Aug. 4, 2022 — Growing up in a military family, Cody R. Hawley, Ph.D., honed the art of communicating with people from all walks of life. Before graduating college, he had moved eight times, from Michigan to Florida, Virginia to Connecticut. Each time, he immersed himself in the culture and values of his new surroundings, soaking up knowledge from those around him.
“I always loved debate and learning about why people come to view the world the way they do,” said Hawley, whose father was in the Coast Guard. “People who are similar might hold very different beliefs about what matters, what’s valuable, what’s right and wrong and how they spend their time. This comes from not just the way people are raised and their culture but also communication — how we discuss and think through ideas.”
Hawley turned his passion for persuasion and public speaking into an academic and professional priority. As an undergraduate, he majored in speech communication before going on to obtain a master’s degree in strategic communication from Liberty University.
During his doctoral studies at the University of South Florida, where he studied rhetoric and organizational communication, he focused his dissertation on how individuals identify with one another and use speech and other methods of communication to form communities. His paper on “A Public Without Community?” received the Southern States Communication Association Robert Bostrom Young Scholar Award, given to the most outstanding paper submitted to the entire convention by a graduate student, in 2017.
Now, Hawley brings his breadth and depth of experience in strategic communication, academic medicine, communications research and executive leadership to the UF College of Medicine as its new director of communications. Hawley, who joined the college community Aug. 1, said he looks forward to becoming a Gator.
“The UF College of Medicine attracts some of the brightest minds across the health care landscape,” he said. “What UF Health is doing is known across the state and country, and there’s a ton of momentum. It’s a well-established and well-respected institution, but it also has this strong desire to resist complacency.”
Prior to accepting this role, Hawley served as the director of executive communication at USF Health, where he was the sole speechwriter, internal communications liaison and digital communications lead for the senior vice president of USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine. In this position, he drafted over 60 speeches annually, wrote op-eds for health system leaders that were published in outlets such as the Tampa Bay Times and hosted an Instagram Live series for the city of Tampa to facilitate physicians conveying vital health information amid the pandemic.
He also served as a spokesperson for reporters, managed social media channels on behalf of leadership and helped spearhead a strategy for campaigns supporting U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals and Best Medical Schools rankings to elevate the reputation of the health care system while furthering its mission and spotlighting the work of the USF Health community.
A passionate advocate for education, Hawley spent time as a faculty member at the USF Judy Genshaft Honors College and the department of communication, where he designed over 1,000 lessons for undergraduate students, taught more than a dozen public speaking courses and delivered over 25 national and regional conference presentations on a variety of research-intensive topics.
“I get restless if I’m not learning something new,” said Hawley, noting his interest in fields ranging from economics and health care to wildlife and environmental studies. “Any communicator is first a listener — with a foundation in lifelong learning — and then is versatile, inquisitive and humble. I like to tell stories about people that create a sense of belonging and connection while shining a light on the impact of the organization’s work.”
In his new role, Hawley aims to lead a metrics-driven, people-focused communications strategy to tell the College of Medicine story on a national stage by leveraging innovative technologies across mediums.
When he’s not educating the next generation or crafting impactful stories, he can be found camping or hiking with his wife, Gina, and their two Australian shepherds, Makko and Kova. He looks forward to exploring the natural beauty of Gainesville, from its biking trails to its rivers, and learning about the culture and values of the community.
“Gainesville has a youthful energy to it, and it’s a very environmentally conscious town in its focus on preservation and having public spaces for all to enjoy,” Hawley said. “My family is very excited to be here.”