Author: Cole Lanier

C&IS Welcomes New Faculty for 2019-2020

The College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) has an established record of distinguished faculty, whose fingerprints are visible in the excellence of each graduating class. This fall, C&IS introduces 10 new faculty members. C&IS welcomes the following new faculty members and celebrates all of the outstanding achievements that are sure to follow:

– Dr. Damion Waymer – Department Chair, Professor (APR)
– Shaheen Kanthawala – Assistant Professor (JCM)
– Kyle Holland – Book Arts Instructor/Studio Manager (SLIS)
– Hengyi Fu – Assistant Professor (SLIS)
– Jiyoung Li – Assistant Professor (JCM)
– Dr. Sean Sadri – Assistant Professor (JCM)
– Jared George – Lecturer (APR)
– Mark Harris – One-Year Contract Instructor (APR)
– Benjamin Pyle – Assistant Professor (COM)
– Ginger Jolly – One-Year Contract Instructor (JCM)

C&IS strives to provide a world-class education to its students, and this group faculty will continue the tradition of excellence at C&IS.

SLIS Partners with American Archive of Public Broadcasting for Digital Archiving Project

The University of Alabama’s School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) will play a major role in an ambitious nationwide preservation effort to digitize media content. Through its partnership with the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB), SLIS will host four preservation fellowships during the fall semester. Fellows will work throughout the semester at one of three public broadcasting stations to digitize and preserve at-risk media. The stations are the Center for Public Television (CPT) at The University of Alabama, WSRE in Pensacola, Florida, and WCVE in Richmond, Virginia.

“By tapping in to the expertise of professional archivists, we are preparing our fellows for the critical work of protecting local media and ensuring that these records of our past are accessible in the future,” said Dr. Jim Elmborg, Director of SLIS. “We look forward to seeing what gems are revealed at CPT, WSRE and WCVE over the course of the semester.”

According to AAPB, a collaboration between the Library of Congress and WGBH, a Boston-area public media broadcaster, the work the fellows complete will be incorporated into the AAPB database at the end of the semester.

“Public media stations have created community-focused, enriching programs for decades. Each of these programs is a unique snapshot that reflects what mattered to communities at a given time and is a rich historical resource for stations, scholars and the public,” said Karen Cariani, Director of WGBH’s Media Library and Archives. “We’re thrilled to help guide the next generation of archivists and for AAPB to serve as a home for these programs from CPT, WSRE and WCVE.”

Fellows will begin the program with an immersive training hosted by SLIS, led by WGBH Media Library and Archives staff and Jackie Jay, a digitization expert from Bay Area Video Coalition, from August 5-8. At the host stations, fellows will work with station staff to identify programs that are most valuable to the station and currently residing on at-risk and obsolete videotape formats. According to AAPB, each fellow will catalog and digitize up to 60 hours of this content. Fellows will be supported by AAPB archivists and funding from SLIS.

The School of Library and Information Studies is a part of the College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) at The University of Alabama. To learn more about C&IS, visit

Plank Center Sponsors Nationwide Communication Survey

The first study to examine the state of public relations in Canada and the United States found that building and maintaining trust is the most crucial issue facing the profession. The North American Communication Monitor (NACM) conducted by The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at The University of Alabama disclosed key trends and challenges facing the communication profession. Some highlights include:

  • Fake news affects the profession, but many organizations are not prepared to identify and manage it.
  • Top communication leaders are involved in organizational decision making, but that power is not shared with those lower in the hierarchy, especially women.
  • The major threat to job engagement is a lack of performance feedback and recognition, with a significant gender gap.
  • Everyone is stressed, but the sources of work stress vary.
  • Women and men rate their social media and knowledge management skills differently.

The results are based on responses from 1,020 communication professionals working in different types of organizations (255 in Canada and 765 in the United States). The sample achieved a balanced gender split (50% men and 50% women) for accurate comparisons. The average age of participants was 46.0 years.

Dr. Karla Gower, director of The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations, said, “Our goal with this study was to assess the state of the public relations field in North America and identify gaps, or opportunities to enrich the development of communication leaders. If we know where the gaps are, we can work to close them and to strengthen the overall quality of our profession’s leadership—a crucial strategic asset.”

