Tara Grace Walker

PhD Candidate, Media Research and Practice, University of Colorado Boulder.
Health Communication Researcher.
Writer of Poems. Lover of Cats. Spiller of Coffee.

About


I am a PhD candidate in the College of Media, Communication and Information at the University of Colorado Boulder. My degree will be in Media Research and Practice, specializing in Advertising, Public Relations and Media design. Broadly speaking, my research focuses on mental illness and health in mass communication.

I have been the Instructor of Record for Media Ethics and Law, History of Advertising, Strategic Writing for Public Relations, and Creative Concepts. Prior to teaching these courses for the College of Media, Communication and Information, I taught writing and rhetoric classes for CU Boulder’s Program for Writing and Rhetoric.

I’m a writer and poet with an MFA in writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. You can find some of my writing, including my recently published book of poetry, Exquisite Disgust, under the Creative Work tab.

Research


Current Work

My current research centers around the role of mass communication messages in shaping and reinforcing dominant paradigms regarding mental health. My dissertation focuses on direct-to-consumer advertisements and news coverage for the SSRI class of antidepressant drugs after regulations for broadcast advertising of prescription drugs were loosened. Additionally, the dissertation examines the potential of mass media messages to transform or perpetuate stigma and associated social inequalities. I use a mixed-methods approach to this project, employing both content analysis and textual analysis to understand the bigger picture.

Scholarly Publications

Research Interests

Stigma and Health Communication: What perpetuates stigma, and what challenges stigma?

  • How can we encourage representations of mental disorders in media to be more realistic and less stigmatizing?
  • How is stigma supported by large institutions including the healthcare system, the school system and the government?
  • How does culture shape or dismantle stigmatizing beliefs about people with mental illnesses?

Gender and Mental Health: An intersectional minefield?

  • How do public health campaigns, advertisements, and news coverage shape the way we understand mental health and illness as intersectional gendered issues?
  • Do mass media depictions challenge gender stereotypes, encourage them, or both? How do gender portrayals enforce cultural hegemony?
  • As researchers, how can we be more aware of the network of social inequalities and disparities that surrounds health and health communication?

Personal Informatics for Mental Health: Are we trying to quantify the un-quantifiable?

  • How do people track and maintain their health via mobile technology like smartphone apps?
  • How does personal, qualitative information get translated into quantitative data?
  • Do smart phone apps for both mental and physical health affect health behavior change? Do they enhance or detract from quality of life and health literacy?

Ethical Dilemmas: How can we treat media audiences as ends and not as mere means?

  • Is direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription drugs a better, more ethical alternative than advertising to medical professionals alone?
  • How does the online environment complicate the ethical boundaries of communicating about personal health issues?
  • What is the difference between using a social justice gimmick to advertise a product and actually supporting a worthy cause?

Creative Work


Exquisite Disgust

The Little Door Press, 2018

“Split into separate segments of Bug, Bird, and Human with drawings by the poet, Exquisite Disgust leads you into the slowed down realm of acute absorption. Walker creates a space where observation, feeling, and change conflagrate into “a supple apocalypse.” Here, the natural world is rarely distant enough for clear observation, more often it is messy and felt strongly. In these poems, the “whole world [is] trapped beneath the smothering skies.” This is a place where the environment sees and feels us as much as we do it. If we pay attention, this means that we can sometimes intuit the world more deeply. When these poems blur the literal and the figurative into new ecologies, this means we can sometimes better understand ourselves as well, but more often it means that Walker leads us through the varietals of not-knowing, “Everybody knows [your heart] grows back./Nobody knows how.”

- Elizabeth Cross


Pill

The Lune, 2017

Preview here.

“Working with only (or mostly) the range of letters each pill provides, creating within it a sense of its own world, Walker nevertheless manages to make from this limited substance, poems that extend beyond their encapsulated confines and into a range of expression that can flood the system and alter perception. Warning: mixing with alcohol may cause musing.”

- Rowland Saifi


Grandma’s Do-It-Yourself Recipe Book

The Merrimack Review, 2017


The Woman, Blinded by Her Husband, Speaks

Magnolia: A Journal of Women's Socially Engaged Literature, 2013


Freight

Lunch Ticket, 2013


Reading at Dikeou Collection, Denver, CO, January 2019

Contact