Lucy Atkinson

SRS Spotlight

The Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations is home to many astounding professors, each with their own stories on how they started on one career path and ended up on another. Texas Advertising and Public Relations (TAPR) would like to introduce a segment called “SRS Spotlight” to help students become more familiar with professors and their research focus.


Lucy Atkinson

1. Where did you attend school for your undergraduate degree and what was your major?  Where did you attend school for your post-graduate degree(s)?

My undergrad degree is from McGill University in Montreal. I’m Canadian, so I went to a Canadian school. I double-majored in Geography and Latin-American Caribbean Studies. My master’s degree is in Journalism from New York University. I worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for five years before pursuing my Ph.D., which I earned from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

2. How did you first get involved in research?

I had no exposure to research until my Ph.D. program. My masters program was very professional. From day one, we were treated like working journalists. That was great but it meant I had no theoretical or research experience. In the course of working as a reporter, I felt that I missed out on that and wanted to go back to school to learn about the theories and concepts and empirical work behind journalism.

3. What is your research about?

As a Ph.D. student, it was initially about political communication and civic engagement. But, I read a book called “A Consumers’ Republic” by Lizabeth Cohen that completely changed the way I thought about civic engagement. Her book helped me realize consumption can be political. So I changed my research agenda to consumer behavior with a civic focus. I study prosocial consumption, i.e. the idea that people “vote” with their dollars. Since starting out on this research agenda more than 10 years ago, I have focused it more narrowly on sustainable consumption. I study things like green advertising, greenwashing, boomerang effects of green consumption, and emotion and persuasive environmental communication. Recently, my research has started to look at environmental communication in the context of video games, augmented reality and virtual reality.

4. What led you to becoming a professor at UT?

My job here at UT was my first job out of graduate school. When I was offered the job, I felt like I’d won the lottery. It is exactly the kind of job I wanted – working at an R1 institution with bright students and smart colleagues. It’s also a great place for my husband and daughters.

5. What is one of the most rewarding things about being a professor?

Being a professor comes with considerable freedom. I have a lot of latitude over how I teach my classes and what kind of research I do. That also means my job has a lot of variety. No two days are the same.

6. What advice do you have for students looking to pursue their Masters or Ph.D. in the future?

Jump into research as soon as you start your program. Connect with faculty (even if you haven’t had a class with them) and work with fellow graduate students to do research and publish. Even if the project isn’t exactly in your area of research, you’ll still learn something new and useful and will hopefully get a publication out of it.  

7. What is one thing you wish you knew when you were in undergrad?

That it’s OK to change your major and it’s OK not to know what you want to do when you graduate. Also, stop by professors’ office hours. That’s how you really get to know faculty and get meaningful letters of recommendation.

8. What class/classes are you teaching?

I’m teaching two undergrad classes this semester – the History of Advertising and Communicating Sustainability.

9. What is one of your favorite coffee or food spots in Austin?

That’s hard. I can’t name just one. We love eating out and Austin has so many amazing restaurants to choose from. Some of our favorites are Barlata, Juniper, Aster’s, Lenoir and Cafe Josie.

Krisha Patel