The study, which joins existing Communication Monitors in Europe, Latin America and Asia-Pacific, explored diverse topics, including fake news and strategies to deal with it, top issues for the profession in the next three years, the role of providing information to support decision making, leaders’ performance, and professionals’ job engagement, trust in their organization, job satisfaction, work stress, and social media skills and management knowledge.

Dr. Bryan H. Reber, professor at the University of Georgia and lead researcher of NACM, said: “The Plank Center has embraced the opportunity to join a truly global network of researchers who regularly take the pulse of communication professionals to identify trends and opportunities. The North American Communication Monitor provides statistically reliable data to demonstrate professionals’ opinions and concerns and uses a nearly identical survey instrument as do the European, Latin American, and Asia-Pacific Communication Monitors. As a result, we are able to compare more than 6,000 responses across regions and cultures, the largest global data set for our profession.”

Fake news is a prominent issue but organizations lack processes to identify and manage it

Communication professionals agree fake news has become one of the most prominent issues in public discourse. More than half of surveyed professionals (57.7%) give attention to the on-going debate about fake news and consider it a much-debated topic in their country (68.2%). Results indicate governmental organizations across North America are particularly affected by fake news, with 20.9% being affected multiple times and 10.1% being affected once.

However, despite the high levels of awareness and attention to the debate about fake news, the level of relevance of fake news to the professionals’ daily work, and their concerns about it, are generally low. When it comes to identifying potential fake news, a substantial percentage of respondents (42.6%) said their organizations mainly rely on individual competencies and experience. Few organizations have in place policies, technical systems and processes to detect and manage fake news and misinformation.

Nearly half of the organizations (46.3%) do not share decision making with employees or members

The majority of surveyed professionals (71.9%) agree their top communication leader is actively involved in the organization’s decision making (78.1%) and demonstrates a strong ethical orientation to guide actions (76.7%). However, shared decision-making power receives the lowest rating across various types of organizations. Women rate the shared decision-making power significantly lower than men. A similar perceptual gap is identified along the line of hierarchy: Top communication leaders rate shared decision-making power significantly higher than team leaders and team members.

 The major threat to job engagement is a lack of performance feedback and recognition, with a significant gender gap

The job engagement level is relatively high: 62.8% report they are engaged in their job. More than eight in 10 of surveyed professionals know what is expected of them at work (86.0%), and are in a positive environment where fellow employees are committed to quality work (81.3%). Professionals also said they have the opportunity to do what they can do best every day (79.1%) and their opinions count at work (75.3%). However, some are frustrated by the lack of feedback about their performance on the job (24.6%) and lack of recognition for doing good work (15.4%).

Though nearly three-quarters of communication professionals are satisfied with their job, the gender gap is big. Women (60.8%) report a much lower level of job satisfaction compared to men (70.2%).

Sources of work stress vary

One-third of surveyed professionals acknowledge they feel tense and stressed during a normal workday. Generally, the top three sources of stress are limited growth or advancement opportunities (34.3%), a too-heavy workload (33.6%), and information overload (33.3%). Top communication leaders are most stressed by information overload, team leaders by work overload, and team members by their lack of opportunity for growth and advancement. Women are most stressed by lack of advancement opportunities and heavy workload. Men are most stressed by information overload and being constantly available via email, text and phone.

Women and men rate their social media and knowledge management skills differently

Men and women see their knowledge and skill sets differently when coping with the digital evolution and social media. Women are more confident about delivering messages via social media (68.8%), identifying social media trends (55.7%), and setting up social media platforms (51.2%). Men are more confident of their understanding of the legal framework for social media (38.0%) and using algorithms to run analytics (35.7%).

When it comes to general management skills, men are significantly more confident, compared to women, about their abilities in strategic positioning, such as analyzing overall organizational goals, scenario planning, and linking communication to business agendas. Men also report higher scores on managing human and financial resources.

Dr. Juan Meng, associate professor at the University of Georgia and lead analyst of NACM, said: “The depths and the variety of investigated topics presented by this year’s NACM help us better understand the communication industry in North America. More importantly, our rich results will deliver crucial insights to inform effective practice for communication professionals at all levels, from top leaders to team leaders and team members, as they all need to tackle these challenges now or in the near future.”

To download and read the NACM 2018-2019 full report, please visit the Plank Center’s website.


