Communication group honors ASU professor

Published On:
Thursday, April 30, 2009
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Though Linda Lederman has been a teacher and researcher for more than 40 years, she didn’t start working on her most well-known achievement until 1990.

When her son left for to college, she began researching alcohol use, abuse and addiction.

And now, the Eastern Communication Association has named Lederman, dean of social sciences at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Centennial Scholar of Communication.

Lederman said she is happy to receive the honor, which was given to 20 people who have made significant contributions to the study of communication.

“It was very touching to me,” Lederman said. “There are so many people whose work has influenced me, that to see myself among them — singled out as somebody whose work has really had an impact on others — was very meaningful.”

A postdoctoral research fellow, Aaron Hess, said he has worked closely with Lederman in researching alcohol use and abuse, said he was not surprised Lederman was named a Centennial Scholar.

“It’s so well deserved because of the dedication that she has put into the field of health communication, especially in the field of alcohol and other drug prevention, because there aren’t that many top communications scholars that tend to that issue,” Hess said.

Lederman said though she began her research in interpersonal and organizational communications, she has become increasingly interested in the study of alcohol use, especially at universities.

“The work that I always cared the most about is work that explores something that has real application into people’s everyday lives,” Lederman said. “So I have particularly been immersed in the study of the role that alcohol plays for many people, particularly college students in transition.”

Lederman said her work is not pro-drinking or antidrinking but aims to understand the function alcohol serves in a college setting.

Lederman said one of her most recent works is a simulation game called
Let’s Talk About It.” She said the activity is a series of vignettes that describe a brief situation in which alcohol is involved and participants must choose out of three possible outcomes.

Then, participants discuss why they made the choice they did, the consequence of their choice and the possible risks involved, she said. Lederman said the scenarios are based on research she has done, both with surveys and in-depth qualitative focus groups.

“The purpose of it is to get students to reflect upon how they go about making their decisions and also to see how other people make decisions,” Lederman said. “The next time the situation presents itself, [participants] may remember that there were other people that they heard made choices that maybe they would now make.”

Karen Moses, director of Wellness and Health Promotion, said she has worked with Lederman to use “Let’s Talk About It” in classrooms, and it has been very beneficial.

“Students really relate to the way the program works — to be able to see what your peers decisions would be and how you fit in and to have those discussions about why you chose what you chose,” Moses said. “It really is an engaging way of discussing common experiences that students have.”

Moses also said she thinks Lederman’s achievement as Centennial Scholar is well-deserved because her research is making a significant impact, not only with other professionals, but also with students.

Desiree Rowe, a rhetoric and performance studies graduate student, agreed that Lederman’s research is notable, so much so that she scripted and directed a play based off of it, called “Drink, Drank, Drugged,” which was performed in late March.

“I read [Lederman’s research] and grouped it into categories based on themes that were emergent throughout her literature,” Rowe said. “[Then I] scripted that into a performance with actors and scenarios based on those themes to talk about college drinking and some ways to drink safer and be more attentive to destructive practices.”

Rowe said she thinks Lederman’s research is powerful, which is why she used to speak to an audience.

“Her research affects people and it affects practices of undergraduate students throughout the University,” she said.

Reach the reporter at abigail.gilmore@asu.edu.