McCristal Scholar: Carla Santos

Dr. Carla Santos and Dean Cheryl Hanley-Maxwell

Dr. Carla Santos and Dean Cheryl Hanley-Maxwell

Growing up in a region of Portugal that was a travel destination, Dr. Carla Santos witnessed first-hand the impact of tourism development on the local culture. Those early experiences provided fuel for her interest and research in tourism dynamics and narratives. She discussed her research as the 2016 King James McCristal Scholar in the College of Applied Health Sciences.

Much of Dr. Santos’ research focuses on the nature and role of communication in tourism, investigating how tourism narratives construct and shape our understanding of people and places. “Our understandings of cultures and local populations are conveyed largely through travel writing,” she said. Often, tourism narratives treat these populations as “the other.” One of the goals of her research is to expose how communication practices transform the tourism experience and affect how local cultures and communities view their place in the world. Dr. Santos explained that she is not opposed to tourism development, but would like to promote communication practices that include voices that currently are at the margins of tourism narratives.

One of the greatest contributions educators can make, she believes, is to increase students’ awareness of cultural disparities and their own privilege as they travel, and to help them interpret their experiences in ways that respect culture and community.

The King James McCristal Scholar award is the highest given by AHS and recognizes faculty excellence for significant contributions in research, teaching, service, humanitarianism, administration, and advising.