Joanne Gilbert

Joanne Gilbert is the Charles A. Dana Professor and Chair of Communication and New Media Studies at Alma College where she teaches courses in Relational Communication, Intercultural Communication, Performance, Humor, and many other areas of the field.

Gilbert’s work staging marginalized voices includes Up from the Ashes: Michigan Holocaust Survivors Share Their Stories, a production scripted from interviews she conducted with Holocaust survivors in the Detroit area, performed by students in her 2006 “Performing Advocacy” spring term class. (news release | video, pt. 1 [4:28] | video, pt. 2 [4:11]). 

More recently, students in her 2009 spring term course traveled to South Dakota to perform Never Forget Your Dreams: The Creation of Crazy Horse Memorial, a production Gilbert scripted from interviews she conducted with members of the family of the late sculptor of Crazy Horse Memorial as well as Lakota living on and off of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. (news release | My Alma Experience video).

Dr. Gilbert’s book, Performing Marginality: Humor, Gender, and Cultural Critique (Wayne State University Press, 2004), has been featured on WCMU Public Television, WGVU Public Radio, KZSC Public Radio, and in The Chronicle of Higher Education and invited presentations at colleges and universities around the country.

Her scholarly work on gender and performance—focusing on the relationship between humor and power, autobiographical and cultural performance, and the discourse of marginalized groups—has appeared in journals and edited volumes such as Text and Performance QuarterlyOutsiders Looking InWomen’s Studies in Communication, and others.

Dr. Gilbert’s own performance background includes: acting, directing, and performing professional stand-up comedy. At Alma College, she has directed You Can’t Always Get What You Want (2005) (video [16:50]) and The Vagina Monologues (2002) (production credits | video [1:18]), a production that raised over $4,000 for the Women’s Aid Service of Gratiot County. Additionally, she is a communication consultant to groups and individuals nationwide, providing training in presentational and interpersonal communication skills.

Dr. Gilbert is the recipient of numerous awards, including: The Michigan Campus Compact Faculty Staff Community Service-Learning Award (2000),The Alma College Greek Community Outstanding Faculty Award (2002), The Alma College Posey Award for Faculty Excellence (2003), The Omicron Delta Kappa Faculty Excellence Award (2007), The Athena Award given by the Gratiot Area Chamber of Commerce (2009) and the Charles A. Dana Professorship (2010).


Chair & Professor


Communication and New Media Studies

Educational Background

  • Ph.D., Communication, The University of Texas at Austin (1994)
  • M.A., Speech Communication, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1986)
  • B.A., English, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1984)



My career at Alma began in


I'm an expert in

humor, gender and culture

My expertise:

The author of Performing Marginality: Humor, Gender, and Cultural Critique, Dr. Gilbert’s work on advocacy and the discourse of marginalized voices has appeared in Women’s Studies in Communication, Text and Performance Quarterly, and other publications. 

Signature course(s):

Relational Communication, Intercultural Communication, Gender and Communication, Humor, Culture and Communication, Performing Advocacy

Recent publications:

Gilbert, J. (2015). Members of the tribe: Marginal identities and the female comedy

              fan community. In A. Trier-Bieniek (Ed.) Fan Girls and the Media: Creating

              Characters, Consuming Culture (pp. 57-71). Lanham, MD: Rowman &


Gilbert, J., & vonWallmenich, L.K. (2014).  When words fail us: Mother time, relational

            attention, and the rhetorics of focus and balance, Women’s Studies in

            Communication, 37:1, 66-89, DOI: 10.1080/07491409.2013.867915

Gilbert, J. (2014).  Lesbian stand-up comics and the politics of laughter.  In P. Dickinson,

            A. Higgins, P.M. St. Pierre, D. Solomon and S. Zwagerman (Eds.).  Women and

            Comedy:  History, Theory, Practice (pp. 185-197).  Lanham, MD: Farleigh Dickinson

            Press, co-published with Rowman Littlefield.

Gilbert, J. (2014).  Performing advocacy:  Staging marginalized voices.  In L.R. Frey and

            D.L. Palmer (Eds.) Teaching Communication Activism:  Communication Education

            for Social Justice (pp. 231-261).  Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

Recent presentations:

Invited Presentations

Gilbert, J. (2015, December).  Listen:  The power of perspective taking.  Central Michigan   4-H Coordinator Professional Development Workshop.  Alma, MI.

Gilbert, J. (2015, September).  Listen:  The power of perspective taking.  Equity Grievance Panel member training, Alma College. Alma, MI.

Gilbert, J. (2015, July).  The Holocaust: Language and legacy.  Presentation for Tenth and Eleventh Grade Students, Michigan Future Schools Network, Detroit Edison

Public School, Detroit, MI.  

Gilbert, J. (2015, February).  A funny thing:  What humor accomplishes.  Guest  presentation, Congregation Shaarey Zedek. East Lansing, MI.

Gilbert, J. (2014, March).  Funny business:  Women comics and the performance of power. Featured presentation, The First Presbyterian Church of Alma Women’s

Retreat.  Higgins Lake, MI.


Peer-Reviewed Presentations

Gilbert, J. (2014, November).  Playing favorites. Performance presented at the 100th anniversary meeting of the National Communication Association,  Chicago, IL.

 Gilbert, J. (2013, November).  Group scripting performance ethnography project.

 Paper presented at the meeting of the National Communication Association,    Washington, D.C.

Gilbert, J., & vonWallmenich, L. (2012, November).  Mother time, other time:  The rhetorical costs of focus and balance.  Paper presented at the meeting of the National

Communication Association, Orlando, FL.

Other recent accomplishments:

Alma College Great Scot Award, November, 2015.

2015 Lilla A. Heston Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Interpretation and Performance Studies, National Communication Association.

2015 Distinguished Edited Book Award for Teaching Communication Activism (to which I contributed a chapter) Applied Communication Division of the National Communication Association.

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