Category: CIS News

Plank Center Celebrates Milestones in Mentoring at 9th Annual Gala

The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations celebrated its 9thAnnual “Milestones in Mentoring” Gala at the Union League Club of Chicago on Thursday, Oct. 25. More than 300 public relations professionals, educators and students were in attendance, including more than 20 faculty, staff, students and alumni from The University of Alabama.

Each year, the Center recognizes influential leaders whose commitment to mentoring generates a powerhouse of influence and accelerates success in the profession.

Honorees at this year’s mentorship gala included:

  • Legacy:Bob Feldman, partner and co-founder, PulsePoint Group
  • Agency: Dale Bornstein, CEO, M Booth
  • Emerging Leader: Eric Winkfield, public affairs manager, Pepco
  • Educator: Cathy Rogers, Shawn M. Donnelley Professor of Nonprofit Communications, Loyola University New Orleans School of Mass Communication
  • Corporate: Bob Jimenez, senior vice president, corporate affairs, Cox Enterprises
  • Executive: Gregg Sherrill, chairman of the board of directors, Tenneco
  • Mentorship: Tom Burrell, former founder and CEO, Burrell Communications

UA faculty, staff and students also had the opportunity to attend a mentorship panel at DePaul University prior to the gala as well as a diversity and inclusion summit Friday morning.

“The evening is not only an opportunity to honor the leading mentors in our field, but also to show off some of UA’s finest, especially our students,” said Dr. Karla Gower, director of The Plank Center and professor in UA’s Department of Advertising and Public Relations.

While some refer to it as “The Oscars of Public Relations,” others deem it “The Best Night in PR,” as the evening takes on an unmatched energy to inspire those in attendance to mentor the next generation of leaders.

More information on the Milestones in Mentoring Gala is available on The Plank Center’s website (

About the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations

In 2005, the University of Alabama Board of Trustees established The Plank Center. Named for public relations leader and UA alumna, the late Betsy Plank, the Center develops and recognizes outstanding diverse public relations leaders, role models and mentors to advance ethical public relations in an evolving, global society through a variety of initiatives.

In addition to national leaders in the practice and education, the Center’s Board includes an ex officio position for the president of the Public Relations Student Society of America that represents more than 10,000 members in 300-plus colleges and universities.

C&IS to Launch Living Learning Community for Incoming Freshmen

Starting in Fall 2019, first year students with a declared C&IS major can apply to join the Capstone Communication Living Learning Community (LLC). In this community, students will enjoy living, learning and studying alongside peers with shared interests, as well as benefit from social, academic and creative activities related to a wide variety of communication and media practices both on and off campus.

Capstone Communication LLC students will take two courses together in the fall semester (CIS 100 and MC 101) and one course together in the spring semester (COM 123). Additionally, students will have C&IS resident advisors and peer mentors to serve as guides throughout their first year. Programs such as a DMC tour or faculty lunches will be planned monthly for the LLC members.

Assistant Dean of Student Services and External Relations, Dr. Sara Hartley, and C&IS advisor, Alyssa Stephens, pioneered this program in partnership with UA Housing and Residential Communities as a way to connect and support students in the College, from day one.

“We want to keep that sense of community within the College and within our freshman class,” said Alyssa Stephens. “Students in this program will know, before they get to college, that they have professors, peer leaders and RAs invested in their success. There is an immediate sense of connection which is beneficial because coming to college can be a big transition.”

This program will be housed in the University’s Freshman Hall. A limited number of spaces are available and interested incoming students can apply here through a separate housing application. Students will be admitted on a rolling basis until spaces are filled. For more information, contact Alyssa Stephens at

C&IS Students Behind ‘Fearful Girl’ Project

Emeline Earman (left) and MK Holladay pose with Fearful Girl in Manhattan, New York.

At only four feet, two inches tall, she weighs in at nearly 250 pounds of solid bronze. She stands daily in the Financial District of Manhattan, New York, staring down the Charging Bull of Wall Street. And for one hour on Friday, Nov. 2, the Fearless Girl did something even braver.

In a partnership between Change the Ref and Fight Gunfire with Fire, Manuel Oliver, the father of Parkland school shooting victim, Joaquin “Guac” Oliver, placed a bulletproof vest on Fearless Girl and dubbed her “Fearful Girl.” Change the Ref tweeted out, “She can’t be fearless if she’s afraid to go to school.”

