Maggie Pitts

About Maggie Pitts

Maggie Pitts (PhD, Penn State, 2005) joined the Department of Communication at the University of Arizona as an Assistant Professor in the Fall 2011. Her program of research centers on the types of everyday talk people use to manage transitions across the life course (such as health decision-making, end-of-life and later life conversations, retirement, international sojourning, etc.). Transitions offer a rich context for the study of interpersonal communication, as it is during these times that people often become acutely aware of the importance of “talk” and a shifting sense of self. Dr. Pitts specializes in qualitative research methods including observation, interviewing, focus groups, and case studies. Her research has been published in the Journal of Social Issues, Journal of Language and Social Psychology, Journal of Applied Communication Research, Health Communication, Communication and Medicine,  International Journal of Intercultural Relations, Qualitative Health Research, The Qualitative Report, and Qualitative Research.

Very recently her work has turned toward “the bright side” of communication to consider ways of enhancing communication experiences across the lifespan. Toward this end, she has co-edited two volumes on positive communication - the first of their kind to harness and provide focus for a movement in Positive Communication - The Positive Side of Interpersonal Communication (Socha & Pitts, Eds., 2012) and Positive Communication in Health and Wellness (Pitts & Socha, Eds., 2013). A positive communication approach looks at “what we’re doing right” in our communication and relationships rather than “what is going wrong.”

She teaches undergraduate courses in interpersonal, intercultural, and nonverbal communication at the University of Arizona. In Fall 2012 she taught a graduate seminar on health communication theory and will bea teaching a graduate seminar on qualitative research methods in communication in the Fall, 2013.

News for this summer (2013):

Dr. Maggie Pitts will be teaching in the Orvieto summer school program for the first time this summer, but she is no stranger to study abroad. Not only has she studied abroad twice, one of her core interests in research and teaching is international sojourning. Specifically, she studies students who study abroad! She has taught numerous courses on intercultural communication and international sojourning and even preparatory courses for students who study abroad. She has published her research on study abroad in international journals and presented and conducted research all over the globe including France, Mexico, The Netherlands, Australia, The UK, South Africa, China, Canada, and beyond! It is not often that a person's personal interests and career interests are the same, but for Dr. Pitts, study abroad is not just a personal passion - her career is built upon it!


I have three active research projects.

I am investigating the role of interpersonal communication in re-entry experiences of students who study abroad.

I am studying effective strategies for managing face and identity in conversations between adult children and parents concerning later life.

I am concluding research on the role of anticipated regret in decision-making regarding HPV vaccination decisions.


My Graduate Research Team is currently investigating

  • the roles of personality and communication channel on job satisfaction among teleworkers
  • managing romantic relationships via Facebook - confirming expectations and suspicions
  • managing later life friendships among relocated retirees


Research Interests

Dr. Pitts is in the UA news for her work on Positive Communication:


In the Fall of 2012 Dr. Pitts gave an invited lecture at the University of Arizona Cancer Prevention and Control Symposia entitled, "'We can always opt out, you know": HPV vaccine decision-making and outcomes within the context of a state mandate."

Read about her research on decision-making about the HPV vaccine:

Selected Publications


Pitts, M. J., & Socha, T. (Eds.) (2013). Positive communication in health and wellness. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Socha, T., & Pitts, M. J. (Eds.) (2012). The positive side of interpersonal communication. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Journal Articles

Pitts, M. J., & Adams-Tufts, K. (2013). Implications of the Virginia human papillomavirus vaccine school requirement for parental vaccine acceptance. Qualitative Health Research, on-line first, DOI: 10.1177/1049732312470871

*Pitts, M. J., & Watson, B. M. (2012). Epilogue: Trends and forecasts in language and social psychology scholarship. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 31, 437-446.

Pitts, M. J. (2012). Practicing the Four Seasons of Ethnography methodology while searching for identity in Mexico. The Qualitative Report, 17 (Art. 79), 1-21.

Stewart, C. O., Pitts, M. J., & Osborne, H. L. (2011). Mediated intergroup conflict: The discursive construction of "Illegal Immigrants" in local news media in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 30, 8-27.

St. John, B. III., Pitts, M. J., & Adams-Tufts, K. (2010). Disconnects between news framing and parental discourse concerning the state-mandated HPV vaccine: Implications for dialogic health communication and health literacy. Communication and Medicine, 7(1), 75-84.

Pitts, M. J. (2009). Identity and the role of expectations, stress, and talk in short-term sojourner adjustment: An application of the integrative theory of communication and cross-cultural adaptation. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 33, 450-462.

Kaplan, M., Nussbaum, J., & Becker, J. C., Fowler, C., & Pitts, M. J. (2009). Communication barriers to family farm succession planning. Journal of Extension,47 (5), Article Number 5FEA8, available at

Pitts, M. J., Raup-Krieger, J. L., Kundrat, A., & Nussbaum, J. F. (2009). Mapping the processes and patterns of family organ donation discussions: Conversational styles and strategies in live discourse. Health Communication, 24, 413-425.

Pitts, M. J., Fowler, C., Kaplan, M., Nussbaum, J., & Becker, J. (2009). Dialectical tensions underpinning family farm succession planning. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 37, 59-79.

