Author: Cis Ga

C&IS Alumna Hosting on the Big Stage for the Atlanta Falcons

Emmy-winning sports journalist, Jordan Whitley, joins former NFL star running back Michael Turner and award-winning sports writer Matthew Tabeek as the in-game broadcast team for the Atlanta Falcons official pregame show at Mercedes Benz Stadium, a live show previewing the Falcons home game match-ups. Whitley also hosts the halftime report and postgame show at the stadium.

Prior to joining the Falcons, Whitley was the sports anchor for Fox 5 in San Diego. A graduate of C&IS, the journalist has reported for ESPN, Fox Sports, NBC Northwest and Fox 5 San Diego covering the NFL, MLB and NCAA Football, as well as supercross racing and Formula Drift. She has served as a sideline reporter and producer for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, covered the Atlanta Braves on Fox Sports South and SEC athletics for CSN South, worked for Speed TV and joined the broadcast team for ESPN’s X Games in 2013.

An Alabama native, Whitley is a 2005 Telecommunication and Film graduate. If you are headed to see the Falcons this year, you just may see a friendly, C&IS face.

C&IS Senior Heads Up T-Shirt Startup

To communication studies student, Ian Stone, Head Coach Tees is more than a t-shirt. Driven by the motto of “bridging the gap between supporting your coach, on and off the field”, Head Coach Tees offers a unique opportunity for fans to represent their favorite teams in something other than a jersey. Ian Stone, a Birmingham native and UA senior, embarked on an entrepreneurial journey to combine his expertise in communication, his connections with graphic designers and his love for football in a meaningful and tangible way. Head Coach Tees offers quality t-shirts that depict the profiles of college football coaches. The shirts do not have any logos or brands on them therefore Head Coach Tees has a direct relationship and agreement with each coach. The best part? Head Coach Tees donates 10% of every sale to the coach’s foundation of choice.

“We love the idea of supporting coaches and supporting what they believe in,” said Stone, “A lot of people don’t see that side of coaches and Head Coach Tees allows the fan base to create that relationship with the coach.”

More recently, Head Coach Tees gained national recognition on Fox Sports. Matt Leinart, former football quarterback and current studio analyst, held up and displayed the Lane Kiffin shirt during the halftime report. He said, “You gotta get yourself one of these shirts!” Fox Sports even showed the shirts again during their post-game report. Head Coach Tees sold over 80 Lane Kiffin shirts at a local Boca Raton apparel shop within the first day. Stone attributed this media placement and success to a previous personal meeting he had with Lane Kiffin a few months before in Boca Raton, Florida.

“We took a picture of Lane Kiffin in our shirt at the meeting, and he invited us to the team’s scrimmage that next day,” said Stone, “Kiffin told us to mail our shirts to Matt Leinart that day.”

Head Coach Tees’s internal team consists of three students – Ian Stone, Matt Lewis and Drake Grisham – each with backgrounds in various fields: nuclear engineering, marketing and communications. Stone heads up all internal and external communication channels for Head Coach Tees and is grateful for the input from his professors and mentors within C&IS. When writing Head Coach Tees’s business pitch, Stone sought out the help from professor and assistant director of Public Speaking, Dr. Adam Brooks.

“Dr. Brooks has been a mentor since the beginning of it all,” said Stone, “I’ve never had a teacher believe in me like Dr. Brooks, and he saw something in this project and in me.”

For almost a year now, Head Coach Tees sells t-shirts to sports fans and plans on expanding their designs to the entire SEC and beyond. They currently are in the process of creating and brokering deals with SEC coaches and NFL players. Their ultimate goal? Getting Nick Saban on a shirt.

To learn more about Head Coach Tees or buy a shirt, visit their website. You can also help support this company by following Head Coach Tees on Instagram or Twitter.

Pitching On and Off the Field

Before working as the senior coordinator of social content and engagement for the Chicago White Sox, Jordan Doyle was a graduate student at C&IS. Doyle expressed that the graduate program at UA stood out to her because the program combined advertising and public relations courses together and allowed her to focus on her passion: sports.

