Category: CIS News

A Career Behind the Camera: James Kerry

C&IS alumnus James Kerry working on the set of the TV show “The Office”

For James Kerry (Telecommunication and Film ’02), working in the production industry was something he had dreamed of from an early age. Inspired by classic movies such as Star Wars and The Terminator, he knew that production work was exactly what he wanted to do but was not certain how he would make his way to working on the big screen.

As a young boy from Alabama, Kerry was convinced that his dream job wasn’t attainable and, after contemplating alternative enjoyable career paths, he decided to pursue a degree in graphic design. Not long after he began working on his degree, his mother passed away unexpectedly. This marked a turning point for Kerry, and he decided to turn tragedy into a life-altering transition.

“I decided that life is too short,” Kerry said. “I knew I had to be a director or producer in film and television.” With this renewed mindset and outlook on life, he set out to do just that.

He left his graphic design degree program and immediately enrolled in the College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) to earn a degree in telecommunication and film. It was during his senior year in C&IS that he was introduced to well-known producer Tom Cherones.

Cherones invited Kerry and four other students to Los Angeles prior to graduation and introduced them to various producers, helping them form some initial connections in the industry.

“[Tom Cherones] introduced us to two producers. He introduced us to Tim Kaiser, who was one of the producers of ‘Will and Grace’ and ‘Good Morning Miami’ at the time. He also connected me to Kent Zbornak, who was one of the producers of ‘Golden Girls,’” he said.

Although he didn’t realize it at the time, that trip would launch his future career. Less than six months after graduating, Kerry moved to Los Angeles and was reconnected with Zbornak. He was offered a job as a production assistant and the production career he had always dreamed of began to take off.

Kerry first started his career working alongside Zbornak on the set of the hit television show “The Office.” He spent seven years on set for the show and worked his way up to serving as co-producer, and eventually producer, for later seasons of the sitcom. In addition, he also worked on the set of numerous other shows including “Anger Management,” “Casual,” and various pilots.

Along with his work on notable television programs, Kerry has also had the opportunity to be a part of various film projects. His work on movies such as “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “About a Boy” allowed him to expand his production goals even further.

While he notes that life on set is exciting, he readily admits that it is not for everyone. In order to be successful, you must have two things – “a strong work ethic and an agreeable attitude,” he said. With these two skills, Kerry believes you can achieve just about anything in the production world.

His work ethic, optimistic attitude and extensive production knowledge have provided him with a successful career in the industry for almost 20 years now. But to Kerry, there is still so much more to accomplish. He currently works as a production executive at Showtime and oversees the production work for a number of the network’s shows.

Working hours on set can be long, and the job isn’t always easy, but he believes that the benefits far outweigh any downsides to the job and that’s what keeps him going. The opportunity to build relationships and watch both actors and shows evolve bring Kerry some of his most memorable moments.

“I love it. To see the actors get the roles and develop over the seasons as individuals is so fascinating to me. It really makes it worthwhile when you get to witness that growth and be a part of those moments,” Kerry said.

In addition to watching the actors grow and evolve in their roles, Kerry says he is equally as moved by watching how shows he helps produce make a difference in the lives of viewers.

“I still get choked up talking about it sometimes,” he said. “I really enjoy being a part of something that brings so much happiness to people. It gives people a break and this sense of happiness and lets them forget what is going on in their life and escape.”

Sometimes it’s still hard for Kerry to believe that all of these experiences and memorable moments came to be because of one leap of faith.

After taking a chance and living out his dream, Kerry encourages other to do the same. Whether it’s moving across the country or pursuing a career in production or any other industry, you just have to remember that “life is too short,” and you have to go for it. Evolving from a young boy watching the classics in front of the screen to a successful production executive behind the screen was something he believed at times would always be a dream – but now it’s his reality.

C&IS Co-Hosts Intercultural Communication Conference

Dr. Margaret D’Silva, C&IS professor and chair of the Department of Communication Studies 

The College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) recently co-hosted the International Conference of the International Association for Intercultural Communication Studies (IAICS). The virtual conference took place on March 11 and 12 in Manipal, India and was jointly organized with the Manipal Academy of Higher Education.

