Professors conversing in front of a fountain

Faculty Directory

Communication and Emerging Media

Mitch Combs, PhD


Dr. Mitch Combs is an Assistant Professor in the Communication and Emerging Media Department at USC, Aiken. Inspired by his high school history teacher, Dr. Combs recognized his passion for teaching and learning—eventually pursuing a higher-education career. 

Dr. Combs’s research studies intersections of food, culture, and communication—specifically the rhetorical impact of food in relation to local spaces and food discourses represented in media and popular culture. Dr. Combs has a passion for cooking in his free time and believes food is one of the most powerful ways we can communicate, connect, and share experiences as human beings.

Dr. Combs received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the School of Communication at Illinois State University. During his master’s program he taught courses in convergent media and wrote his thesis on the television show: Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown.

Dr. Combs then received his Ph.D. in Communication Studies at Colorado State University. His dissertation applied rhetorical criticism and autoethnographic methods to analyze the growing food truck scene in Fort Collins, Colorado, exploring issues of cultural identity, gentrification, and meanings of locality and place in relation to food.

Beyond his research, Dr. Combs has taught several courses in the Communication Studies discipline including interpersonal communication, co-cultural/intercultural communication, and popular culture. He engages instructional teaching methods based in dialogue and listening to promote high-impact and collaborative learning. He believes in a teaching philosophy that promotes discussion-based formats to create inclusive, diverse, and equitable spaces for students to share their voices and unique experiences in relation to course content.


Ph.D., Communication Studies, Colorado State University

M.S., Communication, Illinois State University

BA., Public Relations, Illinois State University

A.A., Rock Valley Community College

Selected Research & Professional Activity:

Combs, M. & Herring, K. D. (2022). (W)reckoning Dual Pandemics Through Food and Hip-Hop Topoi: An Analysis of Ghetto Gastro’s Afrocentric PCI Rhetoric. Popular Culture Studies Journal,

Combs, M. (2021). Consuming a settler colonial history: Frontier authenticity and the collective memory of the Fort. Western Journal of Communication.

Combs, M. (2022). Constructing local-communal taste cultures in space during COVID-19: Social media affordances of The Taco Stop’s Instagram. Western States Communication Association Conference. Paper Presentation, Portland, OR.

Combs, M., Parks, E.S., and Calderón, J. (2021). “Engaging Face-to-Face Co –Cultural Dialogue: OER Project Materials.” Mountain Scholar: Digital Collections of Colorado & Wyoming.

Combs, M. (2020). The “Listening Turn”: Advancing Conceptualization and Application of Ethnography of Communication. Paper Presentation. National Communication Association Conference. Indianapolis, Indiana.