Author: Rand Nelson

Hudson Nuckolls Wins Munson Foundation Grant for Black Warrior Riverkeeper Internship

The Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation has awarded Hudson Nuckolls, a rising senior studying public relations at The University of Alabama, a scholarship grant to intern at Black Warrior Riverkeeper in Birmingham, Alabama, for the summer.

Two years ago, the Munson Foundation supplied UA’s Advertising and Public Relations department with a three-year grant awarding scholarships to Black Warrior Riverkeeper interns in 2017 and 2018.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Munson Foundation, it’s the largest scholarship that the APR department awards,” said Joseph Phelps, APR department chair.

Nuckolls, a native of Nashville, Tennessee, was chosen by the department to receive the honor in 2019.  He also serves as firm director for Capstone Agency,the nation’s top student-run communications firm.

“I’m thankful for this unique opportunity to use the communication skills I’ve learned at UA to help Black Warrior Riverkeeper protect residents and wildlife all over the Black Warrior River’s 17-county watershed. As an out of state student, it’s important to me that I give back to a community that has made me feel at home during my time at UA,” Nuckolls said.

As a member of Waterkeeper Alliance, Black Warrior Riverkeeper patrols waterways, responds to citizen complaints, enforces environmental laws, and educates the public. The organization also engages partner groups and individuals in its efforts. Last year, 485 volunteers donated 4,710 hours of community service through Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s projects. The majority of those volunteers were students from The University of Alabama.

“We strive to make the Munson internship an exciting, valuable and well-rounded experience for the intern each summer,” said Charles Scribner, executive director of Black Warrior Riverkeeper. “At the same time, we benefit tremendously from new communications tactics we learn from the nationally-ranked UA PR program’s top students.”

Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore the Black Warrior River and its tributaries. The citizen-based nonprofit organization promotes clean water for the sake of public health, recreation and wildlife habitat throughout the Black Warrior River watershed.

Rece Davis Honored for Commitment to Student-Athletes, Sports Information

Rece Davis serves as emcee of the Google Cloud Academic All-America Hall of Fame dinner in Orlando. Photo by Jeff Hodges.

University of Alabama Communications & Information Sciences Hall of Famer Rece Davis, host of ESPN College GameDay Built by Home Depot, was recently honored with two awards at the 2019 College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Convention in Orlando, Florida.

Davis was surprised with the Lester Jordan Award during this year’s Google Cloud Academic All-America Hall of Fame Dinner. The annual award is presented to those who show exemplary service to the Academic All-America Award program, an awards program which highlights the top student-athletes in the nation for both the academic and athletic performances from the junior college to NCAA Division I levels.

“I was honored and surprised when I was presented with the Lester Jordan Award. I had no idea that was in the works,” Davis said. “It’s always nice to have your work be honored. It is an esteemed list of people who have previously won the award. It’s a compliment to be included in that type of company. It was more special to me to have the award presented by my friend, Bernie Cafarelli. We have a great relationship. She’s a true professional who has been great to me over the years. It was cool to have her be the one to do the presentation and the interview, but I’ll get her back for that surprise. She and Jim Seavey totally duped me.”

Beginning his career as a student-broadcaster in the late 1980s at the University of Alabama, Davis says he’s been “keenly aware of the tremendous partnership between those of us in the media and SID staffs.” He has been involved in CoSIDA since 2011 as emcee of the Academic All-America Hall of Fame banquet. What began as a corporate sponsorship agreement with ESPN continued on at the urging of the late Dick Enberg, who previously served as emcee for the banquet.

Rece Davis (left) is presented the Lester Jordan Award from Bernie Cafarelli, associate sports information director at Notre Dame. Photo by Jeff Hodges.

“Sometimes the goals are in conflict, but I have a high regard for the SIDs that I work with regularly and we know if there’s a difference in goal or opinion it will be resolved professionally. Other than coaches and staff, no one spends more time with players or gets to know them better than the SID. Few spend more time with the coaches than the SID. They can help us discover the stories that need to be told and the ones that we want to be part of College Gameday. I’m happy to be a part of a program that’s so important to the bigger scope of college athletics,” Davis said.

