Professor of communication Kris Cabral sits down with a cup of coffee to tell her story. Photo Contributed by: Kris Cabral

To Kris Cabral, a communications professor at the University of Rhode Island, life is all about the nature of one’s interactions. 

Cabral took a nontraditional path in her academic journey, taking an eight-year hiatus between high school and college. During some of this time, she traveled with the fanbase of the famous rock band the Grateful Dead.

After this, Cabral landed at URI to begin her undergraduate studies in 1996. For some time, she struggled to find her niche.

“I literally flipped through the course catalog and just took whatever sounded interesting,” Cabral said. “Eventually, communication classes tickled my interest.” 

Quickly, Cabral said she fell in love with interpersonal communication, language and negotiation. Her interests were heightened by courses taught by Kevin McClure, a communication professor who has taught at URI since 1996.

Cabral said that McClure’s teaching led her to think critically about the ideas of reality and communication.

“He opened me up to a way of thinking and seeing – and I say this without hyperbole – that literally changed my life,” Cabral said. “Social reality as we know it is a construct that is negotiated through interaction and we use language as a tool to negotiate.” 

Two years after receiving her bachelor’s degree in communication studies at URI, Cabral earned a master’s degree in communication studies from URI in 2002. Her curiosity was still brimming with possibilities as she began her teaching career.

In her course COM 243G: Advertising and Consumerism, Cabral said she helps students navigate through the effects that American consumerism and the advertising industry can have on every tier of human life, including culture, individualism and environmental consequences.

The topics explored in this class are not easy to grapple with, according to Cabral. Because of that, she still believes that the lessons learned in her classroom are vital to understanding why society functions in certain ways and how individuals have the ability to contradict the norm. 

“I worry that my students will feel hopeless as a result of learning this material, but they can also gain a sense of empowerment knowing that our culture is lying to us,” she said. “They learn how to make their own decisions about how to live their lives.”

Among such insightful information, Cabral aims to prioritize the health of her students. With her experiences in dealing with anxiety and a panic disorder, Cabral makes it a point to check in on her students and teach them that their mental well-being should be at the forefront of their priorities. 

Outside of the classroom, Cabral finds a deep connection with nature, which greatly impacts her style of teaching. She said that being privileged enough to have access to some of Rhode Island’s greatest natural resources is an amenity that keeps her motivated.

“It is a blessing to wake up and get out into the woods or walk the dogs,” she said. “It’s glorious. For me, I just really appreciate the quiet and the beauty of my surroundings and I find deep fulfillment in that.” 

Cabral teaches hundreds of students each year and encounters new challenges with every changing semester. Through tears of joy, Cabral said that she wants to leave behind one prominent message through all of the work she conducts.

“I want my life to be a witness to kindness, empathy and connection,” she said. “I think that’s why we’re here. I hope people leave an interaction with me feeling more connected and compassionate.” 

While she describes her students as “a gift” to her, Cabral is a treasure for her students with her immense empathy, knowledge and kindness.