Dhavan Shah

Maier-Bascom Professor; Director of the MCRC




Dhavan Shah headshot

Dhavan V. Shah is the Louis A. & Mary E. Maier-Bascom Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he is Director of the Mass Communication Research Center (MCRC) and Scientific Director in the Center for Health Enhancement System Studies (CHESS). Housed in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication with affiliated appointments in Industrial and Systems Engineering, Marketing, and Political Science, his research focuses on the influence of electronic and digital media on social judgments, civic engagement, and health support.

He has developed three major lines of inquiry, with his most recent work extending insights and techniques from his prior examinations of the influence of message construction and online interactions on the development and deployment of digital technologies for individual and community health. These programs of research center on: (1) the influence of message framing and processing on decision-making and opinion formation; (2) the capacity of mass and interpersonal communication, especially in online communities, to encourage civic engagement and political participation; and (3) the effects of computer-mediated interactions, particularly the expression of social support, on the management of cancer, aging, and addiction (link to CV). Across these domains, he has increasingly applied computational techniques to social science questions, employing computer-assisted text analysis, machine learning, network mapping, and predictive analytics to study politics, civic life, and public health.

These interests are reflected in his teaching, which includes SJMC 345, Principles of Strategic Communication; SJMC 447, Strategic Media Planning; SJMC 614, Communication and Public Opinion; SJMC 658, Communication Research Methods; SJMC and Poli Sci 829, Political Communication; SJMC 849, Mass Media and the Individual; SJMC 880, Internet and Democracy; and SJMC 880, Practicum in Communication Research. Within the university, Shah works with fellow faculty and graduate students in four research groups: (1) Social Media and Democracy – SMAD, (2) Civic Culture and Contentious Politics – CCCP, (3) Socialization and Participation in Election Campaigns – SPEC, and (4) Health Information Technology Studies – HITS. Articles from these collaborations appear in leading communication, political science, and health informatics journals (see his website’s research section). The author of over 100 articles and 20 chapters, he has also co-edited five volumes and co-authored News Frames and National Security: Covering Big Brother (Cambridge University Press). Shah has involved many students in this work and served as major advisor for 22 dissertations, and a committee member on another 60.

Much of this work has been supported by grants and awards totaling over $29.9 million in funding from sources such as the Ford Foundation, PBS, CPB, Rockefeller Brothers, Carnegie Corporation, Russell Sage, Spencer, National Cancer Institute (NIH-NCI), Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ), and the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA). Shah has used this support to conduct three multi-wave national panel studies of the 2000, 2004, and 2008 presidential elections examining the effects of traditional and digital media on civic and political participation. Since 2008, he has led the Theory and Method Core and Training Core of the NCI-Funded Center for Excellence in Cancer Communication Research. Beginning in 2011, he has added responsibilities as the Scientific Director of the AHRQ-funded Active Aging Research Center and three NIDA-funded R01 projects on addiction treatment.

Shah has served on the editorial boards of twelve journals and held leadership positions in three professional associations, AEJMC, ICA, and APSA. He is the recipient of 19 top paper awards from national and international conferences and numerous others honors, including the Nafziger-White Dissertation Award, the Krieghbaum Under-40 Award, and Article of the Year Awards in Political Communication (ICA-2006) and Information Technology and Politics (APSA-2008). In 2016, Shah was elected a Fellow of the International Communication Association, joining a group of 100 living scholars holding this high honor. Within the UW, he has received the Journal Communication Faculty Excellence Award, the Vilas Associates Award, the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence, a Hamel Faculty Fellowship, the Kellett Mid-Career Award, and the Vilas Faculty Mid-Career Investigator Award. He has been invited as a visiting professor, visiting scholar, distinguished lecturer, advisory board member, or external reviewer to over two-dozen major universities in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Asia.

He earned his BA in journalism and mass communication from the UW-Madison in 1989, after which he worked as a media buyer/planner for Leo Burnett Co. in Chicago, IL and as a consultant to marketing communication agencies, including Fallon, BBDO, and Carmichael Lynch, and public sector entities, including PBS, CPB, and NCME. He received his MA in 1995 and Ph.D. in 1999 from Minnesota in mass communication and political psychology. He earned tenure in 2002, was promoted to full professor in 2004, and was awarded a Bascom Professorship in 2006.