School of Communications welcomes Sydney Nicolla and Shanetta Pendleton

The two new full-time faculty members joined the Department of Strategic Communications in August.

Two female strategic communications professors stand outside in front of Snow Family Grand Atrium at Elon University
Shanetta Pendleton (left) and Sydney Nicolla joined the School of Communications at the start of the 2023-24 academic year.

The School of Communications welcomed two new full-time faculty members with backgrounds in strategic communications and public relations at the start of the 2023-24 academic year.

Sydney Nicolla and Shanetta Pendleton, who joined the school’s Department of Strategic Communications in August, both indicated they are excited to be on campus and hope to make a positive impact on students and their futures.

Please welcome and get to know Nicolla and Pendleton a little better.

Sydney Nicolla

Assistant Professor of Strategic Communications

Nicolla arrives at the School of Communications with a strong professional background in marketing and public relations. Nicolla has won numerous awards for her research, publishing her findings in the Journal of Health Communication and Nicotine & Tobacco Research. She has served on teams garnering nearly $3 million in grant-funded research on topics such as restorative justice, tobacco warnings and behavior, and media portrayals of traffic injury.

“I wanted to work at Elon because of its reputation as a premier undergraduate teaching institution,” Nicolla said. “During graduate school, I looked forward to teaching and found the experience both challenging and rewarding. When it was time to take the next steps in my career, I knew a student-focused institution would be my home.”

Female strategic communications professor smiles in portrait.
Sydney Nicolla

Nicolla said she is excited to bring her expertise to Elon’s campus and to help students learn through multiple lenses of the world — from academic to real-life scenarios.

A recent doctoral graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she won the Hussman School of Journalism and Media’s Outstanding Ph.D. Student Award in May. Previously, she has also been honored with the Moeller Student Paper Award for scholarship presented by AEJMC’s Mass Communication & Society Division, as well as the Hussman School’s William Francis Clingman Jr. Ethics Award and Minnie S. & Eli A. Rubenstein Research Award.

While at UNC, Nicolla also served as a Park Doctoral Fellow with disciplinary expertise in media and health communication. Roy H. Park Fellowships provide top UNC Hussman doctoral applicants with financial support to allow the graduate students an opportunity to focus on their academic and professional development.

“I look forward to learning from my colleagues and students at Elon,” Nicolla said. “There are many opportunities at this institution to become a better instructor and scholar. I plan to take advantage of them to grow academically and professionally. Most importantly, I am excited to develop relationships with the students at Elon and root them on as they build expertise and confidence during – and after – their undergraduate careers.”

Nicolla said she hopes that students find her classroom to be encouraging and engaging, where they can foster the skills and abilities needed to be excellent strategic communicators. And she welcomes students to stop by her office for any reason – with course questions, career questions, or if they need refreshments from her snack drawer.

Outside of academics, Nicolla enjoys being physically and socially active, traveling with her husband, Jon, and stretching her legs with her golden retriever, Indy. Additionally, she serves as a fitness instructor in Durham.

Shanetta Pendleton

Assistant Professor of Strategic Communications

Like Nicolla, Pendleton arrives at Elon University having recently completed her doctoral degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media, where she was also a Park Doctoral Fellow. Her research centers issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in strategic communications by exploring topics related to digital activism, relationship management, corporate socio-political activism and authenticity.

Prior to Chapel Hill, Pendleton worked as an instructor at Ball State University for four years teaching a variety of courses in public relations, and serving as the faculty adviser for the university’s award-winning Public Relations Student Society of America chapter.

Female strategic communications professor smiles in portrait.
Shanetta Pendleton

Pendleton also brings professional expertise in nonprofit and corporate communications from her former roles with Eli Lilly and Company and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Pendleton said she is overjoyed to return full time to the classroom, a place she has always enjoyed and cherished.

“I forgot how much life teaching gives me,” said Pendleton, alluding to her time away while pursuing her doctoral degree. “I’m excited to be able to do what I love and to be in a place where I can have a positive impact on the students and the university.”

She added, “Elon University’s commitment to the teacher-scholar model and their national No. 1 ranking for excellence in undergraduate teaching was proof that this university hadn’t lost sight of what I believe should be prioritized by all institutions of higher education.”

Additionally, Pendleton said she “couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with a group of like-minded individuals who share my enthusiasm and commitment to nurture the next generation of strategic communications professionals.”

Just a few weeks into her first semester on campus, Pendleton explained that she has already seen the teacher-scholar model in action among her faculty colleagues. She said she has also seen evidence that the students are just as “committed” to fostering an active and engaged learning environment in the classroom.

Pendleton said that she hopes to engage with students in different ways to make learning a collaborative experience that accounts for their diverse backgrounds, abilities, learning styles and professional goals.

“Every student is different, every classroom is different and so is every course. All those factors dictate my method of engagement,” she said. “Overall, I try to incorporate reflexive and inclusive pedagogical practices that promote critical thinking and creativity, while driving student curiosity, in a way that makes the learning process fun.”

Pendleton also wants to engage students outside of the classroom to support students at Elon who may need guidance navigating college.

“As a minority, first-generation college student from a low socioeconomic background, I know first-hand the challenges that greatly impact our academic experiences, so I understand the need for accessible faculty reflecting those backgrounds,” Pendleton said.

Pendleton’s teaching and research prowess have garnered her several accolades, including the 2021 AEJMC Inez Kaiser Graduate Student of Color Award, the 2023 Hall of Beneficence Alumni Achievement Award, and the 2023 Hussman School of Journalism and Media Non-Service Award.

As a newcomer to the Alamance County area, Pendleton spends most of her time outside of academics embarking on new adventures with her mini goldendoodle, Sully. In the coming weeks she hopes to engage with the local chapter of her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., to assist with public service initiatives in the community.