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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Dr. Kristen Cvancara

Page address:

Kristin Cvancara

Associate Professor
Fulbright Scholar
Department Chair

307-C Armstrong Hall


Ph.D., University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, 2004
M.A., University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, 2000
B.S., St. Cloud State University, 1992

Research/Creative Interests

Interpersonal communication and social influence, use of verbal aggression to gain compliance among close relationship partners, sibling communication patterns, relationship between family communication patterns and bullying experiences in school.

Courses Taught

Undergraduate and Graduate-level courses: Interpersonal Communication, Research Methods, Communication Theory, Family Communication, Persuasion Theory, Organizational Communication.Undergraduate-level courses: Small Group Communication, Nonverbal Communication, Public Speaking, Introduction to Communication Studies, Professional Communication and Interviewing, Senior Seminar (Capstone course), Honors Interpersonal Communication

Additional Information

Why are we the meanest to the people we love the most?This is a question that has always baffled me.In my first career I spent the majority of my time in the non-profit sector working as a marketing/fundraising analyst. I enjoyed the work because I was involved in forecasting, budgeting, campaign planning, and advising local organizations to creatively maintain or increase their fundraising capacity.I interacted with executive directors weekly and attended meetings with various Boards of Directors annually across the region of the US that I managed. During the 1990s, non-profits were experiencing a shift in their fundraising practices and it was exciting to be working with charitable organizations during that time. Although my first career offered me an opportunity to utilize what I learned in my business degree, I came to realize that it didn’t allow me to answer questions regarding why people communicate the way they do – these were questions that originated from my other undergraduate major, Speech Communication.

After six years or so, I became restless in my first career and started thinking about graduate school. One day I had lunch with a woman from an MBA program I was considering. During our conversation she carefully listened to what I wanted out of a graduate degree and then flat out told me her program wasn’t going to be a good fit.Her honesty prompted me to listened to what she had to say. I can still hear her words… “Kristen, you have too many questions and you need to figure out how to answer them yourself.” She advised me to seek a Ph.D. program.This was not the outcome I had expected from our conversation, and even more unsettling than her advice was the notion that I wasn’t even sure what a Ph.D. meant. Being a curious person, I took her advice and started talking to programs that would focus more on how to conduct research and less on how to apply it.Within a year of that conversation, I left my first career without a backwards glance to complete my graduate work in Communication Studies at the University of Minnesota. That decision brought me to the career I am in today.

After teaching at the university level for over 15 years, I still bring forward lessons learned from my first career into every course I teach and each research project I advance.My analytical skills now focus on assessments of student learning and statistical analyses of research data I have collected. Although these tasks fulfill my analytical side, my work as a teacher fulfills my enjoyment of engaging with students and working with people. My teaching approach emphasizes using theory and research to promote active learning and pragmatic application across the variety of courses I teach.I enjoy working with freshman through graduate students, and I enjoy what I learn from them each semester.

My area of expertise is in interpersonal communication and social influence. Simply put, I study how we communicate when we are trying to get a relationship partner to comply with a request. For example, I seek to understand how quickly and to what degree we will use aggression when a romantic partner, sibling, or friend doesn’t abide by our request.I am curious to understand the factors that influence how verbally aggressive a person will become when a partner resists his/her request. It isn’t that I enjoy thinking about aggressive communication, rather I am motivated to better understand it so that I can help others to learn how use of it negatively impacts others… such as, unhealthy habits children learn from their parents in the family home, how siblings can negatively impact each others’ identity development and satisfaction in future relationships, how exposure to verbal aggression may exacerbate experiences with bullying at school. Even though I conduct research to build theoretical understanding to be used by other academics, the answers I seek are all linked to real life problems that impact many of us daily. At the end of the day, I find my career path circling me back to focus on lessons and applications that will help students to improve their everyday lives (…I hope).

A career as a professor includes a large service component above and beyond teaching and research. Since joining the department in 2005, I have served in the administrative roles of Director of Graduate Studies (2008-2011) and Department Chairperson (2012-2014). Examples of my campus-wide work include the MSU Leadership Institute (2007 to present) and Midwest Women’s Leadership Conference (2010), membership on the Institutional Review Board (2007-2012), serving as an MSU Faculty Mentor (2011-present) & Peer Reviewer (2007-2009). Examples of awards I have received include a MSU Teacher-Scholar Fellowship Award (2008), Fulbright Grant (Finland, 2012), and MSU/MSSA Teacher of the Year Award (2014). In the Mankato community I have participated in the Greater Mankato Growth Leadership Institute (2009-2010), support the YMCA/YWCA and local club sport teams for youth.

If you would like to have a conversation with me about a class or regarding major/minor advising, or are interested in manuscripts I have published, presented, or am currently working on… please feel free to contact me so that we can discuss your interests further.