Author: Rand Nelson

C&IS Storytellers: Dr. Robin Boylorn

Dr. Robin M. Boylorn is a storyteller, commentator and scholar whose work centers Black women and is grounded in lived experience.

Telling stories was first connected to telling untruths. When I was a little girl and the word “lie” was considered too grown up to say out loud, I would profess, complain or declare that such and such or so and so was “telling stories” on me. That usually meant their version of what happened was not the same as mine, or that they were intentionally, if not maliciously distorting what I perceived to be the truth or leaving out what I believed to be important details and context.

Telling stories, at the time, was a way of acknowledging a perceived injustice and seeking the space and opportunity to offer a counter-story, a different truth, for comparison before punishment.

As an adult, I associate telling stories both similarly and differently than I did when I was a child. Instead of equating storytelling with lies, I now understand that telling stories is akin to truth-telling, and truth is a complicated character. The truth is embedded within, between and underneath the stories we tell, and buried behind the stories we intentionally withhold. Stories help memorialize memories, but often fail to account for the multiple truths trying to be told and remembered. I tell stories as a mechanism for getting to the (small t) truth, and for making sense of those truths through reflection, revision and re-storying.

Telling stories, now, is a way of acknowledging a perceived injustice and seeking the space and opportunity to offer multiple accounts, perspectives, possibilities and truths—a way of anchoring lived experience and making concrete the ways our experiences are shaped by our identities. As a storyteller, I start with and linger in mundanity and ordinariness, but I am also intentional about standpoints and positionalities. Stories emerge through the ways we craft and communicate our experiences, which are framed and understood by cultural contexts, interpersonal relationships, social identity and media.

I believe, like Walter Fisher (1978), that humans are inherent storytellers, and all meaningful communication is storied. Our ears do not always bend to the ubiquitous stories we consume every day, and we don’t always recognize phatic communion, introductions, and newsfeeds as stories, but they are. We don’t always think about communication as storied, but it is.

I tell stories poetically, politically, creatively and unapologetically, but I understand that all stories and representations are partial and partisan, which makes them problematic (Goodall, 2000). Stories are not infallible. We tell stories that tend to focus on our experience (partial), and from our point of view (partisan/subjective), but our stories don’t exist in isolation. We connect to stories like our own because personal narratives and experiences help inform generalizable, epistemological truths.

My career is curated on the ways we use stories to comprehend and critique, to record and remember, to make sense of and explain, and to connect with known and unknown others. Stories are bridges across difference and anchors to understanding.

As a black woman storyteller and autoethnographer my investment in storied scholarship is grounded in the importance of visibility, imagination and possibility. The futuristic and historical promises of storytelling are what makes it accessible, and the ability to deconstruct and analyze stories are what makes them theoretical. Theory urges us to attach meaning and intent to stories, but I believe stories are themselves theories, and we are all nascent if not reluctant theorists. We are all nascent, if not naïve storytellers.

As a child, I told stories to fill in the gaps and rehearse sensemaking. As an adult, I write stories for those same reasons and rely on some of my same childhood rituals. I grew up in a house full of people, so I still write when it is dark outside and everything is still and sometimes quiet so I can hear the rhythm of the words as I type. I still jot down notes in hurried handwriting—names, phrases, scenes or memories on napkins, scraps of paper, or on my hands, careful not to smudge the ink before I can memorialize the data. I still write with the door closed if someone is at my house, and open when I am alone. I still wait to write when I am pushed up against a deadline. I write when the dishes are washed, the clothes are folded, and the bathrooms are cleaned because I am easily distracted by opportunities for procrastination.
I still read for inspiration.

I write memory-heavy stories, grounded in my childhood or past but threaded with the present in ways that establish verisimilitude, coherence and fidelity to my narrative. I write stories to imagine justice when and where it doesn’t exist. I write stories to make claims and cultural critiques. I write stories so I can see and remember myself—and other people like me, and people who are nothing like me.

Stories humanize difference.
Stories shape our realities.

A good story lingers and stays with you. It changes how you think—and what you think about. It resonates and informs how you see yourself
and others. A good story captures your attention and insists existence.

