Learn more about the ESP director, Dr. Bissell, below.

Where are you from?/ What brought you to UA?

I was born in Libby, Montana, and lived in several cities in the Pacific Northwest before moving each with my family.  I have lived in 10 states and 16 different cities. I came to UA after finishing my Ph.D. at Syracuse University, and I got a call about an open assistant professor job, applied, and I have been here ever since.

What do you teach besides ESP?

I teach International Journalism, International Storytelling, research methods for graduate students, health communication, media and body image, and the social effects of media, mostly all at the graduate level.

Why did you decide to get involved/ start ESP?

I had spent many years teaching graduate students at UA, and then I realized that we have some of the best and brightest undergrads, who, in some cases, are as solid as the graduate students.  I also realized that if we could engage undergraduates in research at an earlier point in their academic careers, we could really help change their career path moving forward. I liked the idea of being involved in that process.

What do you think is the greatest value of ESP?

I think that getting undergraduate students involved in research is still not a common thing across the country, and while you do see it in STEM areas, it is less common in the social sciences.  I think the value of ESP is that we are getting students very early--freshmen or sophomore level--and helping them find faculty mentors very early in their academic career. This could lead to an excellent partnership and/or collaboration, and one that you just won't find in other areas.  I think students who participate in the ESP have tremendous opportunities to get involved with some of the best faculty, and that can lead to great things. I believe that through exposure to research early on, it allows each student to gain critical thinking skills and to see how research applies to every single type of career or job out there.

What is your area of interest in research? Have you completed any cool studies that might interest students?

My research is in the area of health and media, and I have looked at the role of media in helping children become more health literate for more than a decade.  I developed an iPad app that allows children to track the foods they are eating, and this gives them initial awareness about the quality and quantity of foods they consume each day.  I do a lot of work with younger kids, teaching them how they can make healthier choices via the foods they are eating and the exercise they do at home or at school so they can take ownership of their own health and well being.

What's one funny story of something that happened on campus?

My daughters are older now, but when they were younger and sick and had to stay home from school, I often had to bring them to class with them.  When either one of them would hear a student refer to me as "Dr. Bissell," they would make a very loud statement about me not being a real doctor because I can't fix anyone.  This happened almost every time they were in class with me so I started bringing devices with headphones so they couldn't hear what was going on.