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Margaret J. Pitts

About Margaret J. Pitts

Maggie Pitts (PhD, Penn State, 2005) is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Associate Dean at the Graduate College at the University of Arizona. She is also Immediate Past President of the International Association of Language and Social Psychology (2018-2022).  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. Maggie 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" 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). With her graduate students, she is actively pursuing a line of research examining Communication Savoring as a positive communication construct and is developing the Grounded Model of Communication Savoring. 

She teaches undergraduate courses in communication theory, interpersonal communication, and intercultural communication at the University of Arizona. She gives graduate seminars in qualitative research methods, interpersonal communication theory, theories of intercultural communication, and health communication.

Areas of Study

Positive Communication

Aging and Communication

Interpersonal Communication

Intercultural Communication

Health Communication

Language and Social Psychology


Currently I am exploring SAVORING as a communication concept.

My Graduate Research Team and I are currently investigating:

(1) Communication Savoring in Cross-Cultural Contexts and Interpersonal Relationships 
(2) Communicaiton Savoring and Relational Enhancement in Military Couples during Deployment
(3) International Sojourner Transitions

Research Interests

Communication Savoring Research:

Jiao, J., Kim, S., & Pitts, M. J. (online first). Promoting subjective well-being through communication savoring. Communication Quarterly.

Pitts, M. J., Kim, S., Meyerhoffer, H., & Jiao, J. (2019). Savoring as positive communication (Chapter 11). In J. A. M. Velázquez & C. Pulido (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of positive communication: Contributions of an emerging community of research on communication for happiness and social change (pp. 98-107). New York, NY: Routledge.

Pitts, M. J. (2019). The language and social psychology of savoring: Advancing the communication savoring model. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 38, 237-259. DOI: 10.1177/0261927X18821404

Want to learn more? Check out this instructional guide on savoring practice:

Listen to Maggie's podcast interview on Constant Wonder:

Maggie's research on savoring recently appeared in the UA news:

Maggie has been 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:

HPV Vaccine Research:

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. (2018). Gender norms and discourses informing college men’s perceptions of sexual health responsibilities and HPV prevention. Communication Quarterly, 66, 225-244. DOI: 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.

A Selection of Peer Reviewed Articles Related to Health Communication 

Aubrey, J. S., Pitts, M. J., Lutovsky, B., Jiao, J., Yan, K., & Stanley, S. J. (2020). Investigating disparities by sex and LGBTQ identity: A content analysis of sexual health information on college student health center websites. Journal of Health Communication, 25, 584-593. DOI: 10.1080/10810730.2020.1825567

Stanley, S., & Pitts, M. J. (2019). ‘I’m scared of the disappointment’: Young adult smokers’ relational identity gaps and management strategies as sites of communication intervention. Health Communication, 34, 904-911. DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2018.1440507

Stanley, S. J., Yan, K., Jiao, J., Lutovsky, B. R., Aubrey, J. S., & Pitts, M. J. (2019). Communicating about sex when it matters: A content analytic investigation of sexual health information on college student health center websites. Journal of Applied Communication, 47, 591-610. DOI: 10.1080/00909882.2019.1675895

Stanley, S., Kim, S., & Pitts, M. J. (2018). Gender norms and discourses informing college men’s perceptions of sexual health responsibilities and HPV prevention. Communication Quarterly, 66, 225-244. DOI: 10.1080/01463373.2017.1356338.

Pitts, M. J., Stanley, S., & Kim, S. (2017). College males’ enduring and novel health beliefs about the HPV vaccine. Health Communication, 32, 995-1003. DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2016.1196421


Margaret J. Pitts's picture

Contact Information

Margaret J. Pitts
Associate Professor & Associate Dean of the Graduate College
Telephone: (520) 621-0420
Office: Communication 222
Office Hours: By Appointment Only


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): French, magna cum laude, Arizona State University

Courses Taught

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

Spring 2018 Graduate-Undergraduate Course on (Positive) Relational Communication (COMM 417/517)

"This has been, by far, the best class that I have taken in my graduate program. I love the fact that we got to learn theories but also make real-life applications of these theories. I feel that sometimes real-life applications get a bit lost when we are only focusing on the scientific aspects of social behavioral research." 

"I enjoyed how Maggie applied what we were learning in a very practical manner. Far too often in most of my undergrad and grad courses have I taken classes where all I learned was how to do well on three or more multiple choice tests. I took away some valuable life lessons from this course because Maggie connected them in such a impactful way"

"Maggie is one of the most warm and personable instructors I've ever had. I loved the way the course was structured. The assignments have the potential to not only create learning but also to inspire personal development and positive change. Truly a wonderful course design."


Fall 2017 Communication and Culture (COMM 117)

"I loved the entire course. I think it really prepared me for the next time I travel abroad. I liked going to the Tucson Meet Yourself Festival, it really allowed me to connect and learn about my own heritage as well as experience others."

Spring 2017 Graduate Seminar in Theories of Interpersonal Communication (COMM 610)

"This course began with a strong emphasis on positivity and I feel that that has been carried out through the entirety of the semester. This fresh and positive perspective that we were influenced to take was beneficial in learning these theories."

"Maggie is amazing at creating a positive environment and being a student-centered instructor. Also, even though the nature of the paper necessitated uncertainty, I think we all grew as scholars because of it."

Other comments:

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

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