In addition to the Lester Jordan Award, Davis was honored among his College GameDay colleagues with the 2019 Keith Jackson Eternal Flame Award

“Anytime you get an award bearing Keith Jackson’s name it’s gratifying. Keith was synonymous with college football. He was a part of the fabric of the sport. He was the one who connected fans with the game during his era. We strive to show that same pure, authentic love for the sport on College Gameday and have that same relationship with the fans. We were honored to receive the award,” said Davis, who was joined by Lee Corso and producers for the ceremony.

This is not the first time CoSIDA has honored its longtime friend. Davis was also presented the 2017 Jake Wade Award, presented to “an individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the media to the field of intercollegiate athletics.”

Davis, a 1988 graduate of the University of Alabama and native of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, joined ESPN in 1995 and served as the primary studio host for ESPN and ESPN2’s coverage of college football and college basketball. He was named host of College GameDay in 2017. Davis was named the University of Alabama School of Communication Broadcast Department’s outstanding alumnus for 2001. He was inducted into the university’s Communication & Information Sciences Hall of Fame in 2018.

CoSIDA is comprised of more than 3,000 intercollegiate athletic communications and media relations professionals from colleges, universities and athletic conferences at all divisions of competition in the United States and Canada.

Written by Chris Megginson, The Scorer’s Table

Melvani Inc.

Melvani Inc is seeking a student in the marketing field who has a strong background in social media skills to promote their brand. The job components will include photography for Instagram, Facebook and their website. Retail sales experience would be desired experience for this position.

Required skills:

  • Photography
  • Social media
  • Creativity
  • Retail experience
  • Sales experience

To apply for this internship, call 205-750-2332 by May 30, 2019.

Stepping Out and Stepping Up

Industry Immersion Develops Professional Confidence in Undergraduate Students

Anxious. Nervous. Excited. This is how Emma Adcock of Nashville felt two years ago when her parents dropped
her off at the airport, bound for a Washington, D.C. Industry Immersion trip. Months before, she had been so nervous that she backed out of an interview entirely, removing herself from consideration for a similar trip to New York City. Yet somehow, she mustered up the courage for this trip and followed through. So, with her suitcase in her hand and her heart in her throat, she stepped onto the plane.

“It’s a very daunting thing,” Emma said. “I didn’t feel like I was put together enough to be on the trip. I just didn’t
feel like I was enough.”

Industry Immersion student leadership team president, Emma Adcock (left),works with Ellora Lalla (right) to build a trip itinerary.

As it has been for hundreds of C&IS students, stepping onto that plane would launch a pivotal transition for Emma to develop professional confidence and build essential, personal skills to help her excel in an industry setting. The Industry Immersion program at C&IS is a professional development opportunity for University of Alabama students to travel to leading job markets, explore various industry settings and engage with experienced alumni and industry professionals.

The program places motivated undergraduates in the middle of board rooms in the heart of some of the country’s most dynamic cities, swapping business cards with its top talent. Trips include tours of agencies and organizations, coaching in professional development and Q&A time with industry tycoons. Like Emma, not every student is ready to step right into a career in that environment—few students are. So, the Industry Immersion student leadership team prepares them by developing itineraries that introduce participants
to company cultures, city life and a variety of roles.

“Once students are accepted for a trip, we work with them to make sure that they’re ready,” said Ellora Lalla, the director of professional development on the Industry Immersion student leadership team. “We coach them on how to act in professional settings, ask strategic questions, tailor their resumes, professionalize their social media and craft their elevator pitches.”

The result? Students march into well-known, global companies such as Disney, Ketchum, Edelman, Google and Time, Inc., with poise and determination. By the trip’s end, students have a pile of business cards, traction for their career and a supercharged mission upon returning to campus. Some students have even landed jobs and internships on the spot.

“After Industry Immersion trips, every student has a story,” said Dr. Litsa Rivers, Director of Experiential Learning and Outreach at C&IS. “The stories aren’t all the same, but they all include an element of self-discovery, either defining exactly what they want their career to be or learning that they should pursue a different path. Both are equally valuable.”

Industry Immersion participants visit with C&IS alumni such as Graham Flanagan
at Business Insider and Mary Buzbee at Lewis Communications.

