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ASU's Cronkite School expands digital audiences faculty

Syed Ali Hussain (left) and Jacob Nelson are joining the Cronkite School as assistant professors in audience engagement and analytics.

January 19, 2018

Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication is expanding its pioneering digital audiences programs with the addition of two award-winning scholars in audience behavior, engagement and analytics.

Syed Ali Hussain and Jacob Nelson are joining the Cronkite School as assistant professors, where they will conduct research in audience engagement and analytics and teach students the skills to identify, measure, engage and grow digital audiences through content and data-driven strategies. Hussain and Nelson will start in August.

“These two young scholars will add richly to our fast-growing digital audiences initiatives on the graduate and undergraduate levels,” said Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan. “We are excited to welcome Ali and Jake to the Cronkite family.”

Hussain, who is completing his doctorate at Michigan State University, conducts research on human emotions for health communications and mobile phones for social development. He currently is working at MSU on a grant-funded project by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to research which effective and low-cost health care practices from other countries could be successful if implemented in the U.S.

Hussain previously led communications campaigns for Save the Children International, the United States Agency for International Development and several health care organizations in Pakistan. He has presented his research at international academic conferences, including the National Institutes of Health, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and the International Communication Association. He also has published scholarship in a book chapter as well as Communication Research Reports, among other journals.  

A Fulbright Scholar, Hussain holds a master’s degree in health and risk communication from MSU, a bachelor’s degree in business from Foundation University, Pakistan and a post-graduate certificate in public health from the University of Manchester, U.K.

“One of the things I like about the Cronkite School is its hybrid focus on both research and practice,” Hussain said. “It’s the human-centric design and implementation of digital innovations that makes the school so unique. I’m looking forward to teaching students about audience acquisition and engagement.”

Nelson, who is completing his doctorate at Northwestern University, studies the changing relationship between journalists and their audiences. His research has been published in Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly and Digital Journalism, and featured in Columbia Journalism Review and MediaShift.

Nelson previously was an editor with, a hyperlocal news platform that encourages community engagement. He has also worked at comScore, an online audience data provider. In 2017, he was named a Knight News Innovation Fellow by the Columbia Journalism School’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism.

Nelson holds a master’s degree in media, technology and society, and a bachelor’s degree in journalism and creative writing, both from Northwestern University.

“I love how the Cronkite School’s research and instruction focuses on making a positive contribution to the profession of journalism,” Nelson said. “As someone who has worked in the field, I find that kind of environment very fulfilling.”

The Cronkite School has been a leader in the growing field of digital audiences. The school offers an online minor, and the curriculum will soon include new degree programs.

Hussain and Nelson will join the Cronkite School’s growing team of thought leaders in digital and social media audiences, including Assistant Professor K. Hazel Kwon and Ethics and Excellence Professor of Practice Jessica Pucci, who serves as director of Cronkite Digital Audience Programs.

“Jake and Ali’s cutting-edge research into how audiences react and respond to content — and how organizations apply that information — will directly impact our students, and propel our industry forward,” Pucci said.

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