Kerk Kee '06
Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Studies, Chapman University
Kerk Kee '06
Dr. Kerk Kee, ’06, M.A. Interdisciplinary Studies, Communication (MA in Comm in 2003, MALAS degree in
2006), is a Junior Professor at Chapman University in Southern California. Inspired by the career paths of his
SDSU professors, he has followed in their footsteps. His research employs diffusion theory to examine
organizational communication technologies and health communication strategies. In Aug 2013, he received a
major grant from the National Science Foundation for a project entitled, "Computational Tools, Virtual
Organizing, and Dynamic Innovation Diffusion" (2013-2016) to support a research team with students at
Chapman. In 2010-2011, he received a subcontract and participated in a multi-institutional project on family
health innovation dissemination funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
What made you choose to attend SDSU?
I did college tours, not planning on attending SDSU. But when I visited campus, I had so much fun, and it just felt like home.
What is your favorite college memory?
I attended the University of Nebraska, Lincoln as an Engineering major, and studied Communication as my
minor. There, I realized I would be an okay engineer, but discovered my interest in Communication. When I
was a junior, one of my professor started talking to me about graduate school and recommended SDSU. She
told me that it had one of the best programs. Another professor told me the same, that SDSU had a great
program, but it was competitive and a long shot for me to get in, especially since I was crossing fields and
applying with my undergrad degree in Engineering.
I saw it as a challenge. I wanted to get in to SDSU, because I knew I would learn a lot. One day, Dr. Patricia
Geist-Martin called me on the phone, congratulated me and told me that I was awarded the Graduate
Teaching Associate position at SDSU. But this was even before I knew I was admitted, so I said “Does that
mean I got in?” It was funny. I was extremely excited.
Who was your favorite professor and/or what was your favorite class?
There are so many great professors at SDSU, so I like them all. But I can share about a specific class that I
took. It was COMM 610. Seminar: Advanced Communication Theory, taught by Dr. Brian Spitzberg. He put
together a very rigorous selection of articles from different fields, including Communication, Psychology,
Philosophy, Sociology, etc. for that class. I got a very interdisciplinary exposure to the idea of building and
testing social scientific theories. After successfully passing this class, I returned and sat in Dr. Spitzberg's
COMM 610 class 2 more times. I didn't have to sit in his class again, but I did it twice, because it was so
good, and I couldn't get enough of it.
If you were to give current SDSU students some advice, what would you say?
Many Communication students may not realize that the faculty in the School of Communication are world
renowned, and they have written ground breaking research in the field of Communication. I gained a deeper
respect for them now that I am a junior professor at Chapman University, and appreciate that I got to study
with these great and famous scholars in the field. The advice I would give to current student is to take their
professors seriously, and learn as much you can from them. They are very smart, and can give students very
valuable perspectives that students can take with them for their future professional careers and personal life!
What are you currently reading? What’s your favorite book?
My favorite book is "Diffusion of Innovations" by the late Everett Rogers, who was a professor of
Communication & Journalism at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. I was introduced to this book
(and diffusion theory, as described in this book) by Dr. David Dozier. This book changed my academic life,
because it talks about how a new idea, a new behavior, or a new technology (in the form of an innovation)
spreads through the social system. It is not only intellectually stimulating, but diffusion theory has many
practical implications. For example, it can help a sales person promote a new technological product to
consumers, a doctor persuade patients to adopt a new diet or a new lifestyle of exercising, a politician spreads
a new political agenda, etc. It is a very powerful communication theory, and it changed the way I thought of
social theory. I have recommend it to many friends.
What is your passion?
My current passion is to understand how effective communication helps advance science that depends on
productive collaboration among a huge group of dispersed scientists.
What is your motto?
My motto is "When we try our best and persist, we do become the BEST at it."
Tell us the highlights of your professional career. What are your proudest achievements?
The proudest achievement of my professional career is probably winning a $325K research grant from the
National Science Foundation for a 3-year research project based on the diffusion theory I was exposed to at
SDSU. In this project, I investigate (along with 9 undergraduate research assistants and 1 graduate research
assistant at Chapman University) how scientists and technologists develop new open source software to do
collaborative science with big data sets.
If you won the lottery, what would you do with your winnings?
Good question... I would donate half of the winnings to the Oprah Winfrey Foundation. Oprah Winfrey is an
inspirational person, and I support her cause in promoting leadership for girls in South Africa. With the other
half, I would create a scholarship fund for students who are interested in fusing the social sciences and the life
& natural sciences/engineering fields in their academic pursuit.