I tell stories to insist on my existence—as a rural black woman—in academic scholarship, popular culture and community.

I know myself because of the stories shared across conversations and kitchen tables with women in my family and community: my mother,
my grandmother, my aunts, cousins, sister and friends.

I found myself in the stories of black women storytellers who told truths and centered the experiences of black women.

I recognized myself in the story-grounded research of black women scholars who insisted that our survival be documented and canonized.

I tell stories to leave the same legacy I inherited, and to silence the lies that are too often spoken out loud.

Tesla – Remote Digital Content Internship (Fall ’21)

Tesla – Remote Digital Content Internship

Role Description

Disclaimer: This position is expected to start around August or September 2021 and continue through the entire Fall term (i.e. through December/January) or into early Spring 2022 if available. We ask for a minimum of 12 weeks, full-time, for most internships. Please consider before submitting an application.
International Students: If your work authorization is through CPT, please consult your school before applying. You must be able to work 40 hours per week. Many students will be limited to part-time depending on their academic standing. 
Internship Programs at Tesla
The Internship Programs Team is driven by the passion to recognize emerging talent. Our year-round program places the best students in positions that they will grow both technically and personally through their experience working closely with their Manager, Mentor, and team. We are dedicated to providing an experience that allows for the intern to experience life at Tesla by given them projects that are critical to their team’s success.
Instead of going on coffee runs and making copies, you’ll be seated at the table making critical decisions that will influence not only your team, but the overall achievement of Tesla’s mission.
  • Remote
About the Team
The Design Content team is responsible for defining and upholding the Tesla tone of voice within customer facing content – inclusive of web and outbound communications. This includes but is not limited to product content, regular customer communications and owner updates. The team decides how and where we speak to customers and owners – sharing the latest product changes, features and more.
What to Expect
  • This role will support the design content and copywriting team globally on emails, web and in-app messages.
  • This person will also be helping track the success of our content efforts via reporting on our analytics.
  • Additional responsibilities:
  • Write copy for customer-facing communications based on a brief or outline of requirements
  • Adhere to project deadlines and communicate milestones to project partners
  • Proof-read and edit drafted copy from internal teams
  • Investigate and validate copy for accuracy
  • Brainstorm creative and innovative ways to engage with customers and owners
  • Track and log content analytics
Specific project assignments and required technical aptitude will vary:
  • Interest in technology and/or sustainability
  • Ability and comfort with delivering under tight timing constraints
  • Extreme attention to detail
  • Excellent copywriting/editing skills
  • Working towards a degree in Communications, Journalism, Advertising or another related field currently
  • Strong communications skills (written and verbal)
  • Bonus: Experience writing for school newspaper

To apply, visit Handshake.

Empowering Voices

C&IS Alumni Champion Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Across their Industries

A signal achievement of 2020 at The University of Alabama came through significant work by UA’s Presidential Advisory Committee for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). Charged with developing plans to build on the campus-wide strategic goal to attract and support a diverse community, members of the faculty, staff and students produced a comprehensive report of strategies, best practices and research. This report of recommendations will guide the work of the colleges and units as UA moves forward toward continued progress. The same work and progress is taking place around the country as corporations and organizations dive deep into listening to and understanding their employees and constituents so they may take necessary steps forward. C&IS alumni are leading and influencing their industries throughout the nation. Here are just a few stories of how our graduates are championing diversity, equity and inclusion across their industries.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion is not only critical to creating a productive work environment, but also to creating more meaningful campaigns that reach and resonate with our clients’ diverse audiences. When you think of DEI in terms of gender, women have historically outnumbered men in the field of public relations, but lagged behind them in leadership roles. That’s why I’m proud to work for an agency like Edelman that prioritizes DEI and truly ‘walks the walk’ through education and training, recruitment programs and employee networks like the Global Women’s Equality Network (GWEN), launched in 2011 to achieve gender parity at our most senior levels and ensure equal pay for equal work.”

