Author: Cis Ga

C&IS Honors Day

C&IS Honors Day

Honors Day is a time-honored tradition on The University of Alabama campus and within the College of Communication and Information Sciences. As the academic year comes to an end, we recognize the accomplishments of our most outstanding students and alumni. Selected both within their academic units and college wide, the individuals honored today have contributed excellence to the College and are distinctive representatives for our field.


Bert Bank Distinguished Service Award – Josiah “Jo” Robins Bonner, Jr.

A dedicated public servant who served in Alabama’s First District in the U.S. House of Representatives for 10 years, Josiah “Jo” Robins Bonner, Jr. has been an advocate for Alabama his entire life. He received his B.A. in journalism from The University of Alabama in 1982 and since then has served the state and country. Notable achievements include $5 billion in contracts for Alabama-based companies to work with the U.S. Navy to build new ships. Bonner’s influence and leadership have bolstered the state’s economy and have earned him numerous awards, including the Distinguished Public Service Award which is the highest honor the U.S. Navy bestows to a civilian. He and his family live in Mobile, AL. C&IS is proud to award Bonner the Bert Bank Distinguished Service Award and to host him on campus.


Betsy Plank Distinguished Achievement Award – Marie Robinson 

After serving in The University of Alabama’s Army ROTC program, Marie Robinson graduated with a degree in journalism. She joined Walmart and launched their first e-commerce distribution center while working as their first female vice president of logistics. Robinson now works as the senior vice president of corporate strategy and chief operations officer for Michael Kors. Her day-to-day tasks include overseeing the company’s global operations and creating strategies that will enhance the company. Robinson has held other positions with top brands throughout her career. A leader in strategy and operations management, Robinson is the ideal recipient of the Betsy Plank Distinguished Achievement Award.


Outstanding Alumnus, Advertising – Cameron T. Watson

Cameron T. Watson is the group creative director-North America for Red Fuse Communications. He oversees all shopper marketing and e-commerce. Watson’s career has spanned two decades in the creative industry where he has worked in advertising agencies, in-house creative studios, retail firms and more. He has done strategic work for international brands, including Coca-Cola, Royal Caribbean and more. He was active on campus as a Crimson Tide cheerleader and in his work for The Crimson White. Watson is an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the advertising field.


Outstanding Alumna, Communication Studies – Angela R. Gillespie

Angela Gillespie is the chief strategy officer of W20 Group, one of America’s most ambitious and innovative healthcare communication and marketing agencies. Her work breaks industry-wide standards for integrating communication into the healthcare industry. While a student at UA, Gillespie was on the Alabama Forensic Council and credits her experiences as a student with her current success. In addition to her professional career, Gillespie strongly values work-life balance and has pursued culinary pursuits and nonprofit work.


Outstanding Alumna, Library and Information Studies – Irene “Renee” Blalock

Irene “Renee” Blalock received her master’s in library service in 1981. She spent her professional career at the Birmingham Public Library, the largest public library in Alabama. Blalock served in the literature department and southern history department, as a branch head, collection department manager, regional coordinator, operational coordinator, associate director and finally director from 2009 to 2014. Blalock became a huge contributor to the volunteer community in Birmingham and was affiliated with many community initiatives. She has also served on committees of the American Library Association and on the board of the national Public Library Association.


Outstanding Alumnus, Library and Information Studies – Timothy Alan Lewis

Timothy Alan Lewis received his master’s in library service in 1982 and his law degree from The University of Alabama School of Law in 1984. Lewis has spent his professional career at the Library of the Supreme Court, where he has served as a readers services librarian, associate director and finally director. He has worked as the state law librarian since 1992. Lewis advises and assists county law librarians with legal information needs and provides leadership to the law library community in Alabama. He has given presentations and written numerous articles concerning legal information.


Outstanding Alumna, Public Relations – Breeanna Beckham Straessle 

Breeanna Beckham Straessle is a two-time graduate of The College of Communication and Information Sciences, earning her bachelor’s in public relations and her master’s in advertising and public relations. Straessle began her career in a boutique digital agency, heading their marketing division. Since then, she has served as the director of public relations for Vocus and director of corporate communications for Cision. Straessle now works as Cracker Barrel’s corporate communication manager and primary spokesperson.


