Assistant professor Dr. Crystal Daugherty is in her second year at Northern Kentucky University (NKU), but it feels a bit like she's back at the starting line.
"My first full year was completely remote — I was living in western Kentucky," she said. "This fall was the first time I was able to come to campus, be in my office and interact with some students face to face. I already had a whole year under my belt."
Dr. Daugherty feels at home now that she is on campus in Highland Heights and teaching in the online Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Health Communication program at NKU instead of from her home office.
"Everyone here has been great," she said. "You can tell that the faculty members care about their students. "That was important. It was one of the reasons that I accepted the position. I got that vibe from them in the interview process, but to see that play out over the last couple of years has been great."
Dr. Daugherty has had an eventful first year on campus. She was recently named the recipient of the Dwight L. Freshley Outstanding New Teacher Award from the Southern States Communication Association. She will receive her award in Greenville, South Carolina, in April 2022.
After growing up in rural Horse Branch, Kentucky, Dr. Daugherty set her sights on a career as an agriculture attorney.
"I knew where I wanted to go to school," she said. "I went to the University of Kentucky and got an undergraduate degree in agriculture with a minor in communication. I thought I might go to law school after that, but I decided to pursue communication instead."
Then, fate stepped in and Dr. Daugherty enrolled in a master's degree program in communication at Abilene Christian University (ACU) after graduating from the University of Kentucky in 2008. While in the master's program she taught a college-level course.
"That was the first time I was actually in the classroom," she said. "I enjoyed interacting with college students."
Dr. Daugherty graduated in 2010 from ACU, where she also taught. She then moved on to the University of Memphis (U of M), where she graduated with a Ph.D. in communication nine years later. She also taught at U of M for nearly four years.
"When I was in my Ph.D. program, online courses were gaining a little more traction. The University of Memphis was starting to offer more online degree programs. I taught three or so online classes while I was in grad school."
Now that Dr. Daugherty is teaching health communication courses at NKU, she has settled into a groove.
"With the pandemic, I was able to stay safe and distance from people and still learn technologies that help us create almost an in-person feel, like VoiceThread and Flipgrid, where students are able to upload videos and feel like they're getting the experience of an in-person class online," she said.
Plus, Dr. Daugherty still loves making meaningful connections with students, whether in person or online.
"Sometimes students aren't quite sure what it means to be a health communication scholar," she said. "Then, we're in the classes, interacting with the material and each other, sharing experiences. There's usually a moment for most students when they realize it's helpful. That lightbulb moment with the students is always fun to see."
With an eye to the future, Dr. Daugherty is helping her colleagues create new coursework for the online B.A. in Health Communication program.
"We are developing courses that have never been taught here before," she said. "We're seeing some excitement about what we have focused on for many years in the health comm field.
"My colleagues and I are deciding what courses should be offered in the health communication program, then doing the work of developing them. I have one coming up that I developed this year."
In her free time, Dr. Daugherty enjoys visiting national parks, hiking, kayaking and gardening. She looks forward to many more years at NKU. Plus, teaching online has advantages for her lifestyle.
"It has been a lot of fun," she said. "It gives faculty the same flexibility that it gives students, which is nice."
Learn more about NKU's online B.A. in Health Communication program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.