You have probably seen her pictures by now, but what you may not have known is that behind Fearful Girl are two University of Alabama students, Emeline Earman and MK Holladay. Together with Mingyu Jo (ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena), the trio thought up the idea during their summer internship at MullenLowe Group.

“Like most ideas, this started out as something different. Initially the idea was to put a bulletproof vest on the Statue of Liberty,” said Earman. “Our executive creative director mentioned it to a creative director in the Boston office who had the idea to put it on Fearless Girl.”

Earman, Holladay and Jo knew the idea had potential, but were not certain it would go anywhere. The concept was tabled until about a month and a half ago, when they were called and invited to New York to see the project carried through.

“The concept works because it clearly communicates the intended message,” said Mark Barry, Director of Minerva, the creative advertising specialization at UA. “But more importantly, what makes it great is that it communicates that message in an unexpected way. It allows room for the audience to do a little work on their own to really ‘get it.’”

According to Barry, the creative advertising industry is constantly doing work on the cultural fringes of brand communications, using advertising as a powerful vehicle for cultural change. Within a few hours #FearfulGirl was trending on social media and the story was covered by media outlets such as ADWeek and affiliates of Fox News, CBS and NBC across the country.

Barry is proud of the student duo, whom he describes as “A well-rounded and dynamic creative team.” Their message rings loud and clear throughout the world.

“I think we all hope we can enact change, but at the end of the day, ideas like this are only cool if they do,” said Holladay. “Manuel’s shirt said, ‘Sorry for the inconvenience, we are trying to change the world.’ That’s certainly a sentiment we share.”

Change the Ref was formed to empower future leaders, using urban art and nonviolent creative confrontation to expose the disastrous effects of the mass shooting pandemic. Find out more at their website, here.

Fight Gunfire With Fire is a creative force stewarded by industry and thought leaders banding together. They take big, thought-provoking creative ideas and make them real to create a million of solutions that will end gun violence. Find out more at their website, here.

Minerva is the creative advertising specialization at The University of Alabama’s College of Communication and Information Sciences. Find out more on their website, here.

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

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

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

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

Quick Tips on Spring Registration

C&IS Director of Student Services and Registrar, Alyson Jarnagin, has helped students with their schedules, classes, transfers and registration for the past eleven years. As registration for Spring 2019 quickly approaches, Jarnagin offers advice for students within C&IS and encourages all students to first look at the C&IS website before calling or emailing individual registration questions.

“The biggest thing is that students need to register for their classes when their registration time opens. Typically, when a student does that, they have minimal problems getting into a class,” said Jarnagin, “I recommend students reaching out to their advisor well before their registration time opens.”

Below is a list of frequently asked questions about registration within C&IS. For a more complete list of frequently asked questions, visit C&IS’s Student Resources page.

Who is my academic advisor?

All undergraduate students are assigned a professional or faculty advisor. Students can find this person’s name in their DegreeWorks. Advisors are assigned during the first week of class each semester. Students with 0-60 earned hours are advised by the professional academic advisors in Tisch Student Services, located in Suite 190 Reese Phifer Hall. Students with 60+ hours are advised by a faculty member in their department.

How do I make an appointment to meet with my academic advisor?

Students assigned to advisors in Tisch Student Services (0-60 earned hours) should call Tisch Student Services at 205-348-8599 or email Students advised by a faculty advisor (61+ earned hours) should e-mail their advisor or stop by the departmental office to sign up for an advising time slot. Ideally, students will begin seeing advisors in September for Spring advising and in February for Summer/Fall advising. Students assigned to a faculty advisor in their major department will need to work with that advisor to determine their appointment schedule. The best way for students to do so is to either stop by office hours or send an e-mail to their faculty advisor requesting an appointment. We do not have priority advising.

Is advising required each semester?

No, advising is not required each semester unless the student is an athlete, have been placed on academic warning, or have been reinstated from suspension. However, students are strongly encouraged to seek advising each semester.

How do I use DegreeWorks?

Students may access DegreeWorks through the Student tab in MyBama or For more information on DegreeWorks, including FAQs, visit the Registrar’s site. Use the below links for helpful information and a tutorial on how to use DegreeWorks.

DegreeWorks Introduction Video

Using the What-If Feature

Using the DegreeWorks Planner

How do I determine my student classification?

Classifications are based solely on completed class hours. There are four classifications of undergraduate students:

Freshman – 0-30 hours
Sophomore – 31-60 hours
Junior – 61-90 hours
Senior – 91+ hours

When can I register for classes?