Dr. Margaret D’Silva, C&IS professor and chair of the Department of Communication Studies, is the 2019-2021 president of IAICS and a member of the organizing committee for this year’s conference. She has participated in IAICS conferences since 1999 and has co-organized three previous conferences in 2008, 2009 and 2011.

The theme of the conference this year was “Multiculturalism and Diversity in Contemporary Times.” Dr. D’Silva values C&IS’ participation in the conference and believes it is beneficial in showcasing The University of Alabama’s commitment to multicultural communication.

“Organizing such conferences makes our University and its appreciation for culture and communication visible to an international audience,” Dr. D’Silva said.

The conference included a presidential address from Dr. D’Silva and a welcome from C&IS Dean Dr. Mark Nelson, along with various communication scholars around the world.

“We are pleased that our colleague Dr. Margaret D’Silva is serving as a co-organizer of this year’s conference,” Nelson said during his opening address. “We wish [participants] the very best as they join together with colleagues from around the world to discuss common research interests that will advance our understanding of the field of intercultural communication.”

The IAICS conference features participants from 32 countries who are dedicated to doing research focused on communication across cultures. The scholars meet annually at different locations around the world to discuss common research interests.

Learn more about the virtual IAICS conference and view the program for this year’s event here.



APR Senior Named Outstanding Student by PRWeek

C&IS Senior and Public Relations Major, Kathleen McManus

Kathleen McManus, a senior majoring in public relations, has been named the 2021 Outstanding Student by PRWeek. The honor recognizes an undergraduate student for their outstanding display of a variety of public relations skills.

McManus is the third student from the College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) to be awarded this honor over the past four years.

“I’m very honored to have been selected for the award,” McManus said. “It is an incredible way to round out my time here at the Capstone, and a true reflection of the exceptional education and experiences that the college and university provide its students.”

This year’s competition required students to create a comprehensive campaign to launch a new sneaker during Fashion Week. McManus’ campaign, entitled #EveryShoeEveryStyle, centered around launching a recyclable sneaker via a virtual Fashion Show. The campaign featured a variety of tactics including the use of influencers and strategic partnerships with retail brands.

“Because fashion week looks different in the virtual environment and consumer shopping habits have changed in the past year, I dedicated a significant amount of time to research,” said McManus. “This sparked ideas for how a brand could utilize the digital space to its advantage and what kind of shoe consumers would be seeking to purchase in this season. A key part of my campaign was identifying the insights in my research and using that to guide the strategies and tactics that would connect consumers.”

McManus credits much of her success to the guidance she received from faculty within the Department of Advertising and Public Relations (APR) as she prepared her campaign.

“I was fortunate to have the support of many mentors and faculty members when putting together the campaign,” McManus said. “From brainstorming initial ideas to final read-throughs, it was a true testament to the supportive mentorship fostered in the College.”

Additionally, the APR program was named a top-five finalist for Outstanding Education Program during the PRWeek Awards—the tenth time the program has been awarded this honor. The four other finalists for this year’s award included DePaul University, Morgan State University, NYU School of Professional Studies and the University of Florida.

The judging criteria for Outstanding Education Program submissions consider each program’s faculty contributions to PR in teaching, research and service to the industry, and the program’s initiatives in connecting current and former students to the PR industry in three areas: job and internship placements, speakers and events, and consulting and experiential learning.

“The APR program’s tenure as a top-five program is representative of the dedication and hard work displayed by all members of the department,” said Dr. Mark Nelson, dean of C&IS. “Our faculty and staff work diligently to develop an enriching curriculum and educational opportunities for our students and those efforts continue to set our academic program apart.”

Entries for the PRWeek Awards are reviewed and decided upon by a panel of judges comprised of PR professionals and PR educators from agency, corporate, government and nonprofit sectors.

Learn more about the annual PRWeek Awards here.

‘Revise and Resubmit’ Podcast Talks C&IS Research

Dr. Anneliese Bolland (left) and Dr. Kim Bissell record an episode of Revise and Resubmit

It used to be that faculty members in the College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) could routinely walk to their departmental mailboxes and find a printed bulletin, titled the “ICIR Scholar Spotlight,” a regular publication put out by the Institute for Communication and Information Research (ICIR). The publication featured a different C&IS faculty member discussing their research each month.

