Faculty member brings personal connection to communication research

When Mark Ward Sr. and his wife came to Victoria eight years ago, they decided to treat the move as an adventure.

Ward, a University of Houston-Victoria associate professor of communication, joined the faculty in 2010 as part of the university’s expansion to include freshmen and sophomores.

Mark Ward

“It was such a unique opportunity,” Ward said. “How many times do you get the chance to set up a core curriculum and a four-year degree program in your subject area from scratch? It was fascinating, and I learned so much during the process.”

Ward came to UHV from Clemson University, where he earned a doctorate in rhetorical and communication studies. Before his teaching career, Ward lived in the Washington, D.C., area and worked as communications director and magazine editor for national trade and professional associations, plus gigs as a local radio announcer, gospel music deejay, and voiceover talent for nationally syndicated religious radio programs.

In addition to teaching, Ward continues to write for business magazines. Over the years he has freelanced more than 2,000 feature articles and covered industries ranging from petroleum and construction to retail and food service.

At UHV, Ward teaches business communication, organizational communication, group and team communication, public relations, public speaking, communication theory and other subjects. Although UHV primarily is a teaching institution, he appreciates the university’s emphasis and support for faculty research and community involvement.

“The focus on research promotes a scholarly atmosphere that benefits my students and me,” he said. “I can give better, more relevant teaching to my students when I’m staying on top of and contributing to my field. That helps me pass on my own learning and passion to my students, and they become more likely to learn effectively.”

Ward’s research focuses on how communication and media are used in religious contexts, especially in the evangelical Christian community. He has published several books and chapters on the subject, as well as numerous articles in academic journals. Last fall his two-book series, “The Electronic Church in the Digital Age,” was nationally recognized with the Clifford G. Christians Ethics Research Award.

“Maintaining an active research agenda requires personal connection and passion,” he said. “For me, that comes, in part, from being an evangelical Christian myself, which gives me an insider’s understanding of the language used in the community I study. The other part is that, in an increasingly plural society, my research on religious communication can promote better interfaith and civic dialogue.”  

In addition to his research, Ward is involved with different community groups. He is a member of the choir at First Baptist Church in Victoria and sometimes sings solos or plays piano during services, which are televised locally. He also teaches a Sunday night class at the church about principles of biblical criticism.

At UHV, he serves as a faculty senator, director of the Speech Program, and coordinator of the School of Arts & Sciences’ Faculty Research Symposium. He also has served since 2013 as announcer for the Victoria Adult Literacy Council’s annual Knowledge Bowl fundraiser, during which he uses his radio voice skills to read the trivia questions to competitors.

When he isn’t teaching and working on his latest research projects, Ward enjoys swimming and playing disc golf in Riverside Park. He and his wife also enjoy traveling around the Crossroads area to explore historical sites.

“The Victoria area is such a wonderful place,” he said. “The winters are mild, we’re close to the beach. We take day trips often, and it’s a rewarding experience to explore all of the history and culture in this area.”

Faculty Feature is an online feature highlighting faculty members from each of the University of Houston-Victoria’s three schools. To nominate a faculty member, contact Ashley Strevel, UHV communications manager, or call 361-570-4296.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.