Dhavan V. Shah

Maier-Bascom Professor & Director of the MCRC



Dhavan V. Shah is the Louis A. & Mary E. Maier-Bascom Professor at the University of Wisconsin, 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 communication influence on social judgments, civic and political engagement, and health support and behavior.

He has developed three major lines of inquiry, with his most recent work extending insights and techniques from his prior examinations of message processing of news and online political and civic networks into the development and deployment of digital technologies for the treatment of chronic illnesses. 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 online networks, to encourage civic engagement, conscientious consumption, and political participation; (3) the effects of computer-mediated interactions, both the expression and reception of social support, on the management of cancer, aging, and addiction. He has also examined misperceptions of media influence and bias and conducted “big data” harvesting and analysis of social media content.

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 five research groups: (1) MCRC Media and Politics – MCRC, (2) Social Media and Democracy – SMAD, (3) Consumer Culture and Civic Participation – CCCP, Socialization and Participation in Election Campaigns – SPEC, and 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 chapters, he has also co-edited three volumes and is working on two book manuscripts. Shah has involved many students in this work and served as major advisor for 21 dissertations, with nearly all of the graduates securing tenure-track positions at major universities.

Much of this work has been supported by grants and awards totaling over $22.8 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 the NIDA-funded RO-1 project on addiction treatment.

Shah has served on the editorial boards of ten journals and held leadership positions in three professional associations, AEJMC, ICA, and APSA. He is the recipient of 18 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). 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, and the Kellett Mid-Career Award. He has been invited as a visiting professor/scholar, distinguished lecturer, or advisory board member to over a 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.