Deborah Ballard-Reisch, Ph.D.

Professor Emerita, School of Public Health


  • Ph.D., Interpersonal and Public Communication, Bowling Green University, 1982


Dr. Deborah Ballard-Reisch is the Kansas Health Foundation Distinguished Chair in Strategic Communication and professor at the Elliott School of Communication at Wichita State University.. She teaches courses in quantitative and qualitative research methods, health communication, and strategic communication including risk and crisis communication. She is committed to grounded, applied research that involves community engagement and student empowerment to make a difference in communities.

Deborah is the founder of the WSU Hunger Awareness Initiative. The initiative began in 2010 when she and a team of MAC graduate students facilitated the WSU Feeds Haiti event in which over 3000 volunteers packaged more than 641,000 meals for people in Haiti displaced by the earthquake. During the 2011/2012 academic year, she and students in her health communication seminar launched the WSU Hunger Awareness Initiative. Since that time the initiative has hosted annual WSU Hunger Awareness Days each October. Some years the organization has emphasized global hunger, other times, local hunger. In 2015, the initiative partnered with the Ulrich Museum of Art and the Department of Art, Design and Creative Industries to host a very successful Empty Bowls event which brought more than 700 people to campus and raised $16,000 for the Kansas Food Bank. As Faculty Fellow of the Auburn University Hunger Solutions Institute, Dr. Ballard-Reisch has authored manuals on starting statewide and campus hunger initiatives which will be published in 2016.

She was honored in 2013 with the Kansas Public Health Association Virginia Lockhart Health Education Award, in 2012 with the Organization for the Study of Communication, Language and Gender Feminist Teacher-Mentor Award, by Wichita State University in 2011 with the Excellence in Community Research Award and by Numana Inc. as a Champion Against Hunger in 2010.

Dr. Ballard-Reisch has been part of grant funded projects that conducted grounded strategic communication research in the areas of bioterrorism risk communication and public health preparedness, healthy behavior change, effective communication strategies with utility consumers, community engagement in wind energy decision making and health promotion for older adults, including her participation on Falling LinKS, an interdisciplinary research team working with Harvey County, Kansas to assist in development of a sustainable, community-based, falls prevention program.

Dr. Ballard-Reisch co-edited a volume on Communication and Sex Role Socialization, selected by Routledge Publishing as the first volume in their Communication Studies Library Series in 2016. This volume was initially published in 1993. She has edited special issues of the Journal of Family Communication with Dr. Dan Weigel (on family research methodology) and Women and Language (on globalization and feminism). She is the incoming editor of the journal Women and Language (2016-2018).

Dr. Ballard-Reisch states, "Grounded in a strengths-based approach, I take an ecological approach to strategic communication in my teaching and research work. I emphasize the many, often interdependent contexts in which communication messages are created and the varied methods through which messages can be delivered to most effectively reach desired audiences and accomplish intended goals."

"I focus on going to communities and talking to people about the best ways to get messages to them, who they want to hear from, what they want the messages to look and sound like, what they are interested in knowing. I have learned that in a crisis, one size does not fit all and to meet the needs of diverse populations within communities, and relationships, different strategies are required to get messages across in an effective and timely manner."

Deborah has been an international educator for more than 20 years, teaching and working with judges and health professionals from more than 20 countries.  She has taught throughout the U.S., and in Canada, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Mongolia, Russia and Zimbabwe.

Her areas of specialty include judicial education, communication, leadership, gender, culture, and advocacy. She was a Fulbright Scholar in Russia in 1996-1997 and received a Fulbright Alumni Initiatives Award in 2001 to study women's health in the Tatarstan Republic of Russia.

In her free time, Deborah loves to travel with her children, Stefan and Alyssa.  She also enjoys horseback riding, tennis, hiking, reading, good food, music, movies and theater.

Research Interests

Her research interests include family and couple communication, strategic health and risk communication, and international women's health. She is the author of over 50 referred international, national and regional journal articles and book chapters and more than 20 public health and population reports.

