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CCI to Graduate First Doctoral Student in December

Posted Nov. 15, 2013

This December, College of Communication and Information (CCI) doctoral student Darin Freeburg will be the first to graduate from the college's new doctoral program.

Darin Freeburg, PhDFreeburg is originally from Olathe, Kan., and received his bachelor’s degree from MidAmerican Nazarene University in English and his master’s degree from Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., in theology.

Freeburg started the doctoral program in fall 2010 after moving to Ohio from Kansas the preceeding summer. He pursued a Ph.D. because he always wanted to teach at the college level and has developed many research interests throughout his time as a student. “In order to teach and pursue these questions, the only option for me was to obtain a Ph.D.,” he said.

Freeburg’s studies focused on information science and knowledge management with a concentration on intersections with religion. His main area of research was looking into how individuals interact with, use and share information in various contexts.

“This interaction is primarily in organizational settings, however, which brings in literature from the knowledge management discipline,” he said. “The interplay of individuals and information within an organization has also inevitably led me to literature in sociology and communication studies. All of this was done under the umbrella of Christian congregations in the U.S. So, my concentration has really been quite diverse, but it was focused around key issues in information behavior.”

Using this research and interest, Freeburg decided to focus on research within two Christian congregations in Northeast Ohio for his dissertation topic.

“In my dissertation, I used qualitative methods to develop a working definition of information culture within two Christian congregations in NE Ohio,” he said. “I then analyzed how this culture influenced the formation of religious belief by individuals within these congregations. This involved a complex interplay of an individual's personal information seeking and beliefs with the norms of information behavior within a congregation. My findings have important implications for religious dialogue, especially across the divides of religious affiliation and belief.”

Freeburg decided that pursuing a Ph.D. in CCI was necessary because his research interests were so unique and he couldn’t address them from one academic department.  He wanted to use resources from different bodies of literature, and CCI supported that endeavor.

“CCI encouraged me to work across academic departments in search of anything and everything that helped me ask the right questions; it didn't force me to ask the questions that have always been asked in academic silos,” he said. “Too often researchers in one academic discipline reinvent the wheel when someone in another discipline has already invented a spaceship with those same wheels. I wanted to talk to academic rocket scientists, and the CCI doctoral program gave me that opportunity.”

Moving across the country from Kansas to Come to Kent State, Freeburg said he knew he needed to be sure what he wanted to accomplish with his Ph.D.

“Before I joined the program, I read the works of School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) faculty and founders of the Center of the Study of Information and Religion at Kent State University, Assistant Professor Don Wicks, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor Daniel Roland, Ph.D.,” he said. “I came across their work rather by accident. I realized quickly that they were asking questions similar to those that I was asking. I contacted them about the possibility of studying with them at the center, and they helped me make contact with CCI.”

Along with assistance from faculty in SLIS and the School of Communication Studies (COMM), School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC) Assistant Professor Danielle Coombs, Ph.D., was co-advisor of Freeburg’s dissertation.

The type of work and rigor involved in Freeburg’s dissertation is very different from the work he did for his master’s thesis, he said.

“The two degrees are structured similarly, but the dissertation requires much more in terms of rigor, implication, and longevity,” Freeburg said. “It really was an opportunity for me to show my committee members, ‘All right, I can do it now. I am an expert in this field of research, and with this research methodology.’ It requires that you not only synthesize what other researchers have done, but that you pave a new path for researchers to follow. After my master's degree I could say that I knew a lot; after my dissertation I can say that I am an expert.”

After graduation, Freeburg wants to extend his dissertation work into other areas of research. He is also actively seeking teaching positions in information science, religious studies and communication studies.

“This includes an analysis of political information seeking and how we can change the locus of information to encourage dialogue without gridlock,” he said. “I would be happy teaching and continuing work in any or all of these areas. I started sending out applications a few months ago, and hope to start my academic career in 2014.”

The CCI doctoral program has given Freeburg a solid foundation to start his teaching and research career in academia.“It gave me research opportunities that have led to multiple publications and conference presentations,” Freeburg said. “It also partnered me with great faculty who have given me invaluable tips and advice about teaching, research and the politics of academics. These are the less visible things that have already had a huge impact on my preparation for teaching and research in higher education.”  

The CCI doctoral program is an integrative program that was launched four years ago in response to growing faculty interest and was initially guided by CCI Associate Dean LuEtt Hanson, Ph.D., according to COMM Professor George Cheney, Ph.D.

“The CCI doctoral program has given Freeburg a solid foundation to begin his teaching and research career in academia,” Cheney said. “The CCI doctoral program is one of only several in the nation that bridges the arenas of communication and information, not only recognizing the convergence of different forms of expression in contemporary society but also encouraging students to develop novel projects at the intersections of the disciplines represented in the college. The students are already completing projects that push the boundaries of how we understand information, media, communication, and knowledge.”

Cheney added, "We are delighted to confer a Ph.D. on the first graduate of the CCI doctoral program. Darin Freeburg has completed the degree program one semester early and has excelled in his scholarship and other activities. His study of information culture in religious congregations has important implications not only for the churches he investigated, but also for other religious and secular institutions in an age where many efforts are being made to build bridges between different systems of faith, belief and knowledge."

For more information about the CCI doctoral program, visit http://www.kent.edu/cci/about/phd/.

By Nicole Gennarelli