Dr. Spoma Jovanovic
Dr. Spoma Jovanovic, Assistant Professor of Communication, is interested in expanding the domain of public discourse. Too often, she says, contentious debate on the one hand, or consensus without adequate regard for dissenting views, are the models of public discourse to which we have become accustomed. Jovanovic sees the promise of a critical, conversation-based discourse as the way in which to invite varied perspectives into civic discussions on social issues. "How do we communicate so that it positively affects public policy? How do we include divergent, even radical voices without hurting our relationships?" Her primary interests are in communication ethics, social justice, and community. Through teaching, research, and advocacy, Jovanovic writes about and participates in community programs for social change.
Her current research focuses on three civic projects. In Greensboro, Jovanovic has been involved with the "Greensboro Truth and Community Reconciliation Project" which is reopening the dialogue surrounding the events of November 3, 1979. Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi members opened fire on a march that day organized by the Communist Workers' Party in an African American neighborhood. Jovanovic says that these kinds of grassroots organizations test "how we can stretch the idea of democracy to include diverse communities."
Jovanovic's second project is an examination of the role of young philanthropists in American civic life. In collaboration with her colleague Dr. David Carlone, Jovanovic is asking, "How do they use money to affect social change?" Everyone wants to make his or her mark in the world, says Jovanovic. The lessons learned from the study of how young philanthropists engage in the civic process are applicable to younger generations, including UNCG's students. She wonders, "How do they flex their civic muscles?"
Also, Jovanovic is involved with the Denver Board of Ethics in a longitudinal study launched in 2001 with University of Denver Professor Roy V. Wood. The two researchers are studying a city-wide initiative on ethics that officials hope will lead to greater public trust of city governance practices. Jovanovic and her colleague have recently launched community dialogues on ethics bringing together city officials, employees, and citizens to discuss the pressing challenges facing the city.
Jovanovic began her career working in public relations, nonprofit management, and community relations. She arrived at UNCG from the University of Denver, where she received her doctoral degree in human communication studies.
She is enthusiastic about the support for her research that she has received from the university, including a New Faculty Grant, a Dean's Initiative Grant, and a Summer Excellence Grant. Jovanovic is happy with the atmosphere at UNCG where she sees, "A whole network of people interested in the same issues." Last summer, she met like-minded colleagues at a Faculty Development Workshop on Service Learning. Further, she recognizes the value of the number of interdisciplinary activities that bring faculty together at UNCG including the Ashby Dialogue series which she is involved with this year. Even informal opportunities abound in the academy for talk, says Jovanovic. For example, Jovanovic participated in a book group where students and faculty read a philosophy book along with other texts to explore issues of community, education, religion, and care.
Although Jovanovic has her own opinions about civic issues, her quest is to let "all the stories be told and get the perspectives out there for us to examine." She hopes to foster in her students a central idea of democracy: "Questioning and even challenging political structures and policies are important for citizens to realize how they can actively participate in shaping their communities."