One class in particular – the graduate campaigns class – helped Doyle bridge the gap between theory and practice. The campaigns course is designed to connect students with real-world clients and create a comprehensive and achievable advertising campaign with a team of four people. In Jordan’s case, her team worked on the NASCAR account, where she served as the account leader.

“The campaigns class experience really helped me when going into the sports industry,” said Doyle, “It was beneficial because you’re taking everything you learned and putting it to practice.”

The class is divided into teams and each team has four specializations: media, research, account manager and creative. Randall Huffaker, an instructor at UA, has taught the campaigns class – both on the graduate and undergraduate levels – for the past ten years. He stated that the purpose of this class is for advertising and public relations students to apply their skill sets in a demanding and realistic scenario. The combination of both public relations and advertising students working together creates sustainable, strategy-driven campaigns for clients across multiple fields. Past clients include the CMA Fest, Advocate Healthcare, Fox Sports and in Doyle’s experience: NASCAR.

As of March, Doyle is the managing editor of all White Sox social media platforms and assists their community relations efforts, ticket sales and influencer marketing via social media promotion. Doyle works across departments to promote the White Sox brand and states that she values new ideas from college students and young professionals for social media strategies.

“I am always excited to see what the college mindset is and how they view what is happening today in baseball,” said Doyle.

Thus, it came as a natural fit for the White Sox to become a client for Huffaker’s campaign class this year. Doyle believes that this partnership will help bring new ideas for fan engagement and social influence to the White Sox brand. Huffaker’s campaigns class is currently working directly with Doyle and her team to produce agency-level deliverables that are rooted in insights and social listening data. Doyle commented that she is already impressed with the students and that their questions in a recent video call “blew most of the previous agencies’ questions out of the water.”

We will check back in with this campaigns class in December to see what great work they produced!

C&IS Launches Public Opinion Lab

Housed in the Institute for Communication and Information Research (ICIR), the Public Opinion Lab is an innovative space for social analytics designed for both academic and industry research. The Public Opinion Lab opened August of this year and is made possible through a partnership with Crimson Hexagon, an AI-powered data source of consumer insights. Crimson Hexagon offers a user-friendly dashboard that provides real time data pulled from a repository of public consumer conversations from global sources such as Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Instagram. Crimson Hexagon’s data is used and trusted by the world’s leading brands and agencies such as Walmart, Adidas and Paramount. Now, both students and researchers at The University of Alabama will have access to this platform through the Public Opinion Lab and can use the pulled social listening data to form robust insights for brands or research reports.

More specifically, the Public Opinion Lab will be used by campaigns classes at The University of Alabama, the summative and last course for public relations and advertising students within C&IS. The dashboard in the lab creates customized word sentiment analysis, word clouds of the most commonly used words on a given topic and provides demographic and geographic breakdowns of a selected audience. These insights can help create data-driven campaigns and can help clients anticipate and understand critical communication problems.  This database can be used for predictive modeling for trends and conversations about brands or topics. Dr. Jameson Hayes, the director of the Public Opinion Lab, says that he hopes this integration will “expose students to the tools that agencies are already using for their clients.”

The implications for this lab extend outside of the classroom. Currently, the Public Opinion Lab is being used to examine how military veterans and their families discuss suicide online. Ultimately, the insights gathered from this study could help improve dialogue between medical services and military services. Hayes says that there are a variety of ways this lab can be used for social science purposes. “I’m very excited about the breadth of interest in the lab,” said Hayes, “The Public Opinion Lab has an impact on the undergraduate- and graduate-level students and certainly with faculty research and grant capabilities, as well.”

The Public Opinion Lab goes beyond likes and hashtags on a social website. The interface draws from billions of data points across multiple social networking sites to examine patterns of emotional sentiment and relationships between brands and consumers. To learn more about the lab, visit their Twitter.

The College of Communication and Information Sciences’ faculty and students at The University of Alabama conduct cutting-edge research that creates knowledge and provides solutions to global issues across the full communication and information spectrum. To learn more about our research initiatives, visit

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.”