Selected Publications

  • Bertapelle, J. D. & Ballard-Reisch, D. S. (September, 2015). Cultivating  connections in 140 characters: A case study of Twitter relationship building.
    Media Watch. 6(3), 273-285. Doi:10.15655/mw/2015/v6I3/77888
  • Aramburu Alegria, C. & Ballard-Reisch, D. (2013). Gender expression as a reflection of identity reformation in couple partners following disclosure of Male-to-Female transsexualism. International Journal of Transgenderism.14(2), 49-65. doi: 10.1080/15532739.2013.791653 
  • Weigel, D.J. & Ballard-Reisch, D.S. (2012). Constructing commitment in intimate relationships: Mapping interdependence in the everyday expressions of commitment. Communication Research. 20(10), 1-22. doi: 10.1177/0093650212440445
  • Radebaugh, T., Bahner, C., Ballard-Reisch, D.S., Epp, M., Hale, L., Hanley, R., Kendrick, K., Riley, S., Rogers, M.E., & Rogers, N. (2011). Falling Less in Kansas: Development of a Fall Risk Reduction Toolkit. Journal of Aging Research. Volume 2011, Article ID 532079, 7 pages doi:10.4061/2011/532079
  • Ballard-Reisch, D.S. (2011). Feminist reflections on food aid: The case of Numana in Haiti. Women & Language. 34(1), 53-62.
  • Ballard-Reisch, D.S. (2010). Muted groups in health communication policy and practice: The case of older adults in rural and frontier areas. Women & Language.  33(2), 87-93.
  • Ballard-Reisch, D.S., Samoilenko, S.A., Zagidullin, M., Galitskaya, M.I. & Nagumanova, S.F. (2009). The Intersection of Public Health and Cross-Cultural Communication: Illustrations from the Tatarstan Women's Health Initiative. Russian Journal of Communication, 11, (1/2), 66-80.

Book Chapters

  • Ballard-Reisch, D.S. (2013). Appreciative inquiry as a model for strength-based decision-making in couples and families. In S. Marrow & D. Leoutsakas (Eds.), More Than Blood: Today's Reality and Tomorrow's Vision of Family. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall Hunt. 
  • Ballard-Reisch, D.S., McNary, R., O'Neal, P., Archiopoli, A., Rozzell, B., Granville, M. & Ballard-Reisch, A. (2013). Numana feeds Haiti: A case study of a grassroots, community-based social movement to "Save the Starving". In Dutta, M.  & Kreps, G. (Eds.). Reducing Health Disparities:  Communication Intervention. (pp. 243-258). Hampton Press.
  • Ballard-Reisch, D.S., Ballard-Reisch, A.C. & Silveria-Sater, J. (2012). On the Transition from Childhood to Womanhood: Constructing Coming of Age Rituals in Contemporary U.S. American Culture. In A. Deakins, H. Sterk, R. Bryant-Lockreidge (Eds.). Communication Between Mothers and Daughters. American University Press
  • Aramburu-Alegria, C. & Ballard-Reisch, D.S. (2011)."And Then He Was a She: Relationship Maintenance Activities in Post-Disclosure MTF-NF Couples with Comparison to Other Relational Crisis" In F. Dickson and L. Webb (Eds.). Communication for families in crisis: Theories, research, strategies (pp. 77-102). Peter Lang Publishing.
  • Ballard-Reisch, D.S., McNary, R., O'Neal, P., Archiopoli, A., Rozzell, B., Granville, M., & Ballard-Reisch, A. (2011). Numana feeds Haiti: A case study of a grassroots, community-based social movement to "Save the Starving." 284-290. Conference Proceedings from the 1st International Conference on Public Relations and Communications, Almati, Kazakhstan.
  • Ballard-Reisch, D.S., Rozzell, B.L., Heldman, L, & Kamerer, D. (2010). Microchannels and CMC: Short paths to developing, maintaining, and dissolving relationships In K. Wright and L. Webb (Eds.), CMC in Personal Relationships (pp. 56-78). Peter Lang Publishing.
  • Ballard-Reisch, D.S. & Ballard-Reisch, A.C. (2009). "What are we supposed to do Mom?": A lesson in gender from a bird in the fireplace.  In E.L. Kirby & M.C. McBride (Eds.). Gender Actualized: Cases in Communicatively Constructing Relationships  (pp. 203-219). Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co.
  • Ballard-Reisch, D.S., Clements-Nolle, K., Jenkins, T., Sacks, T., Pruitt, K. & Leathers, K. (2008). Applying the Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) Integrative Model to Bioterrorism Preparedness:  A Nevada Case Study.  In M. Seeger and T. Sellnow (Eds.). Crisis Communication and Public Health. (pp. 203-219). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.