Outstanding Alumnus, Journalism and Creative Media – Clayton Collins

Clayton Collins moved to New York City to produce MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” after graduating from UA. Since 2014, he has overseen and built creative productions for NBC Sports’ original programming and development group. Collins has produced and directed feature shows, digital vignettes and social activations on the NFL, NHL, NASCAR, Golf Channel and Premiership Rugby. He and his wife Danielle live in New England.


For more information on each recipient and to read their full bios, click here.

CMA Trip Brings Real-World Pitch Experience

All semester long, advertising and public relations students in the APR campaigns class (APR 433) completed projects for pitching to the Country Music Association (CMA). Students took their final project to Nashville to propose their final integrated communication campaigns.

The class, which all seniors in APR take, integrates the public relations and advertising students in order to provide a well-rounded project culture during the course. Professors selected CMA as the client that the students work for all semester.

C&IS Alumna Designs Website for The Brown House

After a summer of volunteering with the Brown House, a local nonprofit, Katie Belue knew she wanted to give back to them in a big way.

Belue is an alumna of C&IS from Birmingham, Alabama and in the spring of her senior year, she took a nonprofit public relations course. Part of the course requirement is for students to make a sizable communications contribution to a nonprofit in the area. Belue immediately began thinking of ways she could contribute to the Brown House’s mission.

Helping Habitat: C&IS Students Give Back

C&IS students Jake Stevens and Madison Kilpatrick are working as PR interns at Habitat for Humanity Tuscaloosa this semester. Both Stevens and Kilpatrick promote Habitat initiatives and help the organization raise money to build more houses and run their ReStore, a building surplus store that funds projects alongside donations.

“Working with Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore has been a great opportunity for me this semester,” said Kilpatrick. “Not only have they allowed me to take the reigns on all of the projects I have worked on, they have really opened up my eyes to all of the good that they do. Pretty much everyone has heard of or been exposed to Habitat for Humanity before, but it wasn’t until I had the chance to work with it that I was able to appreciate its mission and the effort that goes into achieving it.”

C&IS Welcomes New Faculty

New Faculty Members:


The College of Communication and Information Sciences has an established record of distinguished faculty, whose fingerprints are visible in the excellence of each graduating class. This fall, C&IS introduces 17 new faculty members, which is one of the largest groups of new faculty in its history. C&IS welcomes the following new faculty members and celebrates all of the outstanding achievements that are sure to follow.


Tom Arenberg: Instructor, News Media, JCM

Matt Barnidge: Assistant Professor, Emerging Media, JCM

Jennifer Becker: Assistant Professor, Interpersonal Communication, COM

Nancy Brinson: Assistant Professor, Advertising, APR

Heather Carmack: Associate Professor, Health Communication, COM

Jim Elmborg: Director, Professor, SLIS

Teresa Gawrych: Instructor, Media Production, JCM

Jameson Hayes: Assistant Professor, Advertising, APR

Marquette Jones: Instructor, Media Production, JCM

David Lawson: Instructor, Electronic News, JCM

Leah LeFebvre: Assistant Professor, Interpersonal Communication, COM

Laura Lemon: Assistant Professor, Public Relations, APR

Coral Marshall: Instructor, Sports Communication, APR

Tiffany Mohr: Assistant Professor, Public Relations, APR

Jessy Ohl: Assistant Professor, Rhetoric & Public Discourse, COM

Ethan Stokes: Assistant Professor, Public Relations, APR

Alyxandra Vesey: Assistant Professor, Media Studies,  JCM


New Faculty Positions: 


In addition to our new faculty members, C&IS recognizes the achievements of our existing faculty who have moved into new roles this academic year.


John Burgess: Assistant Professor, Information Systems, SLIS

Nick Corrao: Assistant Professor, Media Production, JCM

Darrin Griffin: Assistant Professor, Interpersonal Communication, COM

Steven Yates: Assistant Professor, School Library Media, SLIS

Brett Sherrick: Assistant Professor, Media Management, JCM

PR Campaigns Partners with TPD

Students in Dr. Eyun-Jung Ki’s public relations campaigns course took on a new client this year – the Tuscaloosa Police Department (TPD).

