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Karla Hunter

Karla Hunter professional portrait (credit: Emily Weber)


Professor of Communication Studies

Office Building

Pugsley Center



Mailing Address

Pugsley Cont Ed Center 115
School of Communication & Journalism-Box 2218
University Station
Brookings, SD 57007


Karla M. Larson Hunter (Ph.D., University of Oklahoma, 2000), author of "Interpersonal Development: 21st Century Skills for the 'Real' and Virtual World" (Kendall Hunt, 2021), aims to foster equitable opportunities for wellness and well-being through her award-winning communication scholarship and instruction. A Professor of Communication Studies at South Dakota State University (SDSU) with over 30 years’ experience teaching in higher education, Dr. Hunter’s mission is to help others cultivate self-efficacy, empowerment, and resilience through evidence-based communication confidence and competence-optimizing techniques, and translation of communication theory and research to serve the public interest. Her mastery in online teaching has been recognized by SDSU’s Instructional Design Services.

Her national awards include the National Communication Association (NCA) Communication Anxiety and Competence Division’s Top Article of the Year in 2014. As the founding editor of Discourse: The Journal of the Speech Communication Association of South Dakota, she was awarded the Central States Communication Association (CSCA) top state journal award for the journal’s premier volume in 2015. Her graduate and undergraduate advising and mentorship of student research have yielded awards, conference presentations, and publications including CSCA’s 2021 Activism, Communication Ethics, and Social Justice division top paper overall (advisee Larissa Durkin, MA, 2020) as well as a number of competitive Schultz-Werth awards.

Under the auspices of SDSU’s Assessment Steering Committee, in conjunction with the Higher Learning Commission, her collaborative work helped foster a university-wide culture of assessment through crafting, delivering, and evaluating a multi-year, campus-wide Assessment Academy. Her external grants and additional faculty committee work have focused on fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion; multi-disciplinary teamwork; partnering with minority-serving institutions and underserved populations; and harnessing pedagogical developments for new technologies.



Ph.D., 2000 University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK, Communication Studies
M.A., 1995 University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK, Communication Studies
B.A., 1992 Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD, Mass Communication

Academic Interests

Teaching Philosophy: In keeping with SDSU’s Land Grant mission, service underpins every aspect of our work. Therefore, my teaching philosophy and methods align closely with key performance indicator #1 from SDSU’s Imagine 2023 Strategic Plan—“Achieve Excellence through Transformative Education.” I resonate with a number of ancient Hebrew words pertinent to teaching: Alaph, Zahar, and Lamad. Translated, they are befriend, enlighten, and learn—words that reflect my student-centered approach. The foundation of my teaching philosophy lies in my belief that inspiring students to build lifelong competencies, a love of learning, and meaningful applications of their skills starts with a firm resolve to making individual connections with them as people, whether face-to-face or online.

Academic Responsibilities

Teaching is my primary responsibility at SDSU. I enact my passion for translating research into measurable, positive impacts on wellness and well-being, especially for underserved populations, through teaching activities designed to foster students' translational communication skills, enabling them to enhance public accessibility and utility of research and scholarship. Perhaps my most rewarding teaching and learning have been in my past six years building up to and aligning with SDSU’s Wokini Initiative, our “collaborative and holistic framework to support American Indian student success and Indigenous Nation-building.”

In 2016, prior to the launch of the Wokini Initiative, I was invited to begin designing and teaching courses for Tribal College and University (TCU) faculty members while helping them maintain their institutions’ Higher Learning Commission (HLC) credentialing. Collaborations with faculty and administrators from SDSU as well as North and South Dakota’s TCUs to design and deliver a novel sequence of online, multi-student, independent study courses in communication studies. These courses offer faculty/students graduate-level credit for applying communication theory-framed insights to mitigate educational challenges for themselves and for their own students. Resonant with SDSU’s current strategic plan, Imagine 2023 (Key Performance Indicator #3: Cultivate and Strengthen Community Engagement), this work “Align[s] academic and outreach programming across the university to optimize institutional efforts to support tribal communities and underserved populations.” As a direct result of this outreach, I was awarded two SDSU Expanding the Circle stipends. In addition, these opportunities underpinned the development and launch of the "Harnessing Hope" project, for which I have been awarded external funding from the Waterhouse Family Institute as well as a Wokini challenge grant.

Committee Activities

SERVICE (Selected Examples)
• Assessment Coordinator, Communication Major, Department of Communication/School of Communication and Journalism (2016-present)
• Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, School of Communication and Journalism (2019-present; Chair 2021-2022)
• Assessment Sub-Committee of Academic Affairs Committee, College Representative (2018-2021)
• Steering Committee for Quality Assurance, Higher Learning Commission Reaccreditation (2014-2020)
• Speech Communication Association of South Dakota, State Executive Committee, (2013-15)
• South Dakota Humanities Council, Scholar (2016-2019)
• National Communication Association: National Advisory Board Member for Lambda Pi Eta Communication Studies Honors Association (2018-2020); Nominating Committee Basic Course Division (2017-18; 2013-14)
• Central States Communication Association, Basic Course Division Chair (2016-17); Vice-Chair (2015-16); Secretary (2014-15)