About North American Communication Monitor 2018-2019

The North American Communication Monitor (NACM) 2018-2019 is a biennial study organized and sponsored by The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. The NACM is part of the Global Communication Monitor series. As the largest regular global study in the field of public relations and strategic communication, the Global Communication Monitor series aims at stimulating and promoting the knowledge and practice of strategic communication and communication management globally. The series covers more than 80 countries with similar surveys conducted in Asia-Pacific, Europe and Latin America.

About the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations

The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations is the leading international resource working to support students, educators and practitioners who are passionate about the public relations profession by developing and recognizing outstanding diverse public relations leaders, role models and mentors. Founded in 2005, the Center is named in honor of Betsy Plank, the “First Lady” of PR. Betsy’s legacy and vision continues on in the Center’s programs and initiatives to advance the profession and public relations education. For more information, please visit

Study Report

Results of the NACM 2018-2019 will be published as a PDF report and as a booklet:

Meng, J. Reber, B. H., Berger, B. K., Gower, K. K., & Zerfass, A. (2019). North American Communication Monitor 2018-2019. Tracking trends in fake news, issues management, leadership performance, work stress, social media skills, job satisfaction and work environment. Tuscaloosa, AL: The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations.

ISBN (paperback): 978-0-578-50179-6

ISBN (electronic): 978-0-578-50180-2

For more information about the NACM 2018-2019, please visit

For more information about the Global Communication Monitor series, please visit

Dr. Damion Waymer Named Advertising & Public Relations Chair

Dr. Damion Waymer, the new Department Chair for Advertising and Public Relations.
Dr. Damion Waymer, the new Department Chair for Advertising and Public Relations.

The University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) has announced Dr. Damion Waymer as the Department Chair for Advertising and Public Relations (APR). Waymer joins the APR faculty as former chair Dr. Joe Phelps returns to full-time faculty. In addition to his duties as Department Chair, Waymer has also been appointed as a tenured professor for APR.

“I am excited to be joining the award-winning and highly regarded Department of Advertising and Public Relations at The University of Alabama,” said Waymer. “I only hope to build positively on the very strong foundation that has been established by my predecessors, current faculty and staff and decanal leadership.”

Most recently, Waymer served as the department chair for liberal studies at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University. Waymer received his Bachelor of Arts in corporate communication with a minor in business administration from the College of Charleston in 2000 and his Master of Arts and Ph.D. in communication in 2003 and 2006, respectively, both from Purdue University. Waymer has written three books and been published in more than 30 scholarly articles about communication and public relations, including four articles published with APR associate professor Dr. Kenon Brown.

“Our Advertising and Public Relations department is one of the best in the country, and Dr. Waymer will only help us to improve,” said Dr. Mark Nelson, Dean of C&IS. “Given Dr. Waymer’s research profile and experience, our students and faculty will be very fortunate to work with and learn from him.”

The University of Alabama Department of Advertising and Public Relations is one of the top programs of its kind, regularly ranked in the top five nationally. With both bachelor’s and master’s degrees available, the APR department is a place for students who share a passion for advertising and public relations and who want to set themselves up for professional success.

3 UA SLIS Grads were named as Emerging Leaders by the American Library Association

Three C&IS Alumni Selected as American Library Association Emerging Leaders

3 UA SLIS Grads were named as Emerging Leaders by the American Library Association
3 UA SLIS Grads were named as Emerging Leaders by the American Library Association

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Three alumni of the College of Communication and Information Sciences’ School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) have been named as 2019 Emerging Leaders of the American Library Association (ALA). Hannah Bowser (2017), a virtual services librarian in Wilmington, NC, Jina DuVernay (2017), a visiting archivist for African-American collections at Emory University, and Sabrina Dyck (2013), who currently works at Lawson State Community College in Birmingham, Ala., joined 46 other library and information professionals as participants of the class.

“This year’s class joins a distinguished group of alumni, many of whom continue to make significant contributions to ALA,” said Audrey Barbakoff and Pauline Stacchini, co-chairs of the Emerging Leaders program.

According to ALA, the Emerging Leaders program participates in an online and networking environment, culminating in a poster session at the ALA 2019 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., from June 20-25.

“To have three SLIS alumni chosen among a national class of 50 is a huge accomplishment and speaks to the success of the Master’s of Library and Information Studies Program,” said Jim Elmborg, Ph.D., director of SLIS.