These trips serve to complement the educational process. Students who are actively learning about the full spectrum of communication in their courses are transported beyond the university setting to witness the environment firsthand. The textbook skills and fundamentals take on a new and deeper meaning as they see it, feel it, reflect on it and experience it with their peers.

As a C&IS Board of Visitors member and longtime advocate and host of Industry Immersion, Lindsay Garrison believes in the value of this transformative student experience. As proof of her dedication, Garrison spearheaded a Board of Visitors endowment of $100,000 to help create more opportunities for all C&IS students to participate through scholarships.

Industry Immersion trip participants network with leading professionalsat Ketchum, a top public relations firm in New York City.

“The benefits of Industry Immersion go well beyond networking. They help students truly envision their careers
in the rapidly evolving field of communication,” said Garrison, senior vice president at Edelman. “Meeting with alumni in their work environment gives students invaluable context to what they’re learning in the classroom.”

For each trip, the eight members of the Industry Immersion student leadership team craft a unique experience for the participants, including a thorough orientation to the city and a detailed outline of the companies they visit. The participants who engage in the meetings, strive to make connections and follow up with them after the program tend to see opportunities open up in their search for internships and jobs. At the very least, their confidence and competence equip them to pursue those opportunities on their own.

Two years after that first plane ride, Emma now serves as the current president of the Industry Immersion student leadership team. She admits she still gets butterflies in her stomach as she steps into those high-profile meetings with industry superstars. But overall, her experience with Industry Immersion has been transformative.

“I’ve gained so much from being involved in Industry Immersion,” Emma said. “I have a newfound confidence going into meetings, my resume and elevator pitch are stronger, and I feel very capable asking critical questions
and interacting with professionals.”

It’s easy to see Industry Immersion participants walking the halls at some of the nation’s most impressive companies and imagine what’s next. Years from now, students like Emma Adcock will welcome a new generation of University of Alabama up-and-comers into their board rooms and be a part of the process that introduces these students to the kind of careers their future holds.

Brantley and Grace to Host NPR Investigative Podcast ‘White Lies’

Chip Brantley (left) and Andrew Beck Grace (right) host White Lies, an investigative podcast out May 14, that exposes the lies that kept James Reeb’s murder from being solved for 50 years. Photo credit: Fernando Decillis/NPR

Seven-part serialized investigative podcast, hosted by native Alabamians Chip Brantley and Andrew Beck Grace, available May 14.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019; Washington D.C. — In 1965, Reverend James Reeb — a Unitarian minister and civil-rights activist — was killed during the voting rights movement in Selma. After three men were tried and acquitted for his murder, the city’s white community buried the truth. More than 50 years later, two native Alabamians return to Selma to uncover the truth about who killed James Reeb, and to delve into the systems of oppression and violence that allowed it to happen.

In White Lies, a narrative podcast available May 14, co-hosts Andrew Beck Grace and Chip Brantley expose the lies that kept the murder from being solved and uncover a story about guilt, memory, and justice that says as much about America today as it does about the past. In a place where a legacy of impunity and silence conspires against them, Brantley and Grace scour Selma for living witnesses, guided by an unredacted copy of an old FBI file. They meet people who know the truth about the murder but have lied for decades — until now.

“Working with the NPR investigative team, Chip and Andy’s reporting answers questions about James Reeb’s death that have lingered for over half a century,” said Anya Grundmann, SVP of Programming and Audience Development. “This is a deeply told story about a piece of our history that contains hard and unexpected truths that still reverberate today.”

Hear a trailer now on Apple Podcasts, NPR One, Pocket Casts, or wherever podcasts are available. New episodes of White Lies will publish each Tuesday for the next seven weeks.

Photo credit: Fernando Decillis/NPR

“The story of Jim Reeb’s murder occupies a strange place in our country’s history,” said Andrew Beck Grace. “As we reported this story and discovered the lies that had been crafted to hide the truth about his murder, we saw a chance to correct this narrative. And as white southerners, we felt we had a responsibility to do that.”

“We set out to make a dynamic and responsible piece of crime reporting, and it’s been a dream to have the support of NPR’s investigative team,” said Chip Brantley.

Chip Brantley is the author of The Perfect Fruit (Bloomsbury), and his work has appeared in Slate, the Oxford American, and The New York Times, among others. A senior lecturer in journalism at the University of Alabama, Brantley is a former director of TV development for Dogstar Films and the creative producer of Whitman, Alabama, an experimental documentary that was a 2018 Emmy finalist in the New Approaches in Documentary category. Brantley lives in Birmingham.