Lindsay Garrison (’00 & ’01) – Senior Vice President, Edelman

“Every community has members of the LGBTQIA community in it, and providing these patrons with the information they need is perhaps even more crucial than my usual duties. Working to highlight our LGBTQIA materials is a simple, meaningful step that we as librarians can take to show our LGBTQIA community members that we welcome them and are proactively thinking about their needs. The public library is one of the last truly public institutions remaining in this country, and we work to uphold that incredible precedent by ensuring that everyone in our community can find the information that they want and need in a respectful, dignified way.”

Elizabeth Burton (’20) – Adult Programs Librarian, Harris County Public Library

“As communication professionals, we play a unique role in creating inclusive workplaces. We know that years of inequality cannot be solved with one press release or one social media campaign. It is our job to challenge our clients and business leaders in this space. One way to improve diversity in our own industry is by mentoring and supporting students of diverse backgrounds as they matriculate to college and into the workforce. If we want to have more diversity and inclusion in our industry, we all need to take a proactive role in mentoring the next generation of our industry’s leaders.”

Jennifer Kitt-West (’07) – Marketing Communications Manager, Dow Chemical Company

“I’ve learned that true diversity, true equity and true inclusion happens when we can place ourselves in the shoes of someone else’s journey and open doors of knowledge, engagement and opportunities to access a better understanding of what each other needs. Regardless of my position to power and authority, I have learned that great leaders (and friends) have always been the ones who were capable of demonstrating high levels of empathy and compassion when times were most crucial. In my role, we work with philanthropists who often say, “I want the best and the brightest.” Does that only mean those who have 3.5 GPAs and higher? If we are to be inclusive of everyone, then we must see the value of those who strive hard. We must see the value in those who have challenges to overcome. We must look at those who may not be book smart but have street smarts that far exceed the classroom setting.”

Joshua Butler (’07) – Associate Dean of Advancement and Chief Advancement Officer, The University of Illinois at Chicago

“Each person on a communication team has to have a global view of the business world. Every strategy and tactic that we deploy has an impact that is far reaching. Diversity, equity and inclusion has to be incorporated in those strategies and tactics, not separated. When an employee is working on a project, I encourage them to think about how we can broaden the audiences that we are reaching. We have successfully done that, and more people who may not have known us are now enthusiasts—all because of our inclusive strategy. I expect them to think about diversity, equity and inclusion continuously.”

Kristina Hendrix (’03) – Group Communications Director, Dynetics, Inc.

“Studies show that companies with diverse leadership at the board, executive and management levels outperform those without. Work teams that value diversity and inclusion are likely to be more collaborative, innovative and productive. In today’s environment, proclamations favoring diversity, equity and inclusion will not be enough to retain the most talented and skilled employees, especially if societal tensions and injustices embed themselves in our workplaces.”

Debra Nelson (’80) – Founder and President, Elevate LLC

Alabama Public Radio Wins Fourth Sigma Delta Chi Award

The Society of Professional Journalists has awarded Alabama Public Radio (APR) a Sigma Delta Chi Award for Radio Documentary for its submission “Oil & Water: 10 Years Later,” covering the ongoing impact of the BP oil spill on the Gulf coast.

“I am so proud of the APR news team and delighted that their work earned the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Radio Documentary,” said Elizabeth Brock, director of the Digital Media Center. “At a time when news cycles for even the big stories last an average of seven days, this kind of work is critically important. The support of The University of Alabama and our colleagues at the College of Communication and Information Sciences and the generosity of our listeners and supporters make it all possible.”

The documentary brings together coverage APR produced in 2010, during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and follow-up interviews gathered in the first four months of 2020. It covers a variety of long-term effects of the spill, including the economic impact and the effect the oil spill had on locals’ mental and physical health.

In an effort to address the lack of investigative and in-depth news reporting along Alabama’s Gulf coast, APR News Director Pat Duggins recruited and trained veteran print journalists in Mobile and Baldwin counties to join the news team and produce radio stories as APR Gulf coast correspondents. “Oil and Water: 10 Years Later” features the work of correspondents Guy Busby, who investigated the economic impact of the spill on local businesses, and Lynn Oldshue, who investigated the health impacts Gulf coast locals experienced after being exposed to chemicals used to help disperse the oil.