Developed to allow students the opportunity to plan, execute and present a complete public relations campaign, the course typically chooses a new client each semester. This semester, however, the client chose them.

“All of the media spotlight on police violence did affect the Tuscaloosa Police Department,” Dr. Ki said. “So they came to us to improve their relationship with the community, and to improve the tarnished image [of police officers] in general.”

Students in the course were divided into four teams and each team was responsible for creating a campaign aimed at a different target audience. While all of the groups worked with student populations in some way, the students ranged in age from elementary school to college freshman.

The four groups – Crimson Communications, Druid City Firm, Mill Creek Media Management and E&E Public Relations – conducted research on their target audience, created print and digital promotions for the TPD and hosted a community event, all aimed at improving the relationship between police officers and their constituents.

The events included a basketball tournament, where members of the TPD teamed up with high school students at UA’s Rec Center; a cookie social for high school students and police officers at American Christian Academy; a junior police academy for elementary students at Oak Hill School; and a game night at the Tuscaloosa Public Library.

The course culminated on Tuesday, April 25, when each groups presented its completed campaign to Tuscaloosa police chief Steve Anderson, lieutenant police chief Teena Richardson and Dr. Ki.

Students were not only competing for an “A” in the class, but also for almost $3,000 in prize money. Money left over from each group’s allotted budget, as well as a portion of the money paid by the Tuscaloosa Police Department, was awarded to the team who best executed its campaign strategy.

After complimenting each of the teams on a job well done, Chief Anderson presented Crimson Communications with the award. He cited the team’s adaptability, social media campaigns and event execution as the reason for the decision, before commenting on the work of the students as a whole.

Druid City firm received honorable mention and a smaller cash prize.

“The creativity that you all displayed was phenomenal – it exceeded my expectations,” Anderson said of the students. “Although we only had a first runner-up and a winner, everybody’s presentation was great, everybody’s dedication to what we were wanting was great, and you have all created sustainable campaigns that we can put into place and try to keep going at the Tuscaloosa Police Department.”

Alpine Living launches seventh issue

Fifteen students from the College of Communication and Information Sciences Department of Journalism and Creative Media celebrated the launch of the seventh issue of Alpine Living magazine on Thursday. The semester-long, international magazine production experience takes place biannually and has been recognized nationally for excellence among peer publications.

Last fall, an editorial staff of distinguished journalism and creative media students was selected to produce the 100+ page, full-gloss magazine, which promotes a different country each issue. This years’ magazine provides prospective travelers and curious readers with an authentic look at the history, culture and lifestyle of the New Zealand people.

In March, the group of graduate and undergraduate journalism students traveled to New Zealand where they spent more than two weeks exploring three of the countries largest cities: Auckland, Christchurch and Queenstown. Students also visited Sydney, Australia, as well as several smaller towns and suburbs outside of the cities where they stayed.

“This issue covers parts of the North and South Island,” said Jonathan Norris, editor-in-chief of Alpine Living issue seven. “While united by nationality, the North Island – which is more developed – has a city feel, while the South Island offers a more laid-back, island-time vibe.”

Stories from the New Zealand issue range from topics of food and wine to indigenous tattoo artists and native-species conservation efforts. The magazine, which is available in both print and digital format, is also intended to highlight aspects of the evolving journalism market and allow students the opportunity to learn new and innovative ways to practice the craft.

Taylor Armer, a journalism graduate student and managing editor for the magazine, said her experience with Alpine Living was one she would not soon forget.

“I’ve never traveled abroad so I was anxious and thrilled at the same time,” Armer said. “This trip, with this group, has been a humbling, life-affirming experience. I learned so much about my cohort and myself. It was truly a life-changing experience.”

Norris echoed the sentiment.

“This magazine represents a culmination of what we have been taught here at the Capstone,” Norris said. “As I prepare to leave the University, I am proud and humbled to have worked with this incredible team.”

For more information about Alpine Living Magazine, or to read their digital format, visit their website here.

