Steve Phalen


LSHR 035



I received my B.A. in Speech Communication at the University of Wisconsin at River Falls where my interest in communication studies was first sparked. Afterwards, I received my M.A. in Communication Studies from the University of South Florida, where I explored communication as the ontological fabric of our social worlds.

As a doctoral candidate at Ohio University, my interests in music and community service guide my inquiry into communicative practices at the intersections of interpersonal and organizational communication. My interest in the communicative significance inherent in both music and non-profit organizations stem from my volunteer work at a drop-in center for people living with mental illness in Athens, Ohio, as a bass player with their weekly music therapy and collaborative jam sessions. As a result of these experiences with the organization, I became intrigued by the role music played in fostering relationship between the members, staff, and volunteers of the organization. Additionally, I also became intrigued by the family-like community established by the members of the organization and the role relationships play in fostering psychosocial well-being. Taken together, questions that guide my inquiry focus on (1) how people understanding aesthetic expression, specifically music, as a communicative act, and (2) the ontological possibilities organizations create for their stakeholders. My experiences with the aforementioned organization serve as the basis for my dissertation work.

My dissertation is a narrative ethnography of the aforementioned non-profit drop-in center for people living with mental illness. Particularly, my ethnographic research delves into how the drop-in center creates an organizational climate that allows for the expression of otherwise marginalized experience, such as the experience of living with mental illness, with a specific emphasis on the use of music. I intend to use my dissertation work to further organizational communication inquiry into non-profit organizations, speaking to the ontological possibilities organizations create for their members. I also desire to expand communication inquiry to incorporate aesthetic means of creating and sharing meaning, specifically through music.