Andrew Beck Grace is nonfiction filmmaker whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, and PBS’s Independent Lens. His award-winning film Eating Alabama premiered at SXSW, aired nationally on PBS, and was awarded Best Documentary by the James Beard Foundation. Grace’s interactive documentary, After the Storm, was a co-production of PBS’s Independent Lens and The Washington Post. It has been exhibited internationally and was nominated for an Emmy in New Approaches to Documentary. Grace teaches nonfiction filmmaking and journalism at the University of Alabama.

NPR podcasts receive 31.8 million weekly downloads across all shows (Source: Splunk, NPR Podcast Logs). According to the Podtrac industry ranker, NPR is the leading publisher of podcasts.

Chip Brantley and Andrew Beck Grace are faculty members in the Department of Journalism and Creative Media, housed in the College of Communication and Information Sciences at The University of Alabama. To learn more about C&IS, visit

The Hardest Working Person in the Room

In 2019, PRWeek named Alana Doyle the Public Relations Student of the Year. But what you may not know is that four years earlier Doyle didn’t even know what public relations was.

Doyle came to The University of Alabama from Scottsdale, Arizona in search of something new, something different. As someone who loved public speaking, she knew she wanted to do something in the field of communication; she just didn’t know what that was. As chance would have it, her work study placed her in the advertising and public relations department’s main office. She did not know it then, but that twist of fate would change her life forever.

“As a freshman undesignated communication student, I felt like I was learning many wide-range communication skills, but none of them honed me in on a specific role,” said Doyle. “After deciding on PR, I fell in love with the program, the faculty and the unique competitive/supportive student culture where everyone is genuinely excited about one another’s success.”

According to Doyle, everyone in the advertising and public relations office soon became her family. She bounced ideas for school projects off of the staff members in the office, Lisa Myrick and Darlene Smith. She asked department chair, Joseph Phelps, to proof emails and look over her work. In fact, Dr. Phelps would be the second person she notified that she had been selected as a finalist for the honor from PRWeek.

“When I found out I had been selected as a top-five finalist for the PRWeek student of the year, I called my dad and then I called Dr. Phelps,” said Doyle. “Of course, then I called my mom and everyone else, but as someone who really watched me and helped me grow, I had to let him know right away.”

When she was building her PRWeek campaign submission, Doyle wanted as much insight as she could get. She turned to her PR family to help her prepare. Like all good families do, they supported her. She asked Tracy Sims to proof her campaign for potential AP Style errors, shared her creative concepts with Susan Daria and asked former PRWeek student of the year, Maret Montanari, to look it over, as well. Then, having been selected as a finalist for such a prestigious, national award, one thing remained: the final pitch.

“Mark Barry helped me prepare for the final two-minute pitch,” said Doyle. “He gave me several tips, but then he told me this, ‘The person who prepares the most is going to be the one who wins.’ So, I said okay. I’m going to be that person. I may not be the smartest or most involved person in the room, but I can definitely be the hardest working.”

In the five days before her final pitch, Doyle wrote down as many questions as she could think of and asked her friends to grill her with brutal criticism and harsh questioning, all in preparation to respond to whatever feedback she received. She pored over her presentation, again and again, until it was perfect.

And all of her hard work paid off. Not only was she honored as the nation’s top PR student, she’s also already secured a job. After graduation, Doyle will move to New York as a Media Coordinator for Ketchum’s global media network. The young woman who years before asked her colleagues to explain what public relations was, will be working for one of its biggest names in one of the country’s largest cities. As she takes on the next challenge, she leaves her University of Alabama PR family behind, but she will take all of what she’s learned from them to New York, along with all of their support.

The College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) at The University of Alabama develops global leaders who do the extraordinary across the full communication and information spectrum. To learn more about C&IS, visit

Jenai Richards: Writ in Crimson Flame

When Jenai Richards was 10 months old, her mother noticed that she was behind on some developmental milestones typical for babies her age, and the trend continued for years. At three years old, Richards was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.¹ The specialist informed her mother that Richards would never have a normal primary or secondary education, that she would struggle socially and would forever be dependent.