Alpine Living issue seven participants included: Taylor Armer, managing editor; Kaylin Bowen, writer; Mary Kathryn Carpenter, photography editor; Christopher Edmunds, art director; Elizabeth Elkin, writer; Thomas Joa, writer; Jonathan Norris, editor-in-chief; Mary-Margaret Schmidt, photographer; Elayne Smith, writer; Lane Stafford, photographer; Hailey Grace Steele, digital editor; Madison Sullivan, chief copy editor; Danielle Waddell, writer; and Cara Walker, writer.

Dr. Kim Bissell, professor and associate dean of research for the College of Communication and Information Sciences, serves as the founding publisher and faculty advisor for Alpine Living magazine.

C&IS Students Awarded at URCA Conference

Undergraduate students in the College of Communication and Information Sciences were recognized for their research at the 2017 Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (URCA) Conference in March. The conference, a premier annual event at The University of Alabama, provides undergraduates an opportunity to share their research and creative activity in a supportive environment.

Dr. Kim Bissell, director of URCA, professor and associate dean for research in the College of Communication and Information Sciences, said she believes it is important for undergraduate students to participate in research.

“We are surrounded by research in almost every aspect of life but especially in a mediated context,” Bissell said. “I think that, at a minimum, involvement in undergraduate research elevates students’ ability to think critically and to have a broader understanding of the information we are presented with every day.”

Caroline Prichard, a student in the Department of Communication Studies, was awarded first place in the category of Oral Presentation for her research on the impact of cultural values on U.S./Serbian communication.

“It’s great to get a foundation in research so that if you continue to grad school or other paths where research is important, you have some experience,” Prichard said. “Even if your research is still in progress, it’s a great opportunity to get presentation experience.”

Prichard is the associate director of the Serbia Fellowship Experience at the University of Alabama. Her research centered on a two-week fellowship experience in Serbia in May 2016. Using ethnographic and autoethnographic inquiry, including participant observation and interviews with locals, Prichard was able to identify the cultural values and expectations in comparison to those prevalent in U.S. culture.

In addition to providing a greater understanding of Serbian cultural identity, Prichard’s findings also demonstrated areas where there could be communication breakdowns between Serbian and U.S. discourse.

Additional C&IS oral presentation winners included: Amanda Flamerich (second place); Amy Lekai, Dalton Kerby, Madeline Abrams and Hudson Nuckolls (third place)

Poster presentation winners included: Elizabeth Payne (first place), Bryant Bowlin (tie for second place), Xuan Wang (tie for second place) and Sam Sheriff (third place)


Eighth Annual Discerning Diverse Voices Symposium

Photo by: Dr. George Daniels via Twitter

The College of Communication and Information Sciences continued its legacy of celebrating diversity with the eighth annual Discerning Diverse Voices Symposium held at Gorgas Library on Monday, March 27.

The symposium, which has served as a launching pad for further exploration of ways to integrate diversity education and intercultural communication into the College’s curriculum, has drawn national attention to C&IS diversity initiatives. In 2015, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) recognized C&IS with its annual Equity and Diversity Award and cited the Discerning Diverse Voices Symposium as one of the College’s stand out features.

“The Diversity Symposium offers an opportunity for C&IS faculty and students to learn from each other and about diversity in its various iterations,” said Dr. Robin Boylorn, associate professor of communication studies and panel presenter for the event. “[It] gives us a chance to talk through and think through the dynamic ways we engage difference in our scholarship, and it challenges us to do more. It provides a space for dissemination, collaboration, networking, receiving feedback, and being challenged.”

Boylorn, whose recently released book, “The Crunk Feminist Collection,” has been warmly received by feminist scholars and literary critics alike, presented her work on the representation of black masculinity in hip hop films during the symposium’s “Diversity in Media” panel session. Fernando Morales, a UA graduate student in communication studies, and Dr. Sally Paulson, assistant professor in the Department of Language and Literature at Delta State University, also presented their work as part of the panel.

Morales, whose research focuses on the possibilities and tensions that surface when marginalized groups adapt, re-imagine, or enter stories marked as “classic” or “American,” discussed his autoethnographic piece on the struggles of Latino actors in an industry that often stereotypes People of Color in making casting decisions.