SLIS is a top-ranked program for library, information and book arts education. SLIS aims to develop creative and critical thinkers and leaders for the information world through a supportive teaching and learning environment, collaborative research and community engagement.


Holle Award winners Sonia Farmer (left) and Alex Cherry

2019 Holle Award Winners Announced

Holle Award winners Sonia Farmer (left) and Alex Cherry at Honors Day 2019
Holle Award winners Sonia Farmer (left) and Alex Cherry at Honors Day 2019

The College of Communication and Information Sciences has announced the winners of the 2019 Holle Awards for Excellence and Creativity in Communication.

The awards are designed to celebrate and reward student achievement in the areas of book arts, filmmaking, media writing, public speaking and screenwriting. The awards also feature a $10,000 prize.

  • The Holle Award for Excellence in Book Arts is awarded to University of Iowa MFA student Sonia Farmer for her piece, “A True & Exact History,” a boxed set of unbound poetic fragments with no ascribed sequencing created in response to a seventeenth century description of the English Caribbean, Richard Ligon’s “A True and Exact History of Barbadoes.”
  • The Holle Award for Excellence in Filmmaking is awarded to New York University student Raven Jackson for “Nettles,” a film about stinging moments in the lives of different girls and women.
  • The Holle Award for Excellence in Media Writing is awarded to The University of Alabama’s Rebecca Griesbach, a senior from Tuscaloosa. Her submission led one judge to remark, “Greisbach makes her mark in deeper research and explanatory journalism.  Both the piece on international enrollment and Sumter County schools shows the work of a reporter who is willing to invest the time and effort needed to explain complex problems, opportunities and solutions.”
  • The Holle Award for Excellence in Public Speaking is awarded to The University of Alabama’s Senna House, a freshman from Hoover, Alabama. Her speech about concussion protocols in football and the health problems associated with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) sought to change public perception in support of measures the National Football League is taking to protect players from CTE. In her speech, House used a water bottle to demonstrate the effects of CTE on the brains of football players.

    The 2019 Holle Award for Public Speaking finalists
    The 2019 Holle Award for Public Speaking finalists
  • The Holle Award for Excellence in Screenwriting is awarded to The University of Alabama’s Alex Cherry for her work, “The Ties That Bind.” Cherry is a senior from Maryville, Tennessee. This script was praised by judges for its originality, imagery and precision.

“The 2019 Holle Award winners are some of the most gifted students we’ve ever seen,” said Dr. Mark Nelson, dean of the College of Communication and Information Sciences. “These students from around the country excel in communication and creativity, two things Brigadier General Everett Holle believed in and supported through his generosity in funding these awards.”

The Holle Awards are named for the 1950 graduate of The University of Alabama who served as an announcer, director, writer and producer during his 40-year career at NBC 13. Holle was a member of the College of Communication and Information Sciences’ board of visitors where he passionately invested in the success of University of Alabama students for years.

The University of Alabama AdTeam

UA AdTeam Wins District Competition

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) AdTeam won first place in District 7 of the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC). 2019 marks the ninth time that UA has won its district and the 25th consecutive year that UA has finished in the top four. UA student Katelyn Owens also won best presenter for District 7.

“I’m super proud of the work that this team did,” said Jay Waters, instructor in the department of advertising and public relations at UA and NSAC AdTeam adviser. Other faculty members assisting the 20 members of the team include advertising and public relations faculty Janet Walker and Mark Barry, as well as Gray Lloyd and Amy Martin from UA’s Digital Media Center.

The client for this year’s NSAC was Wienershnitzel, and the team was charged with elevating consumers’ opinions of hot dogs to create additional sales.

Next for AdTeam is the semi-final round, where the its members will compete against the approximately 20 other district winners around the country to determine who will be among the eight teams selected for the national title in Hollywood, FL this June.

“They all met all their deadlines, they kept an open mind throughout the process and they built a campaign that works because they were led by the data to a solution that creatively addressed the client’s problem,” Waters said. “It’s not just the quality of their work, which was exceptional, but professionalism they exhibited throughout the last six months.”

District 7 of the American Advertising Federation includes the states of Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana. The other teams that competed in District 7 were: Louisiana State University, the University of Mississippi, Samford University, the University of Memphis, Middle Tennessee State University, East Tennessee State University and Loyola University New Orleans.

