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Lauren-Ashley Buchanan, PhD

Associate Director of Student Life for The Graduate School

Lauren-Ashley Buchanan, PhD

The biggest implication of my role in TGS is that graduate students should (and do) have lives outside of their academic work. The fact that the position even exists is a statement that Northwestern believes that these “outside lives” require institutional attention and nurturing. ”

Associate Director of Student Life Lauren-Ashley Buchanan joined The Graduate School (TGS) at the start of the year. After receiving a bachelor of arts in psychology from Northwestern, Lauren completed her PhD in communication studies at the University of Iowa, where she most recently worked as a visiting assistant professor and research administrator. In her new role with TGS, Lauren serves as the primary liaison to our campus partners and graduate student organizations.

How would you describe your research and/or work to a non-academic audience?
Academically, my expertise is in interpersonal communication. More specifically, I focused on the ways people communicate and relate through the internet. The general question being: how do people utilize the internet (via computer and/or cell phone) to initiate, maintain, and dissolve relationships? My dissertation focused on online predators and the people pretending to be minors in an effort to catch them. Suffice it to say, I was able to explore the aforementioned question through this work. I am more than willing to talk about my research to anyone who’s interested! 

What have been some of the most memorable twists and turns of your career?
My entire career trajectory has been full of twists and turns. The most notable indication of this was my transition out of academia. I was certain that I was going to be a professor within the field of communication studies. However, as I got further into my program, I realized that I didn’t actually wish to be in academia. That was a pretty jarring realization five years into my program, but all’s well that ends well! 

What is the biggest potential impact or implication of your work?
The biggest implication of my role in TGS is that graduate students should (and do) have lives outside of their academic work. The fact that the position even exists is a statement that Northwestern believes that these “outside lives” require institutional attention and nurturing. The biggest potential impact of this role is the refinement and maintenance of smooth, two-way communication between TGS and its graduate students. This communication is not only desirable, but necessary for the success of both graduate students and Northwestern University as a whole. 

Why Northwestern?
“Why Northwestern” was never a question. Northwestern has always been an ever-present force in my life. My best academic and professional experiences have all been here. Northwestern University is a great school and I’m thrilled to be back as a contributing member. Go ‘Cats! 

What did you originally want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a teacher and was one for quite some time. I feel fortunate to have actually had a chance to experience having the job that I wanted as a little girl. Not everyone gets that opportunity! 

What are you most proud of in your career to date?
To date, I’m most proud of completing my dissertation. Dissertation writing, no matter the field, can be mentally and physically draining. On top of the inherent challenges of writing, my topic was extremely heavy, and I had a lot of “life” happening while I was in the final stages of completion. With endless support from my family, friends, and adviser, I was able to finish and obtain my PhD. It’s been about three years and I’m still proud of myself for that.