Registration dates fluctuate from semester to semester, so visit the academic calendar or check registration dates through the Student tab of MyBama. Click Student tab > Student Services folder > Registration folder > Registration Status.

How do I use Schedule Builder?

Schedule Builder can be found by going to the Student tab in MyBama. For assistance using Schedule Builder, please check out these two links:

How to Use Schedule Builder Reference Guide

Registering for Classes using MyBama Video

I’m getting close to graduation. How do I ensure that I have completed my requirements?

If there is no degree audit on a student’s DegreeWorks, that student should request a degree audit through the C&IS website under Current Students. This will ensure that they know exactly what they have remaining and can help them prepare for their advising appointment.

What are the steps to apply for graduation?

Students will begin receiving e-mails to their Crimson e-mail account from the Registrar’s Office in the semester they will complete degree requirements and graduate. Graduation applications are available through MyBama.

For a more complete list of frequently asked questions, visit C&IS’s Student Resources page.

APSC Hosts Dr. Charles Ross for Scholar Spotlight

On October 18, the Alabama Program in Sports Communication hosted a scholar spotlight, featuring the University of Mississippi’s Dr. Charles Ross and a presentation on his research titled, “Protests in Pro Football, the 1965 AFL Boycott & Colin Kaepernick.”

In his presentation, Ross discussed the history of race and NFL boycotts, including the 1965 AFL boycott when a group of African American players led by Cookie Gilchrist refused to play in the AFL All-Star Game. According to Ross, the boycott resulted in a desegregating of the French Quarter in New Orleans. Ross connected the 1965 protest to the 2016 protest of NFL quarterback, Colin Kaepernick.

Ross signed copies of his book and answered questions from a full house of students in all C&IS majors. He encouraged them to use their platforms to make a difference in the world around them.

“Young people have the ability to change the world,” said Ross. “We still deal with racism, but the question is how do we navigate this? Colin Kaepernick decided to take a knee. You may choose to do something different.”

Ross is the Director of African American Studies and an Associate Professor of History at the University of Misssissippi. His research centers on race, sports and equity. He has authored two books — Outside the Lines: African Americans and the Integration of the National Football League, andMavericks, Money and Men: The AFL, Black Players and the Evolution of Modern Football.

The Alabama Program in Sports Communication provides the opportunity to connect sports communication programs and emphases in the College of Communication and Information Sciences and in many other Colleges at the Capstone. The APSC offers public events, highlights research and creative projects, and facilitates advanced discussions of communication and sport issues throughout the community and throughout the nation. To learn more about the APSC, visit their website.

ICIR Scholar Spotlight: Dr. Karla Gower (APR)

What made you interested in research in your field?

I was an attorney in a previous life, so the legal research connects that life with my current life. I became interested in historical research during my master’s at Arizona State. While I took an undergraduate class in the history of mass communication from Dr. Dick Lentz, the last true history course I had taken was in high school. At the time it seemed like all history consisted of was wars and dates. However, Dr. Lentz taught the mass communication class from a social and cultural perspective. I immediately fell in love with the stories and the detective work it took to reveal those stories. Dr. Lentz became my mentor and encouraged me to do a Ph.D.

What are some of the steps of your research process?

Like all research, historical and legal research starts with a question you want to know the answer to and moves into a review of the existing literature to find the gaps and provide context for the study. With both historical and legal, the primary sources are documents. Court decisions are used in legal research along with others materials such as legal arguments and letters. However, historical sources consist of written materials such as letters, diaries, memoranda, newspaper and magazine articles, and government statistics. The sources, whether legal or historical, are then carefully reviewed, analyzed, and interpreted.

What do you need for your research?

Curiosity is needed for all research, including history and law. Research also requires tenacity to keep digging for sources and answers even when you think you’ve hit a roadblock. Access to legal cases, usually through databases, and archives are vital. Without access to the primary sources, one cannot conduct legal or historical research.

Do you involve others in your research process?

I have collaborated with other scholars and students on research, but I tend to work alone. I’m an introvert and actually get excited about spending hours in the bowels of a library or digging through databases. Do your findings alter preconceived notions that you’ve had on a subject? Absolutely! All the time. Although researchers often go into a topic with a preconceived notion of what they will find, they have to have the ability to let the evidence take them where it leads. I’ve stopped working on topics because I didn’t find what I thought I would. The evidence just wasn’t there. I had to accept that and let the idea go.

