Tara Grace Walker

Assistant Professor of Communication, St. Bonaventure University.
Researcher of mental health in media.
Maker of poems, paintings and other arty things.


I’m an Assistant Professor in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University, where I teach courses in professional writing, research methods, and media and mental health. I received my PhD from the University of Colorado Boulder in Media Research and Practice, specializing in Advertising, Public Relations and Media Design.

One of the best parts of being a media/communication scholar is that it allows me to be widely curious about a variety of phenomena, although my main focus is mental illness and health in mass communication. I look at direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA), public health campaigns, news coverage, social media and film/television because all have implications for stigma and social inequalities. You can find out more about my research and scholarship here, and on my Google Scholar page.

I’m a writer and artist with an MFA in writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. You can find some of my writing, including links to my 2018 book of poetry, Exquisite Disgust, under the writing tab. You can find my paintings and drawings under the Four Colly Birds tab.

Thanks for stopping by.


My research centers around the role of mass communication messages in shaping and reinforcing dominant paradigms regarding mental health.


My dissertation, Ask your Doctor about Chemical Imbalances: Mass-Communicating the Biomedical Model of Mental Illness through the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, 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?


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


The Lune, 2017

“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


Lunch Ticket, 2013

Reading at Dikeou Collection, Denver, CO, January 2019