In Fall 2020, Drs. Kim Bissell and Anneliese Bolland brought the Scholar Spotlight into the 21st century by releasing their podcast, Revise and Resubmit. Each episode is a conversation with a C&IS faculty researcher about their research interests, ongoing projects and how their field of study relates to everyday people.

“At the end of the day, we want to know about their research and make it accessible for everyone. Even if we’re talking about something really technical, we break it down so that anyone can understand it,” said Bissell. “The coolest thing about the research in our College is all of the practical implications. Of course, we contribute to the research culture methodologically and theoretically, but what we’re focusing on is how we contribute to the betterment of society, even if it’s in a small niche area.”

Not only is the podcast informative, it’s entertaining; there really is something for everyone to enjoy. Episode titles include “George Bush Did Not Kill Harambe, The Internet is Just Weird and Other Conversations about Social Media” and “When Dolly Parton Steps in During Times of Crisis and Other Conversations about Crisis Communication.”

One additional hope for Bissell is that listeners across campus and beyond would hear the exciting research that C&IS faculty are a part of and see the numerous and varied opportunities for creativity and collaboration.

“Researchers across campus who tune in and listen will hear how interdisciplinary our work is,” said Bissell. “There is obvious potential for partnerships campus wide where our research can connect to every single academic unit on campus. We’ve identified and developed a lot of those opportunities, but not all of them. I think there’s more we can do.”

Season 1 launched in Fall 2020 and includes 13 episodes. Now well into the second season Revise and Resubmit can be found on Apple podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. During the season, new episodes release every Monday at 11 a.m.

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

C&IS Common Read: Soul Food by Adrian Miller

C&IS is hosting a common read of the book Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time by Adrian Miller. The common read will kick off the week of March 15 and conclude on April 12.

Miller describes his book as a love letter to African American cooks, and his hope is that after reading his book, anyone will be able to prepare a soul food meal and understand its cultural context. In each chapter, he seeks to answer the following questions: What is the food item? How did it get on the soul food plate? What does the food item mean for African American Culture?

C&IS plans to read Soul Food during March and April before joining Miller for a Zoom call on April 12. Ideally, group read participants will join the call from their dining room tables, where they will be eating a meal they prepared themselves from the book.

The common read project is part of C&IS diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. The idea was proposed by C&IS instructor, Jay Waters (Advertising and Public Relations) to present a topic and a book that would provide the maximum opportunity for engagement, conversation and reflection.

“Food and foodways is an underappreciated pathway to understanding history, culture and conflict,” said Waters. “It can be an eye-opening experience to hear that the foods you eat – something you don’t think much about – tells a story that illuminates literally centuries of human experience, while challenging your own view of the world.”

This project is funded by the College of Communication and Information Sciences to enhance its strategic priority to provide a learning environment that promotes diversity, equity, leadership and service.

If you are interested in reading along with C&IS, you can learn more by clicking here. If you are part of the C&IS family and would like to request a free copy of the book, click here.

About Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time:

In this insightful and eclectic history, Adrian Miller delves into the influences, ingredients, and innovations that make up the soul food tradition. Focusing each chapter on the culinary and social history of one dish–such as fried chicken, chitlins, yams, greens, and “red drinks”–Miller uncovers how it got on the soul food plate and what it means for African American culture and identity.

About the Author:

Adrian Miller is a writer, attorney, and certified barbecue judge who lives in Denver, CO. He served as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton, a senior policy analyst for Colorado Governor Bill Ritter Jr., and a Southern Foodways Alliance board member.

In the University of Alabama’s College of Communication and Information Sciences, diversity is celebrated, appreciated and embraced. As outlined in the College’s Diversity Plan, C&IS encourages the exploration and appreciation of diversity in everything from College-wide communication to the classes in our curriculum and student organizations designed to build leadership skills in the area of diversity. To learn more about diversity, equity and inclusion at C&IS visit

APR Graduate Student Named Finalist for PRNEWS’ CSR and Diversity Awards

C&IS APR Graduate Student, Taylor Garner

Taylor Garner, an advertising and public relations (APR) graduate student, was recently named a finalist for Graduate Student of the Year in the PRNEWS Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Diversity Awards competition. This award honors a graduate student who has demonstrated outstanding academic performance and interest in the fields of communication and PR.

