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John Hess

Jon Hess

Director of Communication Studies, Professor
293 Communications Building Knoxville, TN 37996-0324
(865) 974-0696

Dr. Jon Hess’s scholarship centers on communication in maintaining relationships, and on how communication and learning interface.  In the former, he has published research on how people can get along with those they dislike, and how people manage closeness and distance in relationships.  In the latter, he has explored how teacher immediacy and face threat mitigation impact classroom outcomes, and how curriculum and pedagogy need to adapt to current social and workplace changes.  Jon is a former editor of the discipline’s leading journal for social scientific research on communication and learning, Communication Education.  He combined his interests in interpersonal and instructional communication by writing a textbook about interpersonal communication, Because You Asked: Questions Shaping Interpersonal Communication, using an innovative approach grounded in instructional research to foster greater student interest and higher-level cognitive processing.

Jon has spent much of his career serving in academic leadership roles — as introductory course director, graduate director, department chair, associate dean, and academic senate president.  He has provided leadership beyond his university by serving on the National Communication Association’s Chairs Advisory Council, co-facilitating training institutes for introductory communication course directors, and serving as a facilitator for a national teaching retreat.


  • PhD, University of Minnesota
  • M.A., Ohio University
  • B.S., Manchester College

Research interests:

  • Closeness and distance in relationships
  • Communication strategies for managing difficult relationships
  • Impact of teacher communication on student engagement and learning
  • Curriculum design and pedagogy for today’s educational environment and needs
  • Scale development