Duggins with Busby
Duggins with Oldshue

“I’m delighted that Guy and Lynn share in the spotlight for this prestigious award,” says APR news director Pat Duggins. “APR and its listeners know what a great job they do for us, and now the broadcast journalism industry does as well.”

This is APR’s fourth Sigma Delta Chi Award, having won back-to-back honors in 2011 and 2012 for coverage of the 2011 Tuscaloosa tornado, and in 2016 for a documentary outlining their six-month investigation of the Alabama prison system.

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.

About the Sigma Delta Chi Awards: First awarded in 1932, the Sigma Delta Chi Award recognizes the best in professional journalism in categories covering print, radio, television, newsletters, art/graphics and online. To learn more about the Sigma Delta Chi Awards, visit

Going Live

C&IS students enrolled in the Twitch course utilize space in the College’s Public Opinion Lab to analyze statistics related to their creative content.

C&IS students learn content marketing in innovative Twitch class

The advent of the internet dramatically reshaped the entire world, bringing together people from all backgrounds and experiences to communicate with each other and share their stories. Years later, social media would enhance that connectivity and bring us even closer together, providing platforms for all users to share videos, photos and more. Today, new platforms are popping up every day, enhancing the online conversation and introducing new neighbors from every corner of the globe.

As new platforms continue to emerge, they are shaped by a young generation of content geniuses bursting at the seams with entrepreneurial spirit and creative potential. At C&IS, part of equipping the next generation of global leaders in the world of communication and information is encouraging growth in and mastery of new emerging platforms through experience and practice. For now, that new platform is Twitch.

Twitch launched in 2011 as a new streaming website showcasing live-streamed video games and live e-sports. By 2014, the platform was purchased by Amazon and had more than 20 million visitors per month. Twitch became “the next big thing” in the tech industry, and advertising and public relations professionals quickly recognized a new creative outlet for getting content into households and onto devices all over the globe. Companies began promoting branded gaming content and partnering with streamers to sponsor them. As Twitch continued to grow, advertising strategies from major brands developed to sync with the platform and the opportunities it presented. In 2019, consumer brands spent more than $650 million on sponsorships and branded content for online streaming platforms globally. The total for 2020 surpassed $800 million, and experts predict the global spending to top $1 billion annually by 2022.

With Twitch advertising budgets at nearly $22 million and the website ranked the 14th most popular in the United States last year, the new platform can experience upwards of 2 billion hours in viewed content in one month alone. The future success of Twitch is clear now, but The University of Alabama took a chance on prioritizing the platform in the early days. That chance is paying off.

Three years ago, when COVID-19 was not part of our everyday vocabulary and the idea of a global sports stoppage was unthinkable, faculty in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations were building a partnership to help educate students on “the next big thing.” In 2018, Twitch was making its way to college campuses, and UA was one of the first institutions in the United States to launch an official university Twitch channel — the first school in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). The channel was developed as a means to teach students about the platform and its relevancy to the advertising and public relations industries while also giving students a place to create their own original content.

  • Examining the analytics of their content viewership helps teams craft new content to address their audiences' feedback.
  • Student production teams collaborate to bring high-quality live streaming content to UA Twitch followers.
  • C&IS Instructor Randall Huffaker assists student Alyssa Harrison in setting up her Twitch livestream studio.

Today, students are learning the platform and practicing the art of creating their own original content through a regularly offered course specifically focused on Twitch. Developed by advertising and public relations senior instructor, Randall Huffaker, the course teaches students a variety of skills related to content marketing, including search engine optimization, social media and influencer marketing, analytics, and event promotion.

“There are billions of marketing dollars being poured into this streaming platform every year, so the potential for future public relations and advertising professionals who know the platform and can strategize with Twitch in mind is limitless,” said Dr. Kenon Brown, associate professor of advertising and public relations. Brown and Huffaker worked together to bring Twitch to UA’s campus.

The class is structured so that students work in collaborative teams where each student carries different responsibilities. Students might work on the “community management team” where they oversee the channel itself, from content to analytics. Or, they might work on the “writing team” or “creative team” where they are writing scripts or creating graphics to promote streaming events, gaming nights or interviews with industry professionals. The goal is that students contribute their unique talents while stretching themselves to learn something new through a very hands-on experience. To Huffaker, the class is about the original content creation; after all, that’s why people are part of the Twitch community.