Awards and Honors

• Sewrey Lecture, “Cultivating Controversial Conversations,” Competitively chosen presentation for the Teaching and Learning selection of the annual Sewrey Colloquium, South Dakota State University Faculty Celebration of Excellence, 2020
• Expanding the Circle, Awarded for designing and providing higher education opportunities for faculty members at Tribal Colleges and Universities, South Dakota State University, 2018, 2019
• Joyce Lampson Award for Excellence in Faculty Citizenship, SDSU Communication Studies Dept., 2017
• Douglas M. Trank Top Paper of the Year Award, Basic Course Division, Central States Communication Association, 2016
• Top Four Paper, Basic Course Division, National Communication Association, 2014, 2016
• Editor, Outstanding State Journal of the Year, Central States Communication Association, 2015
• Top Journal Article of the Year, Communication Apprehension and Competence Division, National Communication Association, 2014
• Top Four Paper, Communication Apprehension and Competence Division, National Communication Association, 2014
• Top States’ Advisory Showcase Panel, Central States Communication Association, 2014
• SDSU Instructional Design and Technology Master Level Certification in Online Teaching, Fall 2013, (Advanced Level, Summer 2012; Basic Level, Fall 2011)
• Top Three Paper, Basic Course Division, Central States Communication Association, 2012, 2013 and 2014
• South Dakota State University Daschle Research Fellow, Fall 2011



Hunter, K. M. “Harnessing Hope: Decolonizing Research on Native American Students’ College Persistence,” Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication and Society, Private Foundation, International Scope, $9960.00. Fully Funded. (2019-2020).

Hunter, K. M. (with national, multi-institutional assessment research team). "A National-level Assessment of Core Competencies in the Basic Communication Course," National Communication Association, Federal, $5,000.00. Funded. (2016 - 2017).

Professional Memberships

National Communication Association
Central States Communication Association
Lambda Pi Eta, National Communication Studies Honors Society

Creative Activities

Select Invited Lectures (of 50+ invited lectures)

Hunter, K.M. (2022). Overcoming Public Speaking Anxiety. Invited 3-day seminar, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, Trinidad and Tobago.

Hunter, K.M. (2020). Designing effective online discussions. Faculty Online Certification Trainer, South Dakota State University Instructional Design Services.

Hunter, K.M. (2020). Cultivating controversial conversations. Competitively chosen presentation for the Teaching and Learning selection of the annual Sewrey Colloquium, South Dakota State University Faculty Celebration of Excellence.

Hunter, K.M. (2019). Facilitating Difficult Classroom Dialogues. Graduate Teaching Assistant Training, South Dakota State University School of Communication and Journalism.

Hunter, K.M. (2019). Optimal Connection Speed: Enhancing Online Instructor Immediacy. Faculty Online Certification Trainer, South Dakota State University Instructional Design Services.

Applications of Research


Hunter, K. M. (2021). Interpersonal development: 21st Century skills for the real and virtual world. Kendall/Hunt.

Durkin, L. (co-chair; graduated Masters advisee), Hunter, K. M. (co-chair), Berndt, V. (graduate student), Catlett-Ausorn, M., Glaus, C. (undergraduate student), Hammer, L. (undergraduate student), Moore, E., & Okroi, S. (November, 2021). A transformational journey toward Indigenizing community-based participatory scholarship. A full-day, pre-conference workshop to be presented at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association, Seattle, WA.

Hunter, K., Health communication and social justice panel (with others). (March 2021). Central States Communication Association.

Prentiss, S. (co-chair), Hunter, K. M. (co-chair), Atkinson, J. A., Cuny, K. M., Davidson, M., Dwyer, K. K., & Hernandez, L. National Communication Assoc. Preconference, Surviving and Thriving Teaching Communication Online (Nov. 2019).

Bedner, N., Hunter, K. M., & Ruiz-Mesa, K. National Communication Assoc. Short Course, Play Civilly: Creative and Innovative Actions for Engaging in Civil Discourse in the Basic Course. Salt Lake City, UT. (Nov. 2018).

Hunter, K. M. Strengthening Representation of Neurodivergent Voices through Children’s Literature. Milton Writers’ Conference, Vermillion, SD. (Oct. 2018).

Hunter, K.M. (2022). Overcoming Public Speaking Anxiety. Invited 3-day seminar, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, Trinidad and Tobago.

Hunter, K. M., Westwick, J. N., Pedagogics and Psychology in the Integrated Area of Research and Practice, A Proven Public Speaking Course Design to Help Reduce Public Speaking Anxiety, Mendeleev Tobolsk Pedagogical Institute, Tyumen State University, Tobolsk, Russia. (April 14, 2017).


Westwick, J., Carlile, C., Chromey, K., & Hunter, K. (In Press). A shakedown of warm-ups: an assessment of pre-speech exercises’ impact on public speaking anxiety. Speaker & Gavel.

Hunter, K. M., Westwick, J. N., & Chromey, K. J. (2020). Best practices for teaching online courses with dually enrolled students. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 31, 61-83.

Hunter, K. M., & Westwick, J. N. (2020). “I see your True Colors:” Mitigating grouphate by exploring personality differences. Communication Teacher, 34, 19-23.

Ruiz-Mesa, K. & Hunter, K. M. (2019). Best practices for leading difficult discussions in the basic communication course classroom. Journal of Communication Pedagogy, 2, 134-141.

Westwick, J. N., Hunter, K. M., & Kleinjan, B. (2019). Anxiety and communication competence in the honors basic public speaking course: An intervention and formative assessment. Basic Communication Course Annual, 31, Article 9.

Broeckelman-Post, M. A., Hunter, K. M., Westwick, J. N., Hosek, A., Ruiz-Mesa, K., Hooker, J., & Anderson, L. B. (2019). Measuring essential learning outcomes for public speaking. Basic Communication Course Annual, 31, Article 10.




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