Patricia O. Covarrubias

Associate Professor

Photo: Patricia O. Covarrubias


Office: Room 220

Ph.D., University of Washington, 1999


My name is Patricia Covarrubias, I am a native of Mexico, and I am Associate Professor at the University of New Mexico in the Department of Communication and Journalism. I earned my B.A. and M.A. degrees from California State University, Sacramento specializing in French language and literature. Besides English (not my native tongue), I speak Spanish, French, and Italian. I have lived in Europe for 18 months and spent one year as instructor at the Lycée Bellevue in Albi, France teaching English to high school girls. Upon my return to the United States, I worked for several years as an on-air television news reporter for KCRA-TV, the NBC affiliate in Sacramento, California. My broadcast reports broached a wide range of topics including: politics, medicine, crime, education, and human interest. For ten years I owned and operated OCELOTL, a consultant business in Stockton, California specializing in communication skills for individual and corporate clients. This consulting practice also involved me with studying Japanese so that I could better work with Japanese businessmen from Nippon Steel Corporation. I earned a doctorate degree at the University of Washington specializing in cultural and intercultural communication as well as qualitative research methods, in particular, the ethnography of communication.

At UNM, I have served as the M.A. program director for the Department of Communication and Journalism, and currently serve as the president of the Faculty Concilium Executive Committee for the Latin American and Iberian Institute (LAII). I teach courses in cultural and intercultural communication; global metaphors; language, thought, and behavior; communication theory; and qualitative research methods with emphasis on language and social interaction, and the ethnography of communication.


My research has been dedicated to understanding and describing how indigenous culture influences peoples' ways of communicating and vice versa, and on describing how culturally grounded communicative practices reflect and create a unique life for groups of people. Ultimately, I am interested in studying the influence of culture within the activities and events of everyday life across a variety of contexts. My research goals include contributing to: cultural and intercultural communication, language in social interaction, racialized communication, the much understudied activity of communicative silence, and ethnographic approaches.

Past projects

My past research includes a book investigating the communication practices of Mexican construction workers in Veracruz, Mexico, and the ways they used these practices to create and maintain relational alignments that in turn were used to create and maintain networks of workplace cooperation. Past work also includes probing into the creative aspects of American Indian silences.

Current projects

  • My current work includes a project that examines the intersections of culture, communication, and problem solving strategies. This project is motivated by the under-representation of Latinas on U.S. college campuses, both as students and faculty, which stands currently at 27.5 % and 4% respectively. In particular, this project looks into culturally-laden family communication patterns that influence whether Latinas ride out, or not, their aspired-to journeys in college. With this study I hope to isolate local communicative strategies that encourage Latinas to achieve their goals in post-secondary education.
  • Another project involves examining socio-cultural changes in enactments of the core concept of "face" as displayed in Chinese contexts.
  • I continue to be interested in the generative aspects of silence. With regard to American Indian silences, my more recent work has looked into combining interpretive and critical approaches to address what I call "masked silence sequences" or discriminatory silences as enacted in college classrooms.
  • Because my research commitments include continuing work with Mexican/Hispanic/Latina(o)/Chicana(o) ways of communicating, potential new directions consist of inquiry into the emotional impact of undocumented immigration on Mexican mothers of young children. This project would help address the complicated effects of a contemporary social problem that affects the health, health care, and clinical practices enacted in New Mexican communities.