“Taking ownership of their learning leads to a more motivated student,” said Huffaker. “They become more engaged with the concepts, preparing them for that next stage and the start of their career.”

In the C&IS Twitch class, students create content for an audience that they also develop and nurture throughout the semester. Essentially, in 12 weeks, students create a product and develop a ground-up content marketing campaign to promote it.

“It is very much a ‘learn as you go’ experience,” said J.J. McGrady, a senior public relations major from Prattville, AL, who was enrolled in the Twitch class last fall. McGrady was a member of the community management team. “We were able to learn on our own and find what content worked and what didn’t in an organic way.”

Huffaker understands what creative freedom can do in the learning process.

“I just want them to create and find things they’re passionate about and go to work,” said Huffaker. “As they create and analyze the content, they can tell a story with the data to make meaningful changes.”

“Content” can include anything from playing live video games and creating educational videos about photography, to recapping the latest episode of “The Bachelorette,” discussing UA athletics or giving a cooking demonstration. The point is for students to choose topics of their own interest and to build their content as a way of channeling that passion.

“It’s an exciting moment when the teams begin streaming their content and viewers from all over tune in, but the students know the work doesn’t stop there. That’s when we begin diving into the analytics,” said Huffaker.

Students learn how to analyze viewership metrics and social media analytics. They are responsible for adjusting their programming as necessary to reach larger audiences through Twitch and their other channels. The comprehensive and fully integrated learning experience is something the advertising and public relations department knows will give students an advantage in the industry.

“This class really helped pinpoint what aspect of public relations I would be interested in when I begin my career,” said Alyssa Harrison, design team leader for UA Twitch in fall 2020. “In the public relations field, having firsthand experience with content creation and how to use shared media platforms is a huge strength.”

What started as a class dedicated to preparing students for a new arena of marketing has now grown into a channel with national attention. The UA channel, created and managed by C&IS students, has participated in some of the biggest nationwide e-sports tournaments and the faculty has worked to garner sponsorships from worldwide companies such as Red Bull, Dell Computer, Mainline and Learfield IMC among others. And they are just getting started.

“The dollars and the data on Twitch speak for themselves,” said Brown. “We will continue to grow the course, the channel and the learning opportunities as Twitch continues to evolve and grow in the future. Our goal is to have the most highly-qualified and prepared graduates in the country and this course plays a part in that.”

YMCA of Tuscaloosa County

The YMCA of Tuscaloosa County is in search of a summer communication intern.

About the position: This position supports the work of the YMCA, a leading nonprofit committed to strengthening community through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Builds the community’s understanding of the YMCA’s cause and impact. Develops and implements effective marketing and communication strategies. The internship is unpaid, however, you will receive a YMCA membership during your internship. You will also gain great experience working in the non-profit sector with one of the largest non-profit organizations in the nation.

Internship Dates: Sept 1 – Dec. 3

Skills required:

  • Written, oral and interpersonal communication
  • Graphic design/digital art
  • Self-motivated
  • Able to take initiative

To apply, email your resume to Shane Reeves at

Communication Specialist – Social Media Coordinator for UA Admissions

The Communication Specialist (Social Media Coordinator for UA Admissions) position is responsible for writing, editing and distributing content to prospective UA students and their families via the Admissions social media platforms of Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and future platforms as needed. The position will be responsible for developing social media strategies to increase engagement with prospective students in alignment with UA’s brand guidelines. It requires day-to-day management of the social media sites, including publishing, monitoring, and answering comments and direct messages in a timely manner. The Communications Specialist will focus on creating and curating content that is compelling and engaging in both written and visual formats; staying up to date with social media trends; providing live coverage of campus events on various social media platforms; advising UA’s regional Admissions recruiters on best practices for social media, as well as providing feedback on those ancillary accounts as needed; collaborating with social media specialists of UA’s main accounts, creating a cohesive social media team under the Division of Strategic Communications.

