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Jenifer Whitten-Woodring

Jenifer Whitten-Woodring, Ph.D. Associate Professor and Director of Global Studies Ph.D. Program


Media Freedom, Comparative and International Political Communication, Human Rights, Repression and Dissent, International Relations, Research Methods

Research Interest

The relationship between media freedom and human rights, the role of media in repression and dissent, the causes and effects of media freedom, the causes of repression and dissent

Educational Background

Ph.D. in Politics and International Relations, University of Southern California

M.S. in Radio, Television and Film, Syracuse University

B.F.A. in Communication, Emerson College


Jenifer Whitten-Woodring is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Global Studies PhD Program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Her research focuses on the causes and effects of media freedom and the role of media in repression and dissent. Her current projects include studies of how media freedom and internet access influence government respect for human rights, including physical integrity rights, women’s political, economic and social rights, workers’ rights, and gay rights. She also investigates the effects of media freedom and social intolerance on conflict.

Her book, Historical Guide to World Media Freedom, a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2015 (CQ Press/SAGE 2014, with Douglas Van Belle), analyzes the evolution and devolution of media freedom in 196 countries from 1948 to 2013. Her articles have been published in The Journal of Conflict Resolution, International Studies Quarterly, and Political Communication, Political Science Research and Methods, The International Journal of Press/Politics and are forthcoming in The Journal of Human Rights. She is a past Chair of the International Communication Section of the International Studies Association and previously served as Secretary/Treasurer of the Foreign Policy Section of the American Political Science Association.

Whitten-Woodring loves to teach the courses students are most afraid to take, especially quantitative research methods. She also enjoys teaching courses in comparative media and politics and repression and dissent. She is part of the leadership team for the Emerging Scholars Program, which facilitates research partnerships between promising undergraduate students and faculty mentors. She is also an associate with the UMass Lowell Center for Women and Work.

Prior to becoming a political scientist, Whitten-Woodring worked as a journalist in print and broadcast media and received five first place awards from the New York State Associated Press Broadcasters Association. She became particularly interested in media freedom and the relationship between media and politics when she was a journalism instructor and student newspaper adviser, first at Cedar Crest College and then at California State University at San Marcos. To pursue these research interests, she went back to school and completed her Ph.D. in Politics and International Relations at the University of Southern California in 2010. She also has a master’s degree in Radio, Television, and Film from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School and a bachelor of fine arts degree in Communication from Emerson College.



Published Articles

Works In Progress

  • “Holding the Sacred Accountable: the Effect of Government Involvement in Religion on Media Freedom” (with Nukhet Sandal)
  • “Should We be All A Twitter? #YBYA: The Effect of New Media and Media Freedom on Human Rights” (with Flavio Da Silva Souza)
  • “Media Freedom and Mass Killing” (with Gary Uzonyi)
  • "Connection Frames and Climate Change" (with Amy Below)
  • “Are Media at Work in Your Neighborhood?" (with Chris McKallagat, Flavio D.S. Souza and Cameron Wimpy)
  • “The Rainbow Effect: Media Freedom, Internet Access and Gay Rights" (with Celin Carlo-Gonzalez and Chris McKallagat)