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Anita Atwell Seate

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Associate Professor, Communication

(301) 405-6526

2106 Skinner Building
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Education

Ph.D., University of Arizona

Research Expertise

Crisis & Risk Communication
Intercultural Communication
Media Studies
Public Relations

Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Anita Atwell Seate is a social scientist that has two areas of research interest: intergroup communication and public relations/strategic communication. Across these areas of study, Dr. Atwell Seate is interested in how people’s social identities influence communication processes.

Dr. Atwell Seate’s work finds that identity-based factors, including (intergroup) emotions and social identity importance are crucial to consider in understanding how people receive messages and their subsequent behavioral outcomes. Dr. Atwell Seate studies a variety of social groups including social identities based on race, ethnicity, age, gender, and sexual orientation, with an emphasis placed on racial and ethnic groups. Dr. Atwell Seate uses a variety of methods in their work including experimental design, quantitative content analysis, survey design, interviews, multi-sited rapid ethnography, qualitative comparative analysis, and rhetorical criticism.

In terms of their intergroup communication scholarship, Dr. Atwell Seate is currently working on a monograph examining how intergroup threat is constructed through discourse, using both critical and social scientific approaches (with Dr. Michelle Murray Yang). Dr. Atwell Seate has presented and workshopped ideas from this project at Eastern Communication Association and the Rhetoric Society of America, Institute.

Regarding their current public relations and strategic communication scholarship, Dr. Atwell Seate is the Principal Investigator of a grant from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s VORTEX-SE Program [Co-PIs: Dr. Brooke F. Liu, Dr. Ji Youn Kim, and Mr. Daniel Hawblitzel]. For this project, the research team is working with the National Weather Service to develop a risk communication toolkit. The risk communication toolkit will be developed with operational practioners and will validated through a series of experiments with members of the public. This is Dr. Atwell Seate’s second VORTEX-SE grant award.  

Graduate Advising Philosophy

Publications

Tornado warning: Understanding the National Weather Service’s communication strategies

This study explores the National Weather Service’s communication through a multi-sited rapid ethnography that extends the fully functioning society theory.

Communication

Lead: Brooke Fisher Liu
Contributor(s): Anita Atwell Seate
Non-ARHU Contributor(s): Iles, Irina; Herovic, Emina
Dates:
PRR

This study explores the National Weather Service’s communication through a multi-sited rapid ethnography that extends the fully functioning society theory. National Weather Service field offices do not employ public information officers. Instead, forecasters predict the weather, craft messages, and build relationships with their publics. Scholars have called for public relations research that examines messages, including how crisis communication can help publics cope. Additionally, scholars have noted that all organizations need public relations, even if they do not employ formal public relations personnel. In our study, forecasters emphasized the need to build their publics’ tornado threat awareness and provided strategies to make weather science accessible. Forecasters discussed a variety of message strategies including avoiding fear appeals, humanizing the organization, and visualizing risks. Forecasters also built relationships with active publics through soliciting weather spotters and empowering them to prepare others for severe weather. Overall, findings expand knowledge about how organizations can employ strategic public relations to benefit society, thereby extending fully functioning society theory.

Eyes of the Storm: How Citizen Scientists Contribute to Government Forecasting and Risk Communication

This study examines citizens who volunteer as weather spotters through a case study of an award-winning network.

Communication

Lead: Brooke Fisher Liu
Contributor(s): Anita Atwell Seate
Non-ARHU Contributor(s): Irina Iles & Emina Herovic
Dates:

Since the 1970s, the National Weather Service has trained citizens to collect, confirm, verify, or supplement radar and other data to contribute to a weather-ready nation. This study examines citizens who volunteer as weather spotters through a case study of an award-winning network. We uncover what motivates citizens to become involved in government science projects. Through the lens of relationship management theory and the related network approach, the study provides some of the first evidence on the benefits and drawbacks of citizens serving as amateur scientists and risk communicators and how these citizen scientists sustain their relationships with government scientists.