Sample Publications

  • Covarrubias, P., & Windchief, S. (2009). "Silences in Stewardship: Some American Indian Examples." The Howard Journal of Communications, 20, 3.
  • Covarrubias, P. (2009). "The Ethnography of Communication." In Littlejohn, S. and K. Foss (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Communication Theory, Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Covarrubias, P. (2009). "Speech Codes Theory." In Littlejohn, S. and K. Foss (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Communication Theory, Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Covarrubias, P. (2008). "Masked Silence Sequences: Hearing Discrimination in the College Classroom." Communication, Culture & Critique, 1, 3, 227-252.
  • Covarrubias, P. (2007). "(Un)biased in Western theory: Generative silence in American Indian communication." Communication Monographs, 74, 2, 265-271.
  • Covarrubias, P., & Turner, M. (Spring 2006). "Cultural Codes in Communication, a video production." This video produced on DVD, conceived by Patricia Covarrubias and produced by UNM undergraduate student Mike Turner, served as promotional and teaching tool at a communication codes conference at the University of Washington in May 2006.
  • Covarrubias, P. (2005). "Homemade talk: Language, identity, and other Mexican legacies for a son’s intercultural competence." In Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz (Ed.), From generation to generation: Maintaining cultural identity over time. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
  • Philipsen, G., Coutu, L. M., & Covarrubias, P. (2005). Speech Codes Theory: Revision, Restatement, and Response to Criticisms. In William Gudykunst (Ed.), Theorizing about communication and culture. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications. (order of authorship beyond Philipsen was selected at random)
  • Covarrubias, P. (2000). Of endearment and other terms of address: A Mexican perspective. In M. W. Lustig and J. Koester (Eds.), AmongUS: Essays on identity, belonging, and intercultural competence. New York: Longman.
  • Philipsen, G., Aoki, E., Castor, T., Coutu, L., Covarrubias, P., Jabs, L., Kane, M., & Winchatz, M. (1997). Reading Ella Cara Deloria’s Waterlily for cultured speech. Iowa Journal of Communication, 29, 31-49.


At other universities I have taught cultural communication; organizational communication; small group communication; language, culture, and society; public speaking; advanced public speaking; French literature; business French; and French grammar. At UNM I have taught the following courses at the undergraduate level: Intercultural Communication; Communication Theory; Language, Thought, and Behavior; and Metaphors to Live and Die for: Global Perspectives co-sponsored by the Latin American and Iberian Institute. At the graduate level, I have taught: Seminar in Intercultural Communication; Advanced Seminar in Intercultural Communication; Language Behavior (Language, Thought, and Culture); Metaphors to Live and Die For, and; Qualitative Research Methods I and II.

I also am founding faculty and current instructor with UNM's Graduate & Professional Student Academy. Graduate Academy sponsored by the Graduate Resource Center. This endeavor offers intellectual and social support to help graduate students achieve their educational goals.

My experience with teaching cultural/intercultural communication transcends teaching: I live it daily at home, work, and play. I am a native Mexican who uses Spanish regularly. I have studied Japanese and have worked with the Japanese business community. Further, four years as a television news reporter for KCRA-TV, the NBC affiliate in Sacramento, Calif., diversifies my knowledge of communication studies to include mass media. In my personal life, my everyday activities embrace the challenges and pleasures of raising a young son to be bilingual and multicultural.


  • Recent/Current Department Service: M.A. Committee, Communication Day Committee.
  • Recent/Current University Service: President of the Faculty Concilium Executive Committee for the Latin American and Iberian Institute.
  • Recent/Current Disciplinary Service: Various editorial boards including: Western Journal of Communication, Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, and Great Plains Quarterly. I also serve/have served as ad-hoc reviewer for: Communication Monograph, Research on Language and Social Interaction, Text and Performance Quarterly, and Innovative Higher Education.
  • Reader of conference papers for various discipline conferences.
  • Advisor for M.A. and Ph.D. students, as well as sponsor for undergraduate work including McNair Scholars Program.
  • Departmental Representative for UNM recruitment events (e.g., Departmental Representative, UNM Senior Day, Hispano Student Day, and American Indian Student Day).
  • Member of the Interdisciplinary Committee on Latin American Studies.
  • Involvement with my teenage son's school and other activities for the purpose of enhancing the education of our society's most important citizens—our children.

View Patricia O. Covarrubias's profile on the Faculty Authors page.