Garner was nominated for the award by ESPN after serving as a communication intern for the company during Summer and Fall 2020.

“It honestly feels unreal. From the moment ESPN PR told me that they wanted to nominate me for this award up until being announced as a finalist, I haven’t stopped smiling,” Garner said. “I am so grateful to ESPN PR and PRNEWS for this honor and to be among all of the other amazing finalists that are striving to make change in this industry as I am.”

In addition to her internship with ESPN, Garner has gained industry experience through several internships during her time in C&IS. She formerly served as a communication intern for the Capstone College of Nursing and currently works as a student assistant with The University of Alabama Athletics Communications office and as a Sports Brand Solutions Intern at The Walt Disney Company.

After graduation, Garner hopes to become a publicist and would like to continue working in the sports industry. She credits C&IS for preparing her through providing various experiential learning opportunities.

“C&IS has so many opportunities for you to get involved and gain a lot of industry experience. Our professors genuinely care about your success and help in any way that they can to prepare you. From the organizations that I have been part of to the lessons we have learned in class, I feel more ready than I ever have to enter this industry successfully,” Garner said.

View the full list of CSR and Diversity Award finalists here.

PRNEWS will host a virtual awards ceremony on April 27 to honor the finalists in both the CSR & Nonprofit Awards and Inaugural Diversity Awards categories. These finalists represent the communicators who use their platforms for the betterment of their local communities and the global community at large.

C&IS’ Martha Glen Sease Speaks Out on Women’s Sports at Tide Talks

C&IS Junior and News Media Major, Martha Glen Sease

We’re watching women’s sports wrong. This was the main point of C&IS junior news media major Martha Glen Sease in the latest installment of Tide Talks, a presentation series in which students at The University of Alabama share their experiences, trials and successes during their time at school.

According to Sease, women’s sports don’t get a fair shake because there are assumptions made by sports fans about what sports are supposed to be. The presence of the male hormone testosterone means that men’s sports involve athletes that, as a general rule, are faster and stronger than their female counterparts. It’s the assumption that “faster and stronger means better” that frames the whole conversation surrounding men’s sports versus women’s sports.

“People assume that women’s sports are boring because they have more estrogen,” said Sease. “Now, what fails to be taken into account is that the presence of extra estrogen means that there are other advantages women have such as increased flexibility and endurance.”

Sease says that we don’t enjoy women’s sports as we could because we’re watching it through a lens that is biased toward speed and strength. Furthermore, when discussing women’s sports, the conversation often centers around the athlete’s personal life or sense of fashion. When athletic ability is praised, it typically fits back into those two categories—speed and strength.

Citing research conducted by C&IS professor Andy Billings (Journalism and Creative Media), Sease notes that the conversation in the sports booth is part of the issue. Commentators for men’s sports use more direct language when announcing the game and women’s sports commentators use more indirect language, which reinforces the “faster and stronger is better” viewpoint.

“Think about this, if you turn on ESPN and it’s a sport you’re unfamiliar with, who do you rely on? The commentator,” said Sease. “If you’re a casual fan of women’s sports and you turn on the TV and the commentators aren’t talking about the technicality, the grace, the physicality in a different way than they do men’s sports… you have no shot at fully enjoying these games.”

So, how do we fix the problem? Sease suggests three ways that sports fan can learn to better appreciate women’s sports. Have conversations about women’s sports, watch women’s sports through the different lens she describes—appreciating grace, technicality and endurance—and follow people who report on women’s sports.

A good place to start might be following Martha Glen Sease on Twitter (@mgsease) and listening to her host the “Student Section” on Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. for WVUA 90.7FM.

You can view Sease’s Tide Talk here.

Founded by UA students in 2013, Tide Talks is a student organization at The University of Alabama that showcases student triumphs and experiences through engaging speaker series. It’s real talk, real life, and real students. To learn more about Tide Talks, visit their website at or visit their YouTube page here.

C&IS Students Win Multiple Honors at American Advertising Awards

C&IS students were recognized for their hard work and creativity during the 2021 American Advertising Awards celebration last week, taking home a total of 17 awards from the competition.