Defying the odds, Jenai Richards will walk across the stage in Coleman Coliseum next Saturday a proud graduate of the College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) at The University of Alabama.

But her path to graduation was not easy. Without the care and devotion of her mother and father constantly motivating her, refusing to allow her to settle, Richards story might have ended as predicted.

“My mother saw something in me, and nobody was ever going to tell her that her child wasn’t going to amount to anything—she wasn’t going for that,” said Richards. “She was like, ‘Alright, bet.’”

Richards worked relentlessly and overcame tremendous obstacles. As a child, she underwent years of speech occupational therapy four times a week with an in-home therapist. There she learned how to do every-day physical tasks such as holding a pencil and more complicated, expressive things like articulating her personal wants and needs.

In contrast to the traits which generally accompany autism, Richards has no issue talking with others and being social. Instead, her struggles are focusing, articulating her emotions, using her hands and adjusting to new routines. Astonishingly, her degree is in communication studies, a program which teaches students to think critically, express and advocate ideas effectively, and to understand and appreciate the diversity of human communication practices. In many ways, her college experience is everything that could have spelled disaster.

But she didn’t just make it through college; she thrived. Richards took an active role with the University’s division of student life. She served as a peer leader for First Year Experience, a member of the CAMP 1831 A-Team and volunteered her time and energy with both UA Dance Marathon and the Center for Service and Leadership when she wasn’t in class.

Richards also worked for three years in the Ferguson Center as an administrative office assistant, where she had to focus, use social skills and operate with a comprehensive knowledge of the University. According to Richards’ mother, for someone on the autism spectrum to learn the layout of the University well enough to direct others in an articulate manner and represent the University in a professional way, is an exceptional feat in and of itself.

After graduation, Richards will relocate to Nashville, where she has already secured employment with Dell as an account manager. She will begin with the June 2019 Sales Academy Class, a thirteen-week training program, and will have access to a mentor to guide in her professional development. This is proof that all her motivation and hard work has paid off.

“Every year of my college experience [my mom] had such high expectations for me, because she didn’t want me to be overcome by self-doubt,” said Richards. “There were low points for me, but ultimately she instilled a flame in me and she’s never let me blow it out.”

When she walks at graduation next Saturday, Richards defiantly accomplishes so much of what many people told her, her father and her mother she never could.

“Everything that was in my way as a challenge, I either found an alternate route or I hurdled it,” said Richards. “You’re told that there’s this list of things you need to be successful, and I didn’t have any of the things typically on that list, and yet here we are.”

The flame is burning brighter than ever.

The College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) at The University of Alabama develops global leaders who do the extraordinary across the full communication and information spectrum. To learn more about C&IS, visit

¹According to, Asperger syndrome is a diagnosis on the autism spectrum which generally involves difficulty with social interactions, restricted interests, desire for sameness and distinctive strengths. It is distinguished from other forms of autism by the presence of typical to strong verbal language skills and intellectual ability. In 2013, Asperger syndrome became part of the umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5).

Ribbon Cutting SEC

C&IS Approves SEC Proposal for Microwave

SEC vice president, Alyssa McGee, cuts the ribbon for the microwave in the Hub.

When C&IS student, Alyssa McGee heard a request for a microwave from a fellow student, she didn’t wait around; she acted. As vice president of the C&IS Student Executive Council (SEC), she knew her student organization was in the perfect position to help.

“After I heard these requests being voiced by students in the College, I drafted a proposal to present before the council,” said Alyssa McGee, Vice President of SEC. “Through this process, we received valuable feedback and suggestions from other members. It really was a team effort”

McGee then presented the proposal to Dr. Sara Hartley, assistant dean of undergraduate studies and external relations at C&IS. Hartley took the request before the Dean, who approved the SEC’s purchase of a microwave oven to be housed in the Hub (Reese Phifer 103).

In addition to the benefit for students who wish to save money by bringing food from home, the accommodation also answers a more specific need.

“Many students dietary restrictions limit their options on campus,” said McGee. “One student told me her allergies kept her from eating in the dining halls, from the food trucks and from the restaurants at the Ferguson Center. Now she can warm and eat food from home.”

