Patricia O. Covarrubias (Ph.D. University of Washington, 1999) is Associate Professor and Director of the M.A. Program in the Department of Communication and Journalism at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My previous careers include work as a broadcast journalist for KCRA-TV (NBC affiliate in Sacramento, California) and owner of OCELOTL, a consulting company providing presentation skills to US and Japanese business persons.
My academic research focuses on understanding and describing how local cultures influence people’s ways of communicating and vice versa, and on describing how culturally-grounded communicative practices reflect and create a unique life for groups of people. Ultimately, I am interested in the influence of culture and cultural diversity in the activities and events of everyday life across a variety of contexts. My research goals include contributing to the ethnography of communication and to language and social interaction approaches. Further, my aim is to contribute to cultural and intercultural communication, metaphors as communication, cultural/intercultural communication in health contexts, and the much understudied communicative aspect of communicative silence. In whatever context, my professional passions and research impetus are driven by my personal ideals for achieving social inclusivity and justice, improving institutional (and other) contexts, more peaceful living, richer multicultural experience, and greater benefits from our human socio-cultural distinctiveness.
In the area of communicative silence I am interested in exploring silences as “generative” rather than “consumptive” enactments. For example, I have studied silence as a generative means for perpetuating, particularizing, and/or protecting culture. To this research I would like to add uses of silence to enact social resistance for purposes of emancipation. Also, I am interested in studying the kinds of social worlds people create when competing culturally situated silences collide. For example, using American Indian examples, I have taken a critical look at silence enactments that reveal what I call “discriminatory silence” within the context of the college classroom. In future work, I hope to explore the silencing of women who practice orthodox religions, particularly to not exclusively, in college contexts. The study of communicative silence is a much under-studied aspect in the field of communication, among other academic fields, and my goal is to contribute to centralizing its importance in studies about human communication.
My past research includes ethnographic investigation of the ways of speaking of native Mexican construction workers and the ways they use pronominal address to create interpersonal webs that in turn enabled them to achieve workplace cooperation. This work was the focus of my doctoral dissertation, which subsequently was published as a book under the title, Culture, Communication, and Cooperation: Interpersonal Relations and Pronominal Address in a Mexican Organization.
In 2014-2015 I was one of nine professors selected for the first ever Teaching Fellows program at UNM. As part of my commitment to this program I am studying some unexplored reasons why so many Latino students drop out of college at undergraduate and graduate levels. Using double bind theory I am looking at potentially contradictory messages about college within Latino families. This project also involves designing creative writing assignments to help students manage their double bind realities and persist in accomplishing their goals of graduating from college.
Another current research project involves problematizing the concepts of respect and respeto (respect in Spanish) as they are understood in the applied context of immigration discourses. This study argues that respect and respeto are not necessarily equivalent and, thus, serve as loci for sociocultural misunderstandings and alienation. Because my research commitments embrace continuing work with Mexican/Hispanic/Latina(o)/Chicana(o) ways of communicating, potential new directions consist of inquiry into the emotional impact of undocumented immigration on behalf of Mexican women. This project would help address the complicated impact of a contemporary social problem that affects the health, health care, and clinical practices enacted in New Mexican communities.
Publications & Other Productivity
Covarrubias, P. (2002 Culture, communication, and cooperation: Interpersonal relations and pronominal address in a Mexican organization, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Boulder, CO. (Soft cover edition 2005)
Covarrubias, P., & Windchief, S. (2009) Silences in Stewardship: Some American Indian College Students Examples. The Howard Journal of Communications, 20, 4, 1-20.
Covarrubias, P. (2008). Masked Silence Sequences: Hearing Discrimination in the College Classroom. Communication, Culture & Critique, 1, 3, 227-252.
Covarrubias, P. (2007). (Un)biased in Western theory: Generative silence in American Indian communication. Communication Monographs, 74, 2, 265-271.
Philipsen, G., Aoki, E., Castor, T., Coutu, L., Covarrubias, P., Jabs, L., Kane, M., & Winchatz, M. (1997). Reading Ella Cara Deloria’s Waterlily for cultured speech. Iowa Journal of Communication, 29, 31-49. (order of authorship beyond Philipsen was selected at random)
Chapters in edited volumes:
Covarrubias Baillet, P.O. (2009). The Ethnography of Communication. In Littlejohn, S. and K. Foss (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Communication Theory (pp. 355-360). Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
Covarrubias Baillet, P.O. (2009). Speech Codes Theory. In Littlejohn, S. and K. Foss (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Communication Theory (pp. 918-924). Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
Covarrubias, P. (2005). Homemade talk: Language, identity, and other Mexican legacies for a son’s intercultural competence. In Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz (Ed.), From generation to generation: Maintaining cultural identity over time (pp. 29-47). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
Philipsen, G., Coutu, L. M., & Covarrubias, P. (2005). Speech Codes Theory: Revision, Restatement, and Response to Criticisms. In William Gudykunst (Ed.), Theorizing about communication and culture. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications. (order of authorship beyond Philipsen was selected at random)
Covarrubias, P. (2000). Of endearment and other terms of address: A Mexican perspective. In M. W. Lustig and J. Koester (Eds.), AmongUS: Essays on identity, belonging, and intercultural competence. New York: Longman.
Covarrubias, P. (January 2006). The findings from my invited research presentation, “Defining success: Overhauling our assumptions,” were included in the published conference proceedings, Redefining Student Success: The Challenges and Implications of Extending Access, published by The College Board.
Covarrubias, P., & Turner, M. (Spring 2006). Cultural Codes in Communication, a video production. This video produced on DVD, conceived by Patricia Covarrubias and produced by UNM undergraduate student Mike Turner, served as promotional and teaching tool at a communication codes conference at the University of Washington in May 2006.