Chatham Views

Q and A with Katie Cruger PhD


Name: Katie Cruger
Title: Assistant Professor, Communication (hopefully Associate Professor next month!); Director of Professional Writing and Communications Graduate Programs
Date Joined Chatham: August 2011
Born & Raised: Northern Virginia, outside of DC. But also spent much of my life in Manhattan
Interests: Media, Words, Plants

Q: How did you develop an interest in the field in which you teach?
A: I loved movies, TV, and magazines as a kid. I thought I wanted to produce those things as a film maker, editor, show runner. That’s why I earned my B.A. in Communication Arts from Marymount Manhattan University, which is a similar environment to Chatham’s: small, liberal arts college in a bustling city. But then I started working in industry and realized I had more to say as a critic than as a filmmaker or copywriter, and decided to pursue graduate school.

Q: What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
A: Babysitting taught me how to spot a lie. Hosting, bartending, and being a server taught me about interacting with people, and how to best negotiate uneven power relationships, but also how gross and unfair the world is. My first full time job was at an advertising agency, which taught me that I didn’t want to sell things to people that they didn’t need, but that I was good at thinking about messages and persuasion, and wanted to explore ways to use those tools for social good.

Q: What aspect of your life before teaching best prepared you to do so?
A: Nannying and being a student are a key part of preparation for teaching. But I also was lucky to have a lot of pedagogy training during my time as a graduate student, so that I wasn’t employing trial and error in the classroom as much as educated guessing. Still plenty of errors, I’m sure, but hopefully fewer.

Q: What makes teaching at Chatham special for you?
A: I appreciate getting to interact with students more than once during their time at Chatham and watching them develop as thinkers and activists first through fourth year, and even beyond to graduate education. I like that so many of our students are committed to justice and making the world better through their work. That means we get to explore the “how” of social justice, instead of just the “why” it’s necessary.

Q: What is your passion?
A: Other than my academic work and family, I’m extremely passionate about animal rights and link between feminist and sustainability concerns and how humans interact and treat animals. I also really love plants. More than people, I’m embarrassed to admit. I’m a certified Master Gardener in Allegheny County and love growing and cultivating plants more than most other things I could spend my time doing.

Q: What one individual had the greatest impact on you and how?
A: Erm. I’m sorry, I don’t think I have a clear answer to this one. I’ve learned a lot about who I didn’t want to be from crummy bosses and leaders of the past. I’m very inspired by Feminist leaders like Angela Davis, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Ursula K. Le Guin, but I never met any of those people. My son has certainly changed my life the most out of anyone.

Q: What one thing would your students be surprised to know about you?
A: I used to be quite a good musician. And dancer. And I used to care a lot about high fashion and walked miles a day in 4 inch heels as a Manhattanite.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do outside of work? 
A: Garden. Watch my backyard chickens wander about the yard. Snuggle goats (post retirement, my business card will absolutely read “Professional Goat Cuddler.”) Hang with my kid.

In 2016, Dr. Cruger was selected from a competitive, national pool of nominees to participate in the Teaching Interfaith Understanding seminar in Chicago, Illinois. Read more here

Chatham’s accelerated 30-credit Masters in Communication (MCOMM)  is a hybrid program, blending on-ground courses with select online offerings for increased flexibility. Students are able to choose tracks in Environmental Communication, Healthcare Communication, or Strategic Communication.

Chatham’s  Master of Professional Writing (MPW) program is a broad-based 30-credit online program that leads to a unique, professional degree with specializations possible in Technical Writing or Web Content Development, and paths of study for nonprofits professionals and communications professionals.