The annual American Advertising Awards ceremony took place virtually on the evening of Friday, February 26 and celebrated the outstanding work of students, agencies, corporations, nonprofits, universities and freelancers from Tuscaloosa and surrounding cities.

Fourteen undergraduate students from Minerva, C&IS’ creative advertising portfolio program, received awards at the event. Out of the 18 awards offered at the student level, students from the program took home two gold, 8 silver, all four of the Judge’s Choice awards and the Best of Show award.

APR graduate student Allison Reid won a silver ADDY in the competition for her Buffalo Bison Rebranding Campaign collateral material pictured above.

“Winning an American Advertising Award is a very public acknowledgment of a student’s dedication and hard work,” said Mark Barry, director of Minerva. “The competition is strong and the work has got to be good to win something at this level.”

In addition, two C&IS graduate students were also awarded with silver and gold ADDYs during the ceremony.

The gold and silver awards recognize entries that demonstrate creative excellence. Best of Show is awarded to the student whose submission is determined to be the best overall in the student category of the competition. This year’s submissions were judged by professionals from Chicago, Montana, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Students who won at the local level will now be entered into the district American Advertising Awards competition.

For a list of winners and categories, click here.

The American Advertising Awards, formerly the ADDYs, is the advertising industry’s largest and most representative competition, attracting nearly 35,000 entries each year in local American Advertising Federation Club (Ad Club) competitions.

For more information on Minerva, visit their website.



C&IS Student Receives Premier Award

C&IS News Media Major, Tionna Taite

News media major Tionna Taite is one of nine recipients of The University of Alabama’s (UA) highest honor, the Premier Awards. The awards are given to students, faculty and staff who exemplify the highest standards of scholarship, service, leadership and character. Taite received the William P. and Estan J. Bloom Award, which honors a junior who has improved intergroup relations within the University community.

In addition to her coursework in C&IS, Taite serves as the editor-in-chief of UA Honors College’s MOSAIC magazine, and she recently created the University’s first Black-student-led magazine, “Nineteen Fifty-Six,” which highlights Black culture, Black excellence and the Black student experience.

Taite’s work toward improving intergroup relations at UA stems from her desire to give a voice to students from historically marginalized groups.

“It is important for me to improve intergroup relations within the University community because I believe all students should have a way to be heard, especially minority students at a predominantly white institution,” Taite said. “I am honored to be selected as a recipient for the Premier Awards, and I am glad to have a platform that enables me to improve understanding among groups on campus.”

Upon graduation, Taite plans to pursue a law degree and become an intellectual property lawyer. She also plans to do pro bono work centering around civil rights cases and aspires to establish mentorship programs for minority girls who are pursuing a higher education.

View the full list of the Premier Awards recipients and learn about each of their achievements here.

C&IS is committed to promoting an environment that fosters diversity and inclusion and is proud of the efforts of our students, faculty and staff. To learn more about diversity, equity and inclusion in C&IS, visit


C&IS Alumna Excels in Journalism Industry

Alumna Tina Turner (B.A. in Communication in News Media ’20) is currently working as the inaugural Jim Lehrer Fellow at PBS NewsHour. The Jim Lehrer Journalism Fellowship program was created in 2020 in honor of Jim Lehrer, co-founder and anchor of PBS NewsHour. The year-long program selects one college graduate each year who is interested in pursuing a career in journalism and provides them with hands-on experience in the areas of broadcast and online editorial and production units.

Turner credits much of her success and preparation for the role to her time at C&IS. “C&IS does an excellent job of providing valuable learning opportunities for students. There are so many news media and journalism jobs offered and I tried to take advantage of as many of them as I could,” she said.

During her time as a student, she participated in a variety of experiential learning opportunities ranging from working as a student reporter at Alabama Public Radio (APR) to working as the station manager at WVUA-FM her senior year.

Turner’s campus involvement and dedication to honing her journalism and reporting skills undoubtedly paid off as she was recently named a top ten finalist in the audio category of the Hearst Journalism Awards Program. The program awards students for outstanding work in the journalism field. Turner was recognized for two audio reports she completed during her student internship with APR.

Her advice for those looking to excel in their career is simple. “Put in the time. Put in the work,” Turner said. “You have to devote time to finding out what you want to be great at,” she said.

Click below to view Turner’s two award-winning submissions:
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