Professor prioritizes research skills

by Lainie Fraser, Staff Writer

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Valerie Barker is a media studies professional, animal lover and avid gardener. Barker has been a journalism and media studies professor at San Diego State for 14 years.

Intent on making a difference in the world, Barker received her undergraduate degree and teaching credentials from the University of London.

After receiving her master’s in mass communication at SDSU and Ph.D. at the University of California Santa Barbara, she began teaching at SDSU.

Barker teaches courses that deal with the media studies and research behind journalism.

“We are currently living through another renaissance period,” Barker said. “Everything is connected to everything else, perhaps it always was. We can’t sit at the bottom of a silo and pretend there’s no blurring between what is interpersonal and what is mass communication.”

For Barker, being a journalist means understanding the necessary skills to develop in order to properly contribute to today’s society.

“Journalists need to be renaissance men and women,” Barker said. “They have to develop multiple skills in order to fulfill their role effectively. That means sometimes tapping in to unorthodox sources. It means being able to use multiple delivery systems to convey a story.”

After teaching for as many years as Barker has, she understands that the idea of research methods is something many students want to run from.

Despite this fact, Barker’s favorite part of teaching is having her students learn.

She emphasizes the importance of what she teaches for anyone in this day and age, but especially journalists.

“I like to feel that I’ve had some impact and that students have learned something meaningful and of utility,” Barker said. “Research skills are pure gold. That’s because, in the digital age, it’s impossible to be a journalist without them.”

Journalism senior Sophie Miller has taken a few of Barker’s classes. Miller feels Barker was the reason she enjoyed learning the content of the class.

“Professor Barker tried and succeeded, and I really appreciated that,” Miller said. “She had such interesting and different opinions on social media and the digital world. I wanted to pick her brain for days.”

Outside of the classroom, Barker is interested in social identity and community online and has been working on a research project herself. She will be presenting her findings and existing studies at the International Communication Association Conference in Puerto Rico this May.

“The goal of this program of research is to gain insights into the processes underlying user involvement with a wide range of digital and social media genres as well as the outcomes of such involvement,” she said.

Barker feels the best and most common description of her would be that she “doesn’t suffer fools gladly.” She’s to-the-point and tells students what they need to know. Barker is not one to be someone’s fool.

Aside from her academic achievements, Barker has a variety of hobbies. At home she cares for a variety of animals and also collects antique clocks.

She has adopted three dogs and four cats that keep her four parakeets company — all of which have their own personalities and are very quirky and sweet, Barker said.

Most recently, the Coronado Floral Society awarded her home front a blue ribbon.

While many struggle to balance life in both the digital and the physical sense, Barker seems to have somewhat mastered it.

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