The department of advertising and public relations is a part of the College of Communication and Information Sciences. To learn more about C&IS, please visit

APR News Director Pat Duggins and Malian reporter Ousmane Sagara with members of the APR staff.

Alabama Public Radio Wins Two Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards

APR News Director Pat Duggins and Malian reporter Ousmane Sagara with members of the APR staff.
APR News Director Pat Duggins (center) and Malian reporter Ousmane Sagara with members of the APR staff.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The industry group Radio Television Digital News Association today named Alabama Public Radio (APR) the winner of two of its regional Edward R. Murrow Awards. APR news won best documentary for “The King of Alabama,” which examined Alabama’s role as one of the key battlegrounds in Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s crusade for civil rights. News Director Pat Duggins also won best feature for his story “Make It Like a Butterfly,” which focuses on Dr. King’s barber, and how trimming King’s trademark moustache gave barber Nelson Malden a unique vantage point on civil rights history in Montgomery in the mid 1950’s.

The “King of Alabama” features reporting from APR’s international journalist exchange program participant Ousmane Sagara from Mali, who reported on his nation feels about Dr. King fifty years after his death. Sagara combined those observations with his own during his time in the APR newsroom, covering Alabama’s fight for civil rights. Duggins and Sagara used Facebook messenger to coordinate field production of the story from Mali. Former APR student intern Allison Mollenkamp also covered how Alabama is one of only two states that celebrates Robert E. Lee day on the same Monday in January as the national holiday for Dr. King.

“Ousmane and Allison played huge roles in the success of this documentary,” Duggins said. “Their stories about the impact of Dr. King in the West African nation of Mali, and the racial divides that are still present in the U.S., are both poignant and uplifting.”

APR now goes onto to compete nationally in both categories.

Alabama Public Radio is a network of public radio stations licensed by The University of Alabama and located in Bryant-Denny Stadium’s Digital Media Center. Its affiliation with the College of Communication and Information Sciences gives students opportunities for practical training in a variety of production activities.

Dr. Miriam Sweeney speaks at the Harvard Kennedy School.

SLIS Professor Discusses Latina AI at Harvard Kennedy School

The following is copied from the personal site of Dr. Miriam Sweeney, an assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Studies, a department of the College of Communication and Information Sciences:

I had a wonderful time presenting with my research partner Melissa Villa-Nicholas on one of our projects about Latina AI at the Harvard Kennedy School on March 25th. Our talk focused on “Emma”, the Latina virtual assistant used by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as a part of their e-government services. This presentation explores the cultural affordances of Latina identity as a strategic design choice in the Emma interface that extends citizenship and nation-building projects for the state, while masking underlying information and data gathering capabilities.

​We were privileged to have Dana Chisnell, co-director of the Center for Civic Design, serve as a moderator for our talk.  We felt very welcome, thanks largely to all of the hard work and planning of Vanessa Rhinesmith, the Associate Director of digitalHKS. Thank you to everyone who came and talked with us about the politics and surveillance implications of digital technologies designed to gather information about Latinx communities.

*Watch for our paper, “Designing the ‘good citizen’ through Latina identity in USCIS’s virtual assistant ‘Emma'”, in Feminist Media Studies forthcoming this summer 2019.

UA Student Films About Justice & Injustice in Alabama to Debut April 23

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama (UA) department of journalism & creative media will host the 13th annual Documenting Justice film screening at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 23, at the Bama Theatre in downtown Tuscaloosa. The screening is free and open to the public.

The event will feature short documentaries created by students who dedicated a year to learning how to document and analyze culture and social experience — and communicate about issues of justice and injustice in Alabama — through nonfiction filmmaking.

The students, who are pursuing degrees in a wide range of fields, produced the documentaries as part of a two-semester course co-taught by award-winning filmmaker Andrew Grace, director of the Documenting Justice program and instructor in the department of journalism & creative media, and Rachel Morgan, creative director for Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival.

“Documentary filmmaking gives out students an opportunity to immerse themselves in a world they might not otherwise come into contact with,” said Andy Grace, director of Documenting Justice. “To deeply research an issue or a problem, to go out and meet subjects, to develop relationships, to have frank and open conversations about the lives of other people, this kind of work required to make a documentary film is a unique experience in empathy that is hard to replicate in the classroom.”

UA has offered the Documenting Justice course since 2006.