Michael Carter

Michael's research program investigates social and media-based determinates of mental health-related behaviors, with an emphasis on social norms and social media.

We interviewed Michael Carter, a graduate student in the Department of Communication at UC Davis. In this interview, we asked Michael to talk about his research, teaching, and a fun fact about his personal life. We should also point out that Michael Carter is on the job market this year!

Can you tell us about project you recently completed or are working on that you are particularly excited about?

Michael: I am motivated by two broad, yet interrelated questions: (1) how do social norms, as a form of social influence, interrelate with media to impact engagement in mental health behaviors (e.g., talking about suicide) and (2) how can social media as a digital infrastructure help to promote mental help seeking (e.g., to encourage mental health help-seeking) and mental health more generally? My pursuit of these two lines of inquiry have led them to publish across disciplines (e.g., Communication Research, Journal of Child and Family Studies), solicit funding, network with a variety of industry stakeholders (e.g., the Trill Project, Live for Tomorrow), and even collaborate with other research teams internationally (i.e., Anti-Bullying Center, Dublin City University). 

Would you share a memory about a time when you had a real impact on a student or had a big teaching accomplishment.

Michael: Over the course of my academic career, I have had the unique opportunity to interact first-hand with an array of students across different learning contexts. On one hand, through this experience, it became clear to me that it is not always possible to promote learning in the same way across a diverse student bodies with diverging needs. On the other, it has also taught me that the best teaching and learning occurs when (1) a learning environment is established as an inclusive space, (2) diverse forms of instruction occur, and (3) instructors build a mutual sense of rapport with their students. As a result, I believe that promoting inclusivity, diverse forms of learning, and authentically caring about students’ attainment represent key pedagogical tools. These pillars of my teaching philosophy clearly manifest across my teaching evaluations. Students report that I respect divergent points of view (4.2/5, N = 575), treats students equally and fairly (4.3/5, N = 549), listens when [asked] questions (4.5/5, N = 207), answers [students’] questions well (4.2/5, N = 576), and makes clear what is expected of [his students] (4.0/5, N = 406).

To combat inequities and help manifest a more equitable society, it is necessary to promote diverse interactions within communities and create more equitable environments. While not always easy, I am dedicated to leveraging a fundamental understanding of communication to facilitate the attainment and health of underprivileged and marginalized groups. This is evident in my research investigating how different LGBTQ+ sub-populations use social media (e.g., Carter & Cingel, in review), in addition to my work investigating how media can promote positive social and health outcomes among those dealing with mental illness (e.g., Carter et al., 2020). 

What is a fun fact about you that other people might not know?

Michael: A unique fact about me is that I am a third-generation abalone diver, following in my father and grandfather’s passion for free diving in the chilling waters just off Northern California’s rocky shorelines.