The microwave proposal is the first-ever proposal from the SEC, but according to McGee it won’t be the last.

The Student Executive Council is a student leadership organization in the College of Communication and Information Sciences that promotes collaboration across C&IS student organizations, current students, faculty, staff and administration. They accomplish this mission by developing and maintaining strong relationships with the C&IS departments to assist in identifying and implementing opportunities within the College, building strong relationships with faculty and staff and making sure they know how to direct student related issues to the SEC, raising internal funds to support the C&IS Student Organization Fund by creating and maintaining college fundraisers, and overseeing student organization funding requests.

Jason Senkbeil (left) and Darrin Griffin work with Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind Interpreter Gary Crook to prototype test their American Sign Language interpreting system.

When Messages Matter Most

Jason Senkbeil (left) and Darrin Griffin work with Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind Interpreter Gary Crook to prototype test their American Sign Language interpreting system.


Three C&IS researchers receive grants to discover new ways to communicate weather alerts

Severe weather emergencies affect millions  of people around the world every single year. In the past decade, storms like Irma, Sandy, Harvey, Florence and Michael have left lasting impacts from the damage they caused in local communities. Tuscaloosa, Alabama is no stranger to severe weather, still bearing scars from its tornado super outbreak in April 2011. Whatever the issue—flash flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes or hailstorms—communicating severe weather alerts is at the core of ensuring public safety and saving lives.


Understanding how weather alerts work and the varying levels of impact they have on different populations provides a challenge for meteorologists and municipalities alike. What is the most effective medium for their given constituency? And how do they reach less-represented, vulnerable populations within their citizenry? These are the kinds of questions researchers are asking at the College of Communication and Information Sciences, and now they have secured the funding to find the answers.

Dr. Darrin Griffin of the Department of Communication Studies is one
such researcher. In collaboration with The University of Alabama’s Dr. Jason Senkbeil (College of Arts and Sciences) and Mississippi State University’s Dr. Kathy Sherman-Morris (Department of Geosciences), Griffin’s team received a grant of more than $250,000 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to conduct research on the accessibility and comprehension of tornado warnings among Deaf, Blind and Deaf-Blind populations in the southeastern United States.

“Ultimately, what makes Blind and Deaf populations
different is their ability to receive messages,” said Griffin. “At the end of the day, our study is about effective messaging—determining what messaging is working and what isn’t working, and improving that messaging.”

Griffin works with professionals in the C&IS digital media center to pull together the multiple camera feeds

Because these populations receive messages differently, communicating severe weather forecasts presents a unique challenge. Visual charts and diagrams, as well as language commonly employed during broadcasts,
do not translate effectively. Griffin’s team wants to change that, making broadcasts more effective for all people.

Drs. Cory Armstrong and Chandra Clark (Department of Journalism
and Creative Media) are tackling a similar issue. Funded by the Alabama-Mississippi Sea Grant Consortium, their research is investigating the effectiveness of different types of weather alerts and how those messages motivate citizens to action in rural and urban communities.

In both of these studies, it is the way messages are communicated
that matters most. The difference between being in harm’s way or being sheltered and secure may come down to the ability of forecasters and
media representatives to understand how people receive messages and
what makes them take action.


Determining how to communicate in ways that best inform particular
audiences can be difficult. For each of these studies, the challenges begin
with understanding how the audiences process the information and discovering how to change the message in ways that improve their comprehension.

“The first thing we want to know is how people receive severe weather notifications—are they watching television, are they talking to their friends or are they checking social media?” said Armstrong. “Then we want to try and determine what specific words and visuals motivate them to action and what steps they take to prepare for severe weather.”

Clark developed six different visual elements of weather broadcasts that were shown to cross-sections of the population in Biloxi and Pearlington, Mississippi, and Mobile and Magnolia Springs, Alabama. From there, Armstrong asked the subjects to evaluate which models would most likely motivate them to seek shelter from a severe weather event, namely tornadoes and hurricanes. Now, Armstrong is analyzing this data to develop guides for broadcasters, media personnel and meteorologists about effective ways to reach rural populations during severe weather outbreaks.

“If we can point out the key words and methods for how to announce severe weather then ultimately we can help save lives.”

