Dean of the Graduate School and Continuing Education

At Valpo since 2007, Jennifer A. Ziegler, Ph.D., serves as Dean of the Graduate School and Continuing Education, where she is responsible for strategic leadership, coordination, and guidance of the School, its programs, faculty, and staff.

After graduating from Georgetown University and beginning a career in public accounting, Dean Ziegler soon felt called to teach at the college level. On the advice of trusted mentors, she entered graduate school to embark on an academic career, pursuing teaching and research specialties in organizational, managerial, and corporate communication. Her favorite course to teach is Corporate Advocacy and Activist Communication, in which students learn how corporate and anti-corporate advertising influences values, governance, and culture.

Since earning her doctorate in 2000, Dean Ziegler has taught in a variety of communication and management programs that have helped her gain experience with various models for graduate education. For example, at Baylor University and Purdue University, she mentored students in the Master of Arts programs in communication studies, some of whom earned a terminal master’s degree and some of whom were preparing for entry into doctoral programs. She also taught at the doctoral level at Purdue University, serving on dissertation committees in communication and other programs. At the University of Notre Dame, Dean Ziegler taught managerial communication to students in the professional master’s programs in business. At Valpo, Dean Ziegler helped to launch and grow the Digital Media and Sports Media Master of Science programs in the Department of Communication, where she also served as Chair. Dean Ziegler also taught corporate communication electives in the Valpo MBA program.

In addition to her passion for graduate education, Dean Ziegler is passionate about conducting research in organizational communication that makes a difference. Dean Ziegler was first exposed to the culture of wildland firefighting while a graduate student at the University of Colorado. Throughout the last decade, Dean Ziegler’s research has focused solely on communication in the management and practice of safety in wildland firefighting. Her work at the intersection of rhetoric, culture, and communication theory has helped the fire community understand the history and cultural legacy of bureaucratic rules in accident investigations; as a result, she is frequently invited to speak at fire conferences, workshops, and refreshers. She has also consulted with agencies on high-profile incidents and related initiatives, helping to illuminate cultural and organizational factors that may contribute to unwanted outcomes. Her recent work centers on how “talk about talk” (metadiscourse) shapes the way people interact during intentional culture change. Soon she will join an interdisciplinary team of scholars (including two of her former graduate students) on a Joint Fire Science funded grant to study risk perception and collective sense-making through radio communications on the fireline.

A member of the editorial board for Management Communication Quarterly, Dean Ziegler also frequently serves as referee for journals that publish peer-reviewed social science research in wildland fire. She continues to serve on doctoral committees in emergency management in the United States and abroad. A longtime member of the International Association of Wildland Fire, Dean Ziegler helps to plan international conferences on safety and other human dimensions of wildfire.

Dean Ziegler finds many interesting overlaps between her teaching and her research. For example, learning about the cultural impact of accident investigation reports has shaped how she teaches formal report writing. Similarly, as her field of organizational communication addresses matters of institutional legitimacy and organizational identity, Dean Ziegler has an interest in exploring and articulating the uniqueness of the educational experience at private, faith-based institutions. As Dean, she is interested in talking with people about the ways in which graduate education supports, and is informed by, the mission and vision of Valparaiso University as a comprehensive university in the Lutheran tradition.


Ph.D., University of Colorado at Boulder
M.A., University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana
B.S.B.A., Georgetown University

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