Who We Are

Faculty and Staff

Director:  Patricia Search
Department of Communication and Media
Email:  searcp@rpi.edu
Patricia Search conducts research in cross-cultural communication and multisensory interaction design. She received a Fulbright award to work with two Australian universities on computer interface designs for Indigenous cultures. She creates art installations that explore the semiotics of interactive computing and multimodal information design. She served as Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Visual Literacy.

Communication Practices Lead Faculty:  Barbara Lewis
Department of Communication and Media
Email:  lewisb2@rpi.edu
Dr. Barbara Lewis, ’99, is Faculty Lead for the Center for Global Communication+Design. She truly enjoys reading and talking about all kinds of communication projects with writers and has been working in writing and speaking centers for a very long time. She was actually a consultant in RPI’s Writing Center back when she was working on her degree here as a graduate student. She lives in Scotia, NY with her husband and daughter, two dogs, four pet rats, and a corn snake named Seymour.

Academic Outreach Lead Faculty: Weina Ran
Department of Communication and Media
Email: ranw@rpi.edu
Weina’s research interests include the effects of media multitasking, health communication, and persuasion. Weina has extensive teaching experience in strategic communications, business/professional communications, and advanced research methods in communication. Weina received her Ph.D. in Communication from The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University.

SAPRIS Lead Faculty: Helen Zhou
Assistant Professor
Department of Communication and Media
Email: zhouy12@rpi.edu
Helen is an Assistant Professor of Chinese language and academic English communication. Some of her scholarly work in second language acquisition and applied linguistics explore the cultural beliefs of second language writing, non-native English speaking students’ learning experience as EFL learners and ESL users/learners, as well as institutional internationalization.

Chinese Mentor Program Lead Faculty: Jianling Yue
Department of Communication and Media
Email: yuej2@rpi.edu
Jianling Yue’s academic interests and publications span Chinese linguistics, pedagogy, second language acquisition, Chinese character evolution, grammar instruction, and English-Chinese translation. She received numerous awards including two awards of “Excellence for International Chinese Language Education” (2008), a First Place Prize and a Third Place Prize in an International Chinese Teaching Case Competition (2014), and the Faculty Achievement Award at RPI (2014).

Language and Culture Support Specialist: Brea Barthel
Email: barthb2@rpi.edu
Brea provides Language and Culture Support to RPI students. Brea uses her passions for language, intercultural cooperation, technical communication, and teaching to help Rensselaer’s undergraduate and graduate students make a successful transition to American culture and the English language.

Teaching Assistants

Christopher Adamczyk
Christopher Adamczyk is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication and Rhetoric who researches the rhetoric of technology. He holds degrees in rhetoric from Georgia College and Texas Tech University. At Comm+D, he specializes in helping students with expository essays, graduate school applications, and in-class presentations.

Allison Bannister
Allison is a 3rd year PhD student in Communication & Media. Her background is in cartooning, and her research continues to revolve around comic books. Outside of her work for RPI Allison writes, edits and illustrates comics, plays board games, and provides entertainment for her cat Elspeth.

Arielle Cerini
Arielle Cerini is a second year PhD. student in Electronic Arts. Prior to coming to RPI she attended Pratt Institute, where she received an MFA in Communications Design. Design continues to remain a primary focus to Arielle’s work, identifying as a critical designer. Much of Arielle’s research is centered around the effects of technology on society, creating work that causes people to think differently about the role technology plays in their everyday lives.

Justin Dowdall
J.A. (Justin) Dowdall is a doctoral student that studies technology and visual arts. His research background covers a diverse range of topics, but always centers on philosophical thinking. More than anything he loves building and growing things.

Sarah Kennedy
Sarah is a third-year PhD student in Communication & Media focusing on place rhetorics in tourism. She enjoys using her expertise in technical writing and creative non-fiction to support RPI students both with the assignments they bring to appointments and to grow their confidence as writers and creators. Outside the Comm+D, Sarah works to advocate for farmed animals and companion animals like her sweet cats Possum, Soren, and Grishnacke.

Heidi Niskanen
Heidi is a second-year PhD student in the biomedical engineering, and her research focus is on medical physics and applications. She is also a Rensselaer graduate and currently serve on the judicial board. Outside school, she loves hiking and being outdoors, working on the 46 high peaks in the Adirondacks!

Lorelei Wagner
Lorelei is a fourth-year PhD student in Communication & Media focusing on sensory values in writing center tutor education.  She is passionate about helping Renssealer creators and composers from all disciplines in their academic and personal work.  Outside of her graduate school life, she enjoys reflective writing, drag racing, poetry, yoga, canoeing, hiking, camping, and live music. She lives in Troy with her partner, Nick, and their tiny human, Parker.


The staff at the Center for Global Communication+Design is composed of graduate teaching assistants and undergraduate mentors who enjoy reading and responding to writing, oral presentations, and visual or multimodal projects from all disciplines! All of the mentors and teaching assistants who work at the Comm+D have significant experience in composing and responding to many types of either written or visual work. All undergraduate mentors have also excelled in a 4-credit course, Writing and Response, that has prepared them to read and respond to a wide range of texts.


Visit Us

The Comm+D is located on the lower level of the Folsom Library, next door to the ALAC tutoring space.

Folsom Library--Lower Level
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Troy, NY 12180

Hours of Operation

Spring Semester Hours
Mon.-Thurs.: 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Friday: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Sunday: 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Please view our scheduling system for the most accurate hours—we are usually around more often than this and also host special events!

Schedule an Appointment

Schedule an Appointment

1. Click on the "LIMIT TO" drop-down menu at the top of the schedule. Choose the kind of appointment you need. GRADUATE STUDENTS, be sure to choose a “GRADUATE” project from the list.

2. Click on the open appointment you want (a WHITE space), which will bring you to a short form.

3. Set the TIME for the appointment: choose 30 minutes or make two back-to-back appointments for 1 hour. Make 1-hour appointments for Online or E-Tutoring.

4. Tell us about what you’re working on by filling out the form that opens in the scheduler and submit it. You’ll get a reminder email to confirm your appointment.

5. CAN’T FIND AN APPOINTMENT? Next to each weekday name, there is a small white CLOCK SYMBOL. Click on the clock to enter your name on the WAITING LIST for that day.