Required Minimum Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in Communications, Journalism, Public Relations, English, Marketing, or Advertising and one (1) year experience in journalism, public relations, marketing, or communications; OR Master’s degree Communications, Journalism, Public Relations, English, Marketing, or Advertising. Related student or Graduate Assistant, Intern, or student oriented experience will be considered. To be considered student experience, it must be detailed in the employment section on the application.

This application will close on June 1.

For more information and to apply, visit the UA Job Search website listing.

Vandervoort Family Dentistry – Marketing and Social Media Director

Vandervoort Family Dentistry – Marketing and Social Media Director

Goal: assist in guiding and developing a marketing plan to increase our social media presence (Facebook, Instagram, Yelp, Google, etc), develop a social media content calendar with help from our office staff, re-vamp our website, establish a brand that people recognize and respect, and market toward a targeted group of new patients in the greater Tuscaloosa area.

Compensation: variable depending on experience and performance, but somewhere between $15-25 per hour

Hours Worked: variable week to week, but likely 3-4 hours per week (maybe less starting out)


  • Develop a comprehensive annual marketing plan and submit a proposed budget
  • Social Media (Facebook, Instagram) – revamp and increase our presence and frequency of posting. Develop a content calendar for weekly posting.
  • Google – increased number of Google reviews and possibly work on SEO
  • Website – revamp and improve appearance, ease of use, content, etc.
  • Branding – help communicate our mission, vision, and core values to the greater Tuscaloosa are
  • Market toward a targeted group of new patients in the greater Tuscaloosa area using SEO and key words
  • Track ROI (return on investment) with our branding/marketing efforts

Skills Needed: Organizational skills, Communication skills, Punctual, Thorough understanding of social media platforms, Website development, Creative marketing and branding ideas

Contact Information: Website:

William Vandervoort, DMD
Vandervoort Family Dentistry, P.C.
217 McFarland Circle North
Tuscaloosa, AL 35406
Office: (205) 345-7755
Cell: (256) 283-6090

2021 Holle Award Winners Announced

  • 2021 Holle Award for Excellence in Screenwriting winner, Megan Friend
  • 2021 Holle Award for Excellence in Media Writing winner, Leah Goggins

The College of Communication and Information Sciences has announced the winners of the 2020-21 Holle Awards for Excellence in Creativity and Communication.

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

  • The Holle Award for Excellence in Book Arts was awarded to University of Alabama student Cheri Marks for her piece, “A Case of Equilibrium,” which explores the relationship between cyclical systems that occur, whether by deliberate choices or natural forces, to sustain balance.
  • The Holle Award for Excellence in Filmmaking was awarded August of The New School for his work, “Father.” The film was lauded by judges for its remarkable vulnerability and innovative, layered storytelling.
  • The Holle Award for Excellence in Media Writing was awarded to The University of Alabama’s Leah Goggins for her pieces titled, “Alabama Healthcare Fails Transgender Students,” “Tuscaloosa Locals Profile the Strip in New Documentary” and “INT. BIRMINGHAM – Film Industry.”
  • The Holle Award for Excellence in Public Speaking was awarded to The University of Alabama’s Andrea Lawley, for her persuasive speech describing the science and evolutionary history behind human thinking, and why positive thinking is a better option than negativity.
  • The Holle Award for Excellence in Screenwriting was awarded to University of Alabama student, Megan Friend for her work “Merry Chasers.”  Judges praised Friend’s personality for bringing the story to life on every page in a brilliantly woven narrative.

“The 2021 Holle Award winners are bold and exceptional communicators from around the country,” said Dr. Mark Nelson, dean of the College of Communication and Information Sciences. “Their excellence as storytellers and creatives honors the legacy of Brigadier General Everett Holle and well represents the prestige of the awards that bear his name.”

In 2021, the Holle Family Foundation approved two new awards and funded their annual $10,000 prizes in perpetuity. Beginning in the 2021-22 academic year, the Holle Awards will include the Holle Award for Excellence in Forensic Competition and the Holle Award for Excellence in Sports Media.

The Holle Awards are named for Brigadier General Everett Hughes Holle, a 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. For more information about the Holle Awards, visit