Meet Charnell Peters: Poet, K-pop Fan and Communication Department’s Newest Faculty


Charnell Peters’ boss describes her as an “academic unicorn,” a scholar who stands out as having unique research interests and talented teaching skills. Peters is one of three new assistant professors who joined the Communication Department this fall at Saint Louis University.

She began studying communication as an undergraduate student and said she quickly fell in love with the field. Since then, she has been researching critical interpersonal and family communication, critical science and technology, and Black communication studies.

“It was so surprising to me that I could be in a class studying, reading textbooks, reading articles that are directly related to my everyday experience,” Peters said. Her master’s thesis reflected this relevance. She explored racial and familial identity through original research on the Roberts Settlement, a pre-Civil War African American settlement founded by some of her family members in Indiana.

“I was able to share that research with the Board of Roberts Settlement, with the descendants at a homecoming that year and to stay connected with those folks,” Peters said. “There was a woman writing a play about the settlement, and she was able to use some of my research to formulate that creative endeavor.”

Despite being an integral part of her professional life, academic writing is not the only medium she practices. Peters is also a poet. “I like the playfulness [of poetry]. It’s fun to be able to break rules and to not have that attached to more professional expectations,” Peters said.

She said she remembers watching hours of poetry videos on YouTube before composing her own. Though she had no formal training, through practice, she gained the confidence to write and, eventually, publish.

Un-Becoming is her first published chapbook, a collection of poetry centering around “the reality of blackness in Middle America.”

“I love that collection because this was something that I could come home to. No matter how stressed or uncertain I was about the future, I could work on this,” Peters said. “I remain proud about that.”

After getting her masters from Bowling Green State University, she moved to Utah for her doctorate program at the University of Utah. Her new workplace is closer to Indiana where her family still lives, but Peters said she was excited to join SLU for another reason.

“I resonate with the Jesuit mission’s focus on social justice and focus on doing good in the world. I see my teaching as a way to do that,” Peters said. The department’s search for new faculty members began in fall 2021. With over 100 candidates, applicants were narrowed down to semifinalists, which the search committee then interviewed.

“Charnell just clearly stood out,” Dan Kozlowski, chair of the Department of Communication said. “What makes her super interesting as a researcher and teacher are that her interests span the discipline.”

As part of the hiring process, the finalists guest taught a class. Kozlowski said Peters received positive feedback from students which made hiring her “an easy choice.” Peters is currently teaching a 4000-level course, Stereotyping and Bias in Mass Media.

“[Peters] is very empathetic, and it is reflected in her teaching style, the way she grades, everything,” said senior Haley Gray, a political science major and communication minor enrolled in Peter’s class.

Every time Gray has spoken, she said she noticed that Peters listens attentively and takes time to answer, instead of giving a rushed response. Though just a few months into the class, Gray said she is better able to recognize various perspectives in media and pop-culture moments.

“Media literacy is important because it allows us to be agentic beings,” Peters said. “So from your cultural background, your ethical standpoint, your spiritual beliefs, I want you to be able to accept, reject, negotiate meanings of media and use them to enact the change that you want to see in the world.”

As she settles into her new workplace, she said she hopes to devote time to who she is outside of work.

“I love K-pop,” she said, pointing to a BTS poster on her office door. “I love fanfiction, I love my cats, I love my friends, I love my family, I love taking walks and getting coffee. I’m interested in reinvesting in those relationships, reinvesting in poetry and reinvesting in things that make me happy.”