Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Beth Foster
With 12 years of dedication to the University of Tennessee and its students, Dr. Elizabeth Avery Foster has been promoted to Professor. With a desire to form meaningful student relationships while conducting public health research, Foster positively impacts the lives of all individuals she encounters.
Despite her new promotion, Foster did not always plan on pursuing a career in academia. Originally a marketing major, she decided to change her career path to public relations because she was more interested in managing relationships. Foster completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Georgia before going on to receive a master’s degree in communications at Wake Forest University. At this point in her education, Foster had full intentions of being a lobbyist in Washington D.C. due to her interest in public health. However, her plans began to transform when she was given the opportunity to teach and research during her graduate program. “I realized how much I loved getting to know the students and their unique personalities. It was so rewarding to teach them skills that I knew they would use in their careers,” said Foster.
She went on to complete her PhD in mass communications at the University of Georgia. “After graduating, I took my first job at UT, and the rest is history,” Foster jokingly recalled. While teaching at UT, Foster pursues her passion for public health by conducting research on a variety of topics, including Zika virus and the opioid epidemic. The university’s proximity to the health disparities in East Tennessee fuels Foster’s desire to make a change. “I have this sense of responsibility to make life better for those people. I love doing research that could make a social difference,” said Foster.
While Foster’s research continues to impact communities around the world, positively influencing students’ lives is her priority. Her contagious enthusiasm and caring personality cultivate a welcoming classroom environment that encourages students to discover their passions in the field of public relations. When asked about her favorite aspect of teaching, Foster states, “My position is a huge privilege and a huge responsibility. Our students have incredible initiative, but they are faced with more pressure than ever before. I try to provide some balance by supporting my students while pushing them to get out of their comfort zone.”
Although Foster has reached one of her biggest goals by being promoted to Professor, her work is not done. She plans to focus more of her energy on studying public health issues at a deeper and broader level with the hope that she will continue to use her platform to positively impact individuals around the world, while simultaneously inspiring this same passion for public relations within her students.