Top 2021 media moments

January 4, 2022


From the pandemic, to elections around the world, to climate change, to space — University of Richmond faculty experts shared their insights on a wide range of topics to inform the narrative on national headline news in 2021. Here are some of the highlights.

Politics in Chile

Reporters across the world turned to political science and global studies professor Jenny Pribble, a Latin American politics expert, to best understand the political landscape in Chile, one of Pribble’s main areas of study. Pribble was widely quoted about Chile’s presidential election and the country’s COVID-19 response. Her expertise appeared in The New York Times, Bloomberg, and The Financial Times. She was also interviewed on BBC News and NPR and authored a piece for Al Jazeera

Climate change

More than a dozen media outlets featured geography and the environment professor Stephanie Spera, largely focusing on her research about how climate change impacts fall leaves. From The Philadelphia Inquirer to The Washington Post to National Geographic — as well as international coverage by France 24 — Spera explained why leaves changed later in some places this year than in the past. 

The Virginia governor’s race

The University of Richmond was highlighted on the national stage when the NewsNation show “On Balance with Leland Vittert” broadcast its Nov. 1 special coverage of the Virginia governor's race from campus. Vittert interviewed political science professor Dan Palazzolo, an expert on Virginia politics, and law professor Hank Chambers, an expert on voting rights, during the live show. Political science professor Ernest McGowen, an expert on voter behavior, also was interviewed about the Virginia election on NPR and the Black News Channel.

Government UFO report

A hotly anticipated congressional report that delved into sightings of UFOs dominated headlines during the summer. Astrophysicist Jack Singal — an associate professor of physics and media go-to for space-related news — advised being open minded but skeptical about objects in the sky, noting that scale and resolution are key, and videos may be capturing kites, drones, or spotlights. His insights were shared in Gizmodo and USA Today, and on Fox 46 Charlotte.

The COVID-19 pandemic

From vaccine mandates to how the pandemic influenced tipping, UR faculty experts shared their research and perspectives on a variety of COVID-19 related topics.

  • Law professor and judicial expert Carl Tobias was quoted on CNBC about the legal battle over President Biden’s vaccine and testing requirements.
  • Health studies professor Kathryn Jacobsen, an epidemiologist, discussed the mu variant of COVID-19 for an article on, part of the USA Today Network.
  • Lauren Henley penned “What It’s Like to Start Your First Faculty Job in a Pandemic for The Chronicle of Higher Education.
  • Marketing professor Sara Hanson shared her expertise on how the pandemic has influenced the way we tip in The Atlantic.
  • Pandemic literature expert and English professor Elizabeth Outka shared with CNN how lessons from the 1918 flu pandemic may apply in the current COVID-19 pandemic.