College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Katherine E Rowan

Katherine E Rowan

Katherine E Rowan

Professor, Science Communication Certificate Program

Risk and crisis communication, science communication, public relations. Director, Science Communication Graduate Certificate

Katherine E. Rowan is a professor of communication at George Mason University, Fairfax, VA. Her research concerns the public relations challenges of earning trust and explaining complexities in risk and crisis communication contexts. She teaches public relations, science communication, and crisis communication. 
Professor Rowan received her bachelor's degree from George Mason's English Department in 1975 and was a member of its inter-collegiate competitive public speaking team, the forensics team.
After graduation, she worked for the Smithsonian Institution's Office of Public Affairs. Her master's degree was earned in communication and journalism from the University of Illinois, and her doctorate in the teaching of rhetoric and composition from Purdue's English Department. She joined Purdue's Communication Department in 1985, earning tenure in 1991 and full professor status in 1996. She joined Mason's faculty in 2000.
Professor Rowan is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and chair-elect of its section on General Interest in Science and Engineering.  She has authored or edited over 70 scholarly and governmental publications concerning effective methods for earning trust and explaining complex science. Her research has been funded by Virginia Sea Grant and the National Science Foundation. She has given lectures on risk communication, science communication, and crisis communication for organizations such as the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health's Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research, the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the National Academy of Sciences, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Emory and Henry College.

Current Research

Rowan, K. E., Engblom, A., Hathaway, J., Lloyd, R., Engblom, A., Vorster, I., … Akerlof, K. L. (in progress). Science communication as strategic communication:  Applying the CAUSE Model to communicate climate change. In C. H. Botan (Ed.), The International Handbook of Strategic Communication. NY: Wiley-Blackwell.

Selected Publications

Principal investigator.  Science communication education for VASG Fellows.  Funded, Virginia Sea Grant, 2013-2017, $56,000.

Co-principal investigator, National Science Foundation, Enabling TV meteorologists to provide viewers with climate change-related science education based on ISE “best practices.” 2009-2011, $1 million.

Rowan, K. E., Kotcher, J., Walsh-Thomas, J., Baldwin, P., Trowbridge, J., Thaker, J. T., Witte, J., Klinger, B. A., Cohen, L., Tresch, C., & Maibach, E. W. (in press).  Best practices of “innovator” TV meteorologists who act as climate change educators.  In D. O’Hair (Ed.), Risk and Health Communication in an Evolving Media Environment.  London:  Routledge.

Jacobsen, K. H., Aguirre, A. A., Bailey, C. L., Baranova, A. V., Crooks, A. T., Croitoru, A., Delamater, P. L., Gupta, J., Kehn-Hall, K., Narayanan, A., Pierobon, M., Rowan, K. E., Schwebach, J. R., Seshaiyer, P., Sklarew, D. M., Stefanidis, A., & Agouris, P. (2016).  Lessons from the Ebola outbreak: Ten action items for emerging infectious disease preparedness and response.  Ecohealth, 13 (1), 200-212.

Akerlof, K. L., Rowan, K. E., La Porte, T., Batten, B. K., Ernst, H., & Sklarew, D. M. (2016).  Risky business: Engaging the public on sea level rise and inundation, Environmental Science and Policy, 66, 314-323.

Rowan, K. E. (2015).  Why some health risks upset us and others do not:  Risk perception and risk communication.  Spectra, magazine of the National Association of Communication, March, 51 (1). 

Akerlof, K. L., Rowan, K. E., Fitzgerald, D., & Cedeno, A. Y. (2012). Communicating climate projections in U. S. media: Politicization of model uncertainty. Nature Climate Change, 2,

Rowan, K. E., Botan, C. H., Kreps, G. L., Samoilenko, S., & Farnsworth, K. (2009). Risk communication education for local emergency managers: Using the CAUSE Model for research, education, and outreach (pp. 168-191). In R. Heath & H. D. O’Hair (Eds.), Handbook of crisis and risk communication. New York: Taylor & Francis.

Rowan, K. E. (2003). Informing and explaining skills: Theory and research on informative communication. In J. O. Greene & B. R. Burleson (Eds.), The handbook of communication and social interaction skills (pp. 403-438). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Expanded Publication List



Dissertations Supervised

Yuxiang Du, Identity Negotiation and Perceptual Change: Examining the Confucius Institute’s Effects on Perceptions of China (2016)

Andrew S. Pyle, Intercultural Emergency Communication: Making Sense of Intercultural Communication Competence in Emergency Response Contexts (2014)