Department: Communication Arts School: College of Arts and Sciences Campus: Old Westbury
Member of NYIT Since: 2009
As the news media marks the 30th anniversary of the first HIV/AIDS diagnosis this year, Mandy Zhang's research is more relevant than ever. Since joining NYIT as assistant professor of communication arts, she has studied the impact of public service announcements (PSAs) for HIV/AIDS prevention on the attitudes and behaviors of sexually active heterosexual singles as well as health literacy among college students.
"With approximately 50,000 new HIV infections in the United States each year, I think we should continue making prevention efforts, including designing more effective health campaigns," says Zhang, who received Institutional Support for Research and Creativity (ISRC) grants from NYIT to fund both her HIV/AIDS study and current health literacy project.
As part of her ongoing study of health literacy, she surveyed 50 undergraduate students at NYIT-Old Westbury during the spring semester to find the top five health topics they search about on the Internet. Nutrition and a balanced diet top the list, followed by physical activity, weight management, sexual health, and stress management.
Zhang initiated her HIV/AIDS research during her doctoral study and extended it in 2010 by assessing the novelty and sexual appeals of PSAs and their portrayal of evidence in narrative and statistical form. She gauged the reactions of study participants to HIV/AIDS-prevention messages using physiological indicators such as heart rate and skin conductance to measure attention, arousal, memory, and perceived message effectiveness.
She presented the study results at the 61st Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, May 26-30, in Boston. The findings show that novelty is more effective for presenting statistical evidence, whereas sexual appeal works better for narrative PSAs.
Prior to NYIT, Zhang worked as a reporter at the Shanghai Daily newspaper during the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in China.
"I was impressed by the significant role of media in the SARS epidemic and this experience sparked my interest in health communication," she says.
Chinese culture has also influenced Zhang's teaching style. She ascribes to the model set forth by Han Yu, a poet and proponent of Neo-Confucianism during the Tang Dynasty (circa. 618-907), who defined a teacher's role in three parts: passing on wisdom, teaching knowledge, and helping students solve problems.
"His teaching philosophy is widely followed by teachers in China," she says. "Although Han may be rarely known in the United States, I find in my American mentors similar qualities that make them exemplary teachers. Their devotion to students, their expertise in their domains, their encouragement of critical thinking, and their emphases on problem-solving capabilities are qualities that I have emulated in my teaching career."