Drs. Steven Holiday and Matthew VanDyke, assistant professors in advertising and public relations, recently received a grant totaling more than $400,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
The grant will allow Dr. Holiday and Dr. VanDyke to begin research on their project, titled “Developing surfmer structure-property relationships for high internal phase emulsion foams.” The study aims to address water quality issues, and the access to and availability of effective, efficient and affordable solutions, particularly in rural Alabama communities.
“One of the aims is to specifically examine resources, empowerment and advocacy in rural Alabama communities that are adversely affected by poor water quality,” Holiday said. “These communities disproportionately include citizens who are underrepresented economically, educationally and racially.”
Holiday and VanDyke will conduct community outreach to understand community members’ perceptions of their water, the awareness of resources available to improve water quality, and the perceived behavioral control in advocating for effective, efficient and affordable technology for water treatment. Using the information gathered, they will then work with advertising and public relations students in undergraduate campaign courses to develop strategic communication campaigns that increase community literacy and advocacy.
“A primary goal of this project is to produce work that will not only advance our knowledge about what people know, feel and how they behave regarding water quality issues and technologies, but also to inform effective and ethical communication practices that can help communities who will benefit most from better water quality technologies,” Dr. VanDyke said.
The work is the result of an interdisciplinary partnership with chemical and biological engineering assistant professor Dr. Amanda Koh. Koh wanted to better understand communities in rural Alabama and help increase their knowledge of water issues, technology for resolving those issues, and the role they can play in advocating for the use of those technologies.
Holiday said the project utilizes Koh’s expertise in chemical engineering, VanDyke’s public relations expertise in environmental communication, and Holiday’s advertising expertise with family and community engagement and communication.
“I was (and am) very excited to pair the theoretical and practical communication work we do daily with actual, novel, engineering-based solutions to pressing environmental issues,” Dr. Holiday said. “The work will bring together disciplines to give advertising and public relations students a real opportunity to use their strategic communication experience to influence meaningful, lasting environmental change in communities that really need their knowledge and expertise.”
UA’s College of Communication and Information Sciences faculty and students conduct cutting-edge research that creates knowledge and provides solutions to global issues across the full communication and information spectrum. To learn more about the College’s research initiatives, visit cis.ua.edu/research.