New CCPA Faculty Member Conducting Coronavirus Research

Dr. Piyawan Charoensap-Kelly specializes in organizational communication

Assistant Professor

By Holly Haber

New assistant professor Dr. Piyawan Charoensap-Kelly is a “trifecta win” for Corporate Communication and Public Affairs (CCPA), says department chair Dr. Sandra Duhé.

“She brings impeccable research, deep consulting experience, and a level of collegiality that makes it clear she never meets a stranger,” Duhé notes. “I’m excited to see how her gifts benefit our students, faculty and SMU. She is going to soar.”

In addition to teaching, Dr. Kelly is eager to engage pupils with her own research.

“These students are very motivated to be leaders, so I look forward to doing research with them and learning more about what everyone is doing and how I can fit in,” says Kelly, who also goes by Dr. Pui. (Her full Thai name is pronounced “pea-ah-wan jar-on-sap.”) “There are so many different areas and different people to collaborate with.”

She and three peers from different institutions are currently studying how the novel coronavirus pandemic is affecting workers in four nations: Croatia, Italy, Thailand, and the U.S.

The researchers live in the U.S., and three are natives of the other nations, she explains. They are analyzing questionnaires that probed emotions, productivity and perceptions of the global pandemic.

“We are comparing different countries and looking at the influence of resilience, personality, and media consumption on people’s well-being, productivity, and satisfaction with their coworkers,” she explains.

Some early results: Resilience levels correlate with well-being, productivity, and satisfaction with coworkers; frequent use of media lowers well-being; and introverts are more productive than extroverts during lockdown. 

Kelly also participated with eight organizational communication scholars in a separate research forum called Collective Sensemaking Around COVID-19: Experiences, Concerns, and Agendas for our Rapidly Changing Organizational Lives.

“This pandemic will likely get us to re-envision many old organizational problems,” she wrote in the study. “Specifically, there are several important research directions to consider around organizational culture, organizational identification, and socialization as we onboard new employees and return to what will likely be old workspaces with new meanings attached.”

At Meadows, the award-winning professor will teach CCPA 3360, Business and Professional Communication, and CCPA 3365, Organizational Communication — classes designed to prepare students for their careers.

“We take communication for granted,” points out Kelly. “We think we are born communicating but there’s a lot more to it than that, especially in organizations. These two courses can take you a long way.”

CCPA 3360 teaches how to develop a professional persona, job interview skills, teamwork, written communication, and oral communication; CCPA 3365 details various organizational communication frameworks, such as top-down command, structureless, and staff-centric, and helps scholars figure out which style works best for them and how to thrive within that culture.

Kelly was drawn to SMU for its strong reputation and emphasis on real-life applications as well as academics. 

“The ‘world changers’ motto caught my attention,” she says. “The school is not just teaching but building leaders who will make a difference in the world. It’s not just theory but also the application that they are getting students to understand.”

SMU’s Social Innovation courses within Perkins School of Theology, part of a joint program with CCPA, are prime examples. 

“I’ve never seen courses like that anywhere else,” she notes. “It’s a really nice mix between theory and practice.”

Kelly is expert in multicultural communication as well. The Thai native graduated with a B.A. in English from Silpakorn University in Nakorn Pathom and earned an M.A. in organizational communication from Southeastern Louisiana University and a doctorate in communication studies from The University of Southern Mississippi (USM). 

She worked extensively in communication training and development for both for-profit and nonprofit sectors in Thailand before beginning her academic career as a graduate teaching assistant at USM.

Most recently, she was a lecturer in the Communication Arts Department at The University of Alabama Huntsville, where she also directed the university’s Business and Professional Communication course, oversaw the internship program for communication arts majors, and more. 

Kelly’s honors include the 2019 Emerging Scholar Award, given at the Nineteenth International Conference on Knowledge, Culture, and Change in Organizations, hosted by the Organization Studies Research Network; the 2018 Don George Teaching Excellence Award and 2017 Don George Research Excellence Award from USM; and the 2016 Rising Star Award from the National Communication Association Training and Development Division.

She and her husband, a recently retired physician, have found a home in a quiet community east of Dallas. There, she enjoys preparing super spicy Thai dishes as well as her husband’s favorites — green curry, panang curry, ginger fish, and coconut chicken soup.

Read more about the Division of Corporate Communication and Public Affairs at SMU Meadows School of the Arts.