In addition to panel presentations on the role of diversity in the media, educational and organizational settings, students across the spectrum of C&IS departments and majors presented research during the morning’s poster session.

Caitlin Dyche, a graduate student in the Department of Journalism and Creative Media, presented her research on the incorporation of emoji into the modern vernacular and its influence on computer-mediated communication.

“While emoji have become universally available, this does not mean that their usage and connotative meanings are also universal,” Dyche wrote in the paper’s abstract. “In fact, the motivation for emoji use is still hotly debated.”

Beyond examining how and why emoji are being used in countries around the world, Dyche also discussed which emoji are being used most often in synchronous computer mediated communication and whether such usage patterns relate significantly to culture.

“It was really great to see some of the research that is being done on diversity both within and across cultures,” Dyche said. “The poster presentations themselves were diverse in their topics and the panel on diversity in film and media was pretty incredible as it looked at how different groups of people are being portrayed from both sides of the silver screen, as well as shows that portray the importance and power of inclusivity and diversity.”

The event culminated with a keynote address by Dr. Clara Chu, director of the Mortensen Center for International Library Programs at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Chu discussed paradigm shifts in research related to diversity.

A New Voice on UA History: Pluck and Grit Podcast

There are new voices on campus telling the age-old stories of The University of Alabama, its rich culture, and tumultuous history. C&IS graduate student Mary Lieb and her co-host, MBA candidate, Joey Weed are the creators of Pluck and Grit podcast, a project devoted to telling the stories of the people and places that have helped shape The University of Alabama.

The podcast series, which began recording interviews last fall, consists of three hour-long episodes with plans to record as many as ten episodes before the pair graduate in May.

The idea for Pluck and Grit was born after Weed spent the summer as an intern for National Public Radio (NPR) in Washington, D.C. While he said his internship focused more on audience research and analytics than communication and journalism, being in the environment inspired him to pursue his long-time interests in podcasting and storytelling.

“I thought, you know, we could really do something like this here and I knew Mary was the perfect person [to partner with],” Weed said.

After meeting for lunch in August, the two agreed that the podcast would focus on The University of Alabama community, local history and individuals’ unique experiences at the Capstone.

“We have this long laundry list of topics and people we can contact – previous administrators and alumni have been really supportive – almost everyone we’ve reached out to has been really eager to share their stories,” Lieb said. “Although we do share a common experience here, everyone has their own unique experience that made the Capstone, the Capstone for them. What we’ve learned is that, despite some of the thorns that the University has, and some of its back story and a lot of its problems, people have still been able to find a home and they’ve been able to find some really great redeeming qualities. That’s what we’re really interested in looking at.”

The podcasts, which can be found on iTunes, Sound Cloud, and the Pluck and Grit website, have explored topics related to the international students community, Big Al and successful entrepreneurship initiatives created by students at UA.

“Checking people’s memories has been really exciting,” Weed said. “For our first story, the Big Al story, we talked to four different people and they all had different views of the order of events, how things happened, things like that.”

The pair said they have spent several hours in the W. S. Hoole Special Collections Library sifting through historical documents like The Crimson White, UA’s student newspaper, and Corolla yearbooks.

“We’ve been going to the library to see what the newspaper was writing about and kind of confirm and get a broad sense of the picture of how these stories weave together,” Weed said.

Lieb and Weed, who have both been active in student organizations and the University of Alabama community since their freshman year in 2012, agreed this is one project they may be content to let fare for itself when they depart for Washington, D.C. in May.

“In most of our projects, we work to try to find some avenue of sustainability,” Lieb said. “We’ve thought about working with publications on campus or maybe passing it off, but for the time being this was just a very fun side project.”

Weed echoed the sentiment.

“I think we would be content if [the podcast] just became 8 or 10 episodes,” Weed said. “Maybe if they were within the libraries archives, or on our website, or iTunes so that if a student down the road is searching for interesting things about the University, they can stumble upon these and enjoy them almost like a film or TV show. We’re going to put it out there and then just give people the opportunity to learn a little bit more about the University.”