Research Team

Core Team

Photograph of three team members.


 Todd (left), Lillie (center) and Mike (right)

Todd Newman

I study the role of strategic communication within the context of science, technology, and the environment. My work integrates insights from fields such as psychology, marketing, branding, and public relations to see how the scientific community connects with society, as well as how society connects with the scientific community.

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and spent my youth visiting my mom’s family in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Milwaukee. I also spent countless weekends hiking, fishing, and camping the state parks of Wisconsin, my favorite being Peninsula State Park in Fish Creek.

I am a collector of watches, clocks, and pens and grew up going to collector shows with dad around the Midwest. I love to cook and try new foods, my favorite being any Dim sum dish. I love books, shows, and movies that focus on satire or black comedy. My favorite movie of all time is Being There (1979) and live by the film’s ending quote: “Life is a state of mind.”


Lillie Williamson

My research broadly examines the ways in which racial experiences and health communication interact to influence racial health inequalities, particularly for Black Americans. I approach this work grounded in three principles: a) medical mistrust is an adaptive response, b) my work is useless if it is not rooted in and reflective of lived experiences, and c) given the pervasiveness of racism and extraction, we must strive for more equitable research practices.

l love being a health communication scholar, but it’s also only part of who I am! I’m also:

  • a proud Carolina girl –  I was raised in North Carolina, I have watched UNC basketball from the age of 5, and I’m an alum of UNC.

  • someone who loves to go dancing

  • a crochet newbie

  • someone who loves mystery, sci-fi, and horror


Mike Xenos

I study science communication with a focus on how individuals’ engagement with science is affected by both digital media and the politics surrounding many science-related topics and issues. My work in this area grows out of my research in political communication, which addresses questions of how digital media affect a variety of political behaviors and democratic processes, including political learning and socialization, opinion formation, political participation, as well as broader patterns of public discourse and deliberation.

Outside of my professional life I am someone who grew up in the Pacific Northwest and came of age in the 1990s.  Raised in a small town mostly known for its Naval Air Station, by parents who both emigrated to the US from different far-flung islands (in Greece and Japan), and having a surname that literally means “alien,” I have always been fascinated by how people learn to fit in and adapt to new places, spaces, ideas, and contexts.

I am enthusiastic about:

  • All things related to coffee
  • Learning to cook new things by repeatedly making them until they are absolutely perfect
  • Almost anything analog (mechanical watches, film photography, vinyl records)
  • And Mabel, my very sweet and insufferably stubborn hound dog


Photograph of team members.

UBUNTU Research and Evaluation

Koren (center)

Koren Dennison

Koren Dennison was born and raised in Milwaukee by a village of strong Black women. Strongly believing in community and aware that her accomplishments are extraordinary for folks where she’s from, it is imperative for Koren to responsibly pass the torch. 
Koren, joyous Black woman, radical change maker, defies statistical odds to achieve success and currently works as an Evaluator and Communications Strategist at Ubuntu Research and Evaluation. She is committed to displaying to other young Black girls the power they possess to write their own narrative and consequently change others’ lives.
Koren is a first-generation double alumnus of Marquette University where she studied Corporate Communications, was heavily engaged in the on-campus community through dance and leadership, and consistently exposed the dominantly-white student body to Black Girl Magic wherever she went.
From this, she’s acquired the skillset to combat white supremacy and anti-Black ideals by serving the Black community through collaboration and constructive consultation. This allows Koren to tangibly take steps to create the world she and other Black people deserve to live in.
Koren’s personality can be described as infectiously energetic, candid, eager to learn and try new things, philanthropic, and uproarious. Her driving motivators are setting an example for her little brother, making her family proud, and inspiring Black youth.
She is ardent in her pursuit of breaking generational curses and establishing generational wealth



Project Collaborators

Radaya Ellis (researcher, coordinator, and community advocate; January 2023 – December 2023): Radaya Ellis is a storyteller, change agent, and advocated for the community. She operated as coordinator of the community engagement endeavors and assisted in the analysis of the community findings.

Hannah Monroe (project assistant; September 2023 –  present): Hannah Monroe is a UW-Madison graduate student in the Department of Life Sciences Communication. She joined the project as a project assistant in September 2023, largely focused on the discussion-based elements of the project. Hannah continues to support the project in the analysis and write-up of insights from the community conversations, and in the transition into future phases of discussion with community.

Mary Lu (project, assistant;  January 2024 – present): Mary Lu is a UW-Madison graduate student in the Department of Communication Arts. She joined the project as a project assistant in January 2024. Currently, Mary assists with communicating insights from community conversations to diverse audiences and provides support for survey construction and distribution.