Pitts, M. J., & Miller-Day, M. (2007). Upward turning points and positive rapport development across time in researcher-participant relationships. Qualitative Research, 7, 177-201.

Nussbaum, J. F., Pitts, M. J., Huber, F., Krieger, J. L., & Ohs, J. (2005). Ageism and ageist language across the life span: Intimate relationships and non-intimate interactions. Journal of Social Issues, 61 (2), 285-303.

Book Chapters

Pitts, M. J. (2013). Qualitative field methods in communication. In J. F. Nussbaum (Ed), Readings in communication research methods: From theory to practice (pp. 137-148). San Diego, CA: Cognella Academic Press.

Pitts, M. J., & Socha, T. J. (2013). Positive communication in creating healthy lives, healthy relationships, and healthy institutions. In M. J. Pitts & T. J. Socha (Eds.), Positive communication in health and wellness (pp. 1-24). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Socha, T. J. & Pitts, M. J. (2013). Coda: Apples and positive messages: Towards healthy communication habits and wellness. In M. J. Pitts & T. J. Socha (Eds.), Positive communication in health and wellness (pp. 299-304). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Socha, T. J., & Pitts, M. J. (2012). Coda: Positive interpersonal communication as child’s play. In. T. Socha & M. Pitts (Eds.), The positive side of interpersonal communication (pp. 323-324). Language as Social Action Series, Vol. 14). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Socha, T. J., & Pitts, M. J. (2012). Toward a conceptual foundation for positive interpersonal communication. In. T. Socha & M. Pitts (Eds.), The positive side of interpersonal communication (pp. 1-15). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Pitts, M. (2011). Dancing with the spirit: Communicating family norms for positive end-of-life transition. In M. Miller-Day (Ed.), Family communication, connections, and health transitions: Going through this together (pp. 377-404). New York: Peter Lang.

Pitts, M. J., & Giles, H. (2008). Social psychology and personal relationships: Accommodation and relational influence across time and contexts. In G. Antos & E. Ventola (Eds.) with T. Weber, Handbook of applied linguistics volume 2: Interpersonal communication (pp. 15-31). New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Pecchioni, L., Krieger, J. C., Sparks, L., Pitts, M. J., & Ota, H. (2008). Investigating cancer and ageing from a cultural perspective. In L. Sparks, H. D. O'Hair, & G. L. Kreps, (Eds.), Cancer communication and aging (pp. 239-257). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

Jackson, R. L., Warren, J. R., Pitts, M. J., & Wilson, K. B. (2007). “It is not my responsibility to teach culture!": White graduate teaching assistants negotiating identity and pedagogy. In L. Cooks (Ed.), Whiteness, pedagogy, and performance. New York: Routledge.

Hecht, M., Jackson, R. L., & Pitts, M. J. (2005). Culture: Intersections of intergroup and identity theories. In J. Harwood, & H. Giles (Eds.). Intergroup communication: Multiple perspectives (pp. 21-42). New York: Peter Lang.

Pitts, M. J., Krieger, J. L., Nussbaum, J. F.  (2005). Finding the right place: Social interaction and life transitions among the elderly. In E. Berlin-Ray (Ed.). Health Communication in Practice: A Case Study Approach, (pp. 233-242.) Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Pitts, M. J., & Kundrat, A. K. (2004). Exploring social support and social identity among a multigenerational community of women. In Ng, S. H., Candlin, C. N., & Chin, C. Y. (Eds.) Language Matters: Communication, Identity, and Culture, (pp. 267-295). Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong Press.

Maggie Pitts's picture

Contact Information

Maggie Pitts
Assistant Professor
Telephone: (520) 621-7080
Fax: (520) 621-5504
Office: COMM 222


PhD (2005):   Communication Arts and Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University
Dissertation: The Role of Communication in Cross-National Adjustment and Identity Transitions among Student Sojourners

MA (2001): Speech Communication, The Pennsylvania State University
Thesis:  Cultural Identity and Patterns of Social Support among United States American Students Abroad

BA (1999): Human Communication, magna cum laude, Arizona State University

BA (1999): Modern French Language, magna cum laude, Arizona State University

Courses Taught

What are the students saying about taking classes with Dr. Pitts?

Practical use and appeal for a globalizing world. Good to learn for business, personal, or political careers. (Comm 117: Culture and Communication, Fall, 2011)

I loved the topic. Very practical and applicable in real life situations. Made me pay more attention to details in conversations. (Comm 415: Nonverbal Communication, Spr, 2012)

Dr. Pitts is a great instructor. She is thorough and enthusiastic in lecture. She truly cares about her class. (Comm 117: Culture and Communication, Fall, 2011)

[Dr. Pitts] has great enthusiasm, makes class fun and interesting so you want to go to class! Very smart and trustworthy professor. (Comm 415: Nonverbal Communication, Spr, 2012)


Health Communication

Qualitative Research Methods in Communication (coming in Fall 2013)


Communication Research Methods
Family Communication 
Foundations of Group Communication
Intercultural Communication 
International Sojourning
Interpersonal Communication Theory and Research
Introduction to Interpersonal Communication
Language and Social Identity
Language and Social Psychology
Nonverbal Communication in Human Interaction
Storytelling and Society

College of Social and Behavioral Sciences