial intelligence for health.
Drawing upon her own international background, Hu aligns the course Intercultural/Racial Communication closely with TCNJ’s strategic priorities and signature experiences. Students examine communication within and between cultures and cocultures, so as to develop intercultural communication competence. Thus, they achieve personal growth, social responsibility, and world mindedness. Students also undertake an ethnographic study of local non-profit organizations, such as the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, Meals on Wheels, HomeFront, the English School, and the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund. Through observations, interviews, and focus groups, students create intercultural communication guides for volunteers and resource manuals or brochures for community members.
Hu’s innovations in teaching have received attention from colleagues in the communication field and the TCNJ community. She has been featured twice in the TCNJ Magazine for using digital media applications like “Second Life” in the classroom (click here and here), and she has been invited to share her experiences with teaching using virtual worlds at workshops on and off campus. She has published a journal article based on empirical data gathered from her own teaching experiences and a book chapter on the use of social media in the classroom, among other creative pedagogical publications.
Hu believes in teaching and learning through collaborative activities that break traditional disciplinary boundaries and classroom settings. Her class partnered with TCNJ international students, an experience that helped both groups of students expand their global horizons and enhance their intercultural communication competence. Her students have also worked with healthcare companies on demystifying confusing healthcare terms by using innovative communication strategies for stronger comprehension from the public. Hu often invites subject-matter experts all over the world to interact with her students (e.g., Regina Holliday, a national patient rights arts advocate, Elly Mayday, a Canadian model and advocate for women’s health). Recently, Hu is collaborating with faculty from STEM programs on multidisciplinary class projects.
Hu is also deeply committed to mentoring students. Her students are heavily involved in scholarly works and endeavors. She advises students on their research projects. Some of their works were published in TCNJ Journal of Student Scholarship (click here and here) as well as presented at professional conferences in the communication field (click here and here).
Hu is currently the Chair of the Communication Studies Department. Hu believes that diversity and inclusion is a core value that leads to a successful organization, so she strives to reinforce and live the value in all aspects of her work. In addition to many of her tasks as Chair, Hu enjoys meeting with prospective families and talking about her visions for the department, and the missions, values, and strengths of the program. She also finds it rewarding to work with students on projects that raise recognition and awareness for the department, such as the SpringHasComm department showcase. She also promotes activities that build a sense of community in the department such as CommTuesday, an informal platform for faculty and students to interact.
Hu is also actively involved in the betterment of TCNJ’s culture and academic endeavors. She served on Faculty Senate and various search committees, chaired the School’s Curriculum Committee, and was a department rep for the School’s Assessment Task Force & Strategic Planning Committee. Additionally, Hu’s work on the Public Health Minor Planning Committee and the Public Health Task Force helped pave the way for the newly designed Public Health Major. Hu has provided extensive service to the College as a member of the Information Technology Council, the Healthy Campus Program Council, the Career Development Committee, and the First Year Seminar Committee.
Hu is also strongly committed to community engagement and public service in and outside of the university setting. She has shared her intercultural communication skills and music talents in and outside of TCNJ community. Hu played the violin at TCNJ’s Asian American Annual Cultural Performance “Mystique”. She also played first violin in the TCNJ Orchestra. She performs at TCNJ Chinese New Year Celebrations on a regular basis. Hu is the Founder and Director of Flowers and the Youth Ensemble, a local multi-cultural youth string band that performed at public libraries and various community events (click here and here). During the holiday season, the ensemble brought a variety of folk and ethnic music to Millhill Child & Family Development Center in Trenton, a nonprofit organization that serves children and families with education, counseling and health services to empower and transform communities.