Maggie Pitts

About Maggie Pitts

Maggie Pitts (PhD, Penn State, 2005) is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Communication at the University of Arizona. She is also President of the International Association of Language and Social Psychology (2016-2018).  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, and focus groups. Her research is published in Communication Monographs, Journal of Social Issues, Journal of Language and Social Psychology, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, Language and Communication, Journal of Applied Communication Research, Health Communication, Communication and Medicine, International Journal of Intercultural Relations, Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, Qualitative Health Research, The Qualitative Report, and Qualitative Research.

Maggie takes a “bright side” approach to the study of human communication -- asking questions like, "what is going right" here, and "how can we make good things even better?" 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).

She teaches undergraduate courses in communication theory, interpersonal communication, and intercultural communication at the University of Arizona. When she has the opportunity, she teaches advanced courses in cultural contexts in the Department's study abroad program in Orvieto, Italy. She gives graduate seminars in qualitative research methods, interpersonal communication theory, theories of intercultural communication, and health communication.




Currently I am exploring SAVORING as a communication concept

My Graduate Research Team is currently investigating:

(1) Communication Savoring in Cross-Cultural Contexts and Interpersonal Relationships 

(2) International Sojourner Transitions

Research Interests

Dr. Pitts' research on sojourner reentry was recently featured in the Daily Wildcat:

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

She was also invited to contribute a blog post on the benefits of savoring in later life:

Forthcoming reserach on positive communication with her research team:

Pitts, M. J., Kim, S., Meyerhoffer, H., & Jiao, J. (accepted, forthcoming). Savoring as positive communication. Routledge Handbook of Positive Communication. Routledge.

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

Research team publications resulting from her work on HPV promotion among college males:

Pitts, M. J., Stanley, S., & Kim, S. (2017). College males’ enduring and novel health beliefs about the HPV vaccine. Health Communication32, 995-1003. DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2016.1196421

Stanley, S., Kim, S., & Pitts, M. J. (2017). Gender norms and discourses informing college men’s perceptions of sexual health responsibilities and HPV prevention. Communication Quarterly, on-line first, 10.1080/01463373.2017.1356338.



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.

Selected Journal Articles

Pitts, M. J., Kenski, K., Smith, S., & Pavlich, C. (2017). Focus group discussions as sites for public deliberation and sensemaking following shared political documentary viewing. Journal of Public Deliberation, 13(2), article 6.

Pitts, M. J. (2016). Sojourner reentry: A grounded elaboration of the integrative theory of communication and cross-cultural adaptation. Communication Monographs, on-line first, DOI: 10.1080/03637751.2015.1128557.

Pitts, M. J., & Brooks, C. (2016). Critical pedagogy, internationalisation, and a third space: Cultural tensions revealed in students’ discourse. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, on-line first, DOI: 10.1080/01434632.2015.1134553

Brooks, C., & Pitts, M. J. (2016). Communication and identity management in a globally-connected classroom: An online international and intercultural learning experience. Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, on-line first, DOI: 10.1080/17513057.2016.1120849

Pitts, M. J., & Harwood, J. (2015). Communication accommodation competence: The nature and nurture of accommodative resources across the lifespan. Language and Communication, 41, 89-99.

Smith, S. A., & Patmos, A., & Pitts, M. J. (2015). Communication and teleworking: A study of communication channel satisfaction, personality, and job satisfaction for teleworking employees. International Journal of Business Communication, on-line first, DOI: 10.1177/2329488415589101

Pitts, M. J., Fowler, C., Fisher, C., & Smith, S. A. (2014). Politeness strategies in imagined conversation openers about eldercare. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 33 (1), 29-48. DOI:10.1177/0261927X13506708

Fowler, C., Fisher, C., & Pitts, M. J. (2013). Older adults’ evaluations of middle-aged children’s attempts to initiate discussion of care needs. Health Communication, 29, 717-727. DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2013.786278

Pitts, M. J., & Adams-Tufts, K. (2013). Implications of the Virginia human papillomavirus vaccine school requirement for parental vaccine acceptance. Qualitative Health Research, 23, 605-617. DOI: 10.1177/1049732312470871

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.

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., & Hummert, M. L. (2014). Life span communication methodology. In J. F. Nussbaum (Ed.), Handbook of life span communication (pp. 29-49). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

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. J. (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
Director of Graduate Studies & Associate Professor
Telephone: (520) 621-7080
Fax: (520) 621-5504
Office: COMM 222
Office Hours: By Appointment


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

Interpersonal Communication

Intercultural Communication


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

Catalog Courses by Faculty

College of Social and Behavioral Sciences