Dr. Jennifer Sandoval joined the human-communication faculty of UCF’s Nicholson School of Communication in 2011 and brought with her an array of academic and professional experience. Prior to joining UCF, Sandoval worked in California and New Mexico as a mediator, communication consultant, and instructor at Pepperdine University and the University of New Mexico. Sandoval’s enthusiasm for helping people in her community and around the world drives her academic research, which often takes her to villages in India and was the subject of her dissertation.
One of your current research topics is fertility tourism, specifically international surrogacy in India. Why did you choose this area?
When I went back to grad school after several years break from my continued education I really wanted to avoid working with women’s issues. I had been a crisis-counselor advocate for a rape-crisis center and very involved in women’s health issues. I felt emotionally burnt out and frustrated by the lack of resources. However, naturally that is where my interests continued to lead me. I was looking at how pharmaceutical companies were marketing particular drugs to women in a problematic way and ran across some articles about surrogacy and women’s international labor. I then met some amazing women who were studying fertility tourism and who had connections in India. Fertility tourism is the practice of seeking medical treatment, including assisted-reproductive technology like in vitro fertilization, somewhere other than one’s own home state or country. It all just fell together from there and I have had an amazing time with this program of research.
How does your research fuel your passion for helping others?
I would actually say my passion for helping others fuels my research. I am so lucky to have a career where I can integrate things I deeply care about every day into my work. This is not true for so many people. I have the opportunity to learn the stories of women around the world and raise consciousness about lived experiences that are different from our own.
You have also spent some time teaching abroad. Do you have a favorite location?
I really loved my trip to Salzburg, Austria, last year. It was one of the best overseas teaching experiences I have had. I did a lot of non-teaching work overseas in a previous job and I always loved my time in Hong Kong.
What is something that few people know about you?
I think students believe that professors have always been professors – but I have had so very many different jobs. Some of my early jobs included weighing peaches – my title was actually peach weighmaster – and being a high school cheerleading coach. I wouldn’t trade those kinds of work experiences for anything!
What do you enjoy most about teaching at the Nicholson School of Communication?
I would definitely say that the students are the best part of teaching at NSC. I have really had a wonderful experience with so many of them. I have always believed public institutions that offer high-quality teaching at a low cost to students is incredibly important. We have many bright, engaged and motivated students from such diverse backgrounds – I usually feel sad when a class ends because I teach so many seniors who I will never see again – thank goodness for Facebook!