Armstrong (right) and Clark (left) reviewed multiple models and selected six different weather alert methods to gauge public response and their motivation to act for each model

For Griffin, the ultimate hope is to create a system that can utilize existing technology and provide live interpreting in American Sign Language (ASL). ASL is a complex language, grammatically different from English and not directly translatable in the way that many English-speaking people assume. During severe weather broadcasts, closed captioning can be unreliable and, even when it is reliable, still fails to appear in ASL users’ primary language. Added to that struggle, weather broadcasts often include scientific language common to English speakers, but less common
to ASL users.

Griffin’s idea would help bridge this gap between English-speaking meteorologists and ASL users during severe weather events, saving lives by creating better access to urgent weather updates for Deaf populations. The idea came to Griffin after viewing a video of a hearing ASL interpreter
who used Facebook Live to relay an ASL interpretation of
an audio weather broadcast to followers.

“I thought, ‘We could actually design that. Why not have
that in place for real?’” said Griffin. “At the end of the day, it will increase [NOAA’s] tools for communicating with a vulnerable population.”

The concept features a picture-in-picture broadcast that enables the Deaf population to view the broadcast alongside an ASL interpreter. However, the benefits for this study go far beyond building and testing this system. Researchers will conduct interviews with people in the Deaf community in the Southeast and use the information to offer valuable feedback to on-air meteorologists as to what language is most effective in communicating with a variety of audiences.

According to Griffin, the concept of universal design, or making the world more accessible to all kinds of people, benefits everyone. Hotels that place the thermostat in arm’s reach of the bedside do not sacrifice design aesthetics in the process, and make a big difference for people with limited mobility. All guests end up gaining an increased usability. In the context of Griffin’s research, universal design would mean keeping the video feed that can be understood by hearing audiences while at the same time dramatically increasing the accessibility of the message
for Deaf audiences.

“Can we tighten up the bolts on the verbal message?
That’s what we’re trying to do,” said Griffin. “We want to do universal design, to look at the Deaf, Blind and Deaf-Blind communities to increase effective messaging that benefits everyone whether or not English is their second language.”


Saving lives and improving their quality are important parts of any scientific discipline. Whether the issue at hand is communicating effectively about severe weather to rural and vulnerable populations or any number of other life-changing advancements in communication, researchers at C&IS are a crucial element in the scientific process.

And the College is growing in its impact. In 2018, C&IS had 17 funded Research Grants Committee (RGC) proposals making it the top RGC-funded college at The University of Alabama. These numbers reflect the disciplines’ significant influence as well as the role communication plays as a part of the greater research culture on campus.

“If you follow the philosophy and logic of science, you can use the same paradigm in communication as you can in biology, physics and chemistry,” said Griffin. “If I’m working alongside meteorologists, computer scientists and geographers to find a way to tackle common problems and showing that my methods are just as sound as theirs, that’s a benefit to the scientific community from an interdisciplinary perspective.”

Right now, C&IS researchers have active relationships with their colleagues across campus in the College of Engineering, College of Social Work, College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Human Environmental Sciences. These relationships fuel creative, multi-disciplinary problem solving to improve lives in the community for generations to come.

The research culture is evolving at C&IS and at its core is a group of dedicated scientists who are asking big questions, tackling global issues and securing the
funding to discover solutions.

Bama Blitz 2019

In striving to develop global leaders who do the extraordinary across the full communication and information spectrum, the C&IS passion project for Bama Blitz 2019 is the inaugural C&IS Student Leadership Retreat.

Starting with the central student leadership groups in C&IS, the College will launch the first-ever C&IS Student Leadership Retreat in Fall 2019. The C&IS Student Leadership Retreat will empower students through leadership programming that encompasses communication, diversity and collaboration. At this two-day retreat, students will become part of a network of peers who will understand their individual and group impact on the C&IS community and beyond.

To support student leadership development efforts, C&IS wants to fund 50 students to be part of the C&IS Lead Retreat and future student leadership workshops open to all C&IS students. The goal for Bama Blitz is $10,000.

Bama Blitz 2019 will kick off on April 10 at Noon and conclude on April 11 at 8:31 p.m. Students, Alumni and friends of C&IS can help by making gifts at the link below and using #BamaBlitz on social media to share the differences C&IS has made in their lives and careers.

Click here to give!