Why is research needed in your field?

It is just within the last decade that the history of public relations has become a primary area of focus for mass communication historians. We know much more about the profession’s development today than we
did before. For most of the 20th century, it was believed that the field developed in a linear fashion – from press agentry to public information or publicity, to two-way communication – becoming more ethical in the process. This linear evolutionary model had a profound impact on public relations and shaped its theoretical development. To many public relations scholars, that model was simply too neat and tidy and too self-serving for those who promulgated it. Recent scholarship has debunked the linear model while looking at
the factors that influenced the development of public relations and how the field has changed and grown over the years.

Is there a particular conference that you enjoy going to?

My favorite conference is the American Journalism Historians Association. (A shout out to President Dianne Bragg and Caryl Cooper). AJHA was my first conference. I attended as an MA student, and the research chair that year took me under his wing introducing me to people and making me feel comfortable. Everyone who attends AJHA has a similar story about the first people they met and how they were mentored by them. I didn’t miss a conference for the next 15 years, even when my duties as director of the Plank Society could have kept me from attending. I am still an AJHA member though.

More about Dr. Karla Gower: 

Dr. Gower is the Director of the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. Her primary research interests include the history of public relations and legal issues impacting the profession, but she is also interested in public relations ethics, diversity and inclusion, and crisis communication. She has taught several courses for Public Relations, and she usually teaches APR Management for seniors.

The 2018 C&IS Hall of Fame Ceremony

C&IS hosted its biennial Hall of Fame dinner on Thursday, Oct. 4, in the North Zone at Bryant-Denny Stadium. This year, C&IS honored four inductees: Jennings F. Bryant Jr., Rece Davis, Fred D. Gray and Houston and Voncile Pearce. As this year’s emcee, the College welcomed home Edelman Senior Vice President, Lindsay Garrison. The photo album from this year’s ceremony can be viewed here. Additionally, the video produced by the Center for Public Television to honor each of our inductees can be viewed here. More information about each of the Hall of Fame inductees is available below.

Jennings F. Bryant Jr.

Jennings Bryant is the former director of The University of Alabama’s Institute for Communication Research, an organization he founded that has evolved to become the Institute for Communication and Information Research. His direction, leadership and commitment to research propelled the ICR to millions in grant and contract funding and left a lasting impact upon the fields of communication, media effects, interpersonal communication and beyond.

Rece Davis

Rece Davis is best known as the host of ESPN College GameDay, the longest-running and most-celebrated college football pregame show on television. In his time at ESPN, Davis has hosted and contributed to programming ranging from NBA highlights to ABC’s Triple Crown horse racing. Davis graduated from UA with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast film communication in 1988.

Fred D. Gray

Fred D. Gray is a civil rights attorney whose career includes representation of both Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at a pivotal time in the civil rights movement. As a stalwart advocate for the rights of others, his impact travels far beyond his home state of Alabama.

Houston & Voncile Pearce

Houston and Voncile Pearce spent much of their lives together establishing, owning and operating radio stations across the Southeast. Beyond their legacy as broadcasters, the Pearceshave served on various boards and actively supported local charities and organizations through the reach of their radio stations. Houston graduated from UA with a bachelor’s degree in commerce and business in 1955, and Voncile graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1967 and a master’s degree in mathematics in 1969.

About the Hall of Fame:

Established by the College’s Board of Visitors in 1998, the Communication and Information Sciences Hall of Fame was created to honor, preserve and perpetuate the names and accomplishments of individuals who have brought lasting fame to the state of Alabama through the application of disciplines taught, researched and practiced in the College.

Capstone Agency Again Named Top, Student-Run Firm

Students from Capstone Agency, UA PRSSA with UA PRSSA Faculty Advisor, Tracy Sims (left)

The College of Communication and Information Sciences’ Capstone Agency has been awarded Best Campaign, Best Tactic and Best Student-Run Firm in the 2018 Public Relations Student Society of America Student-Run Firm Awards.

Given annually at the PRSSA National Conference, these awards celebrate outstanding campaigns and tactics utilized by PRSSA’s nationally affiliated, student-run firms across the country. Capstone Agency won Best Tactic and Best Campaign in 2017 and was named Best Student-Run Firm in 2016. The Best Student-Run Firm award cannot be won by the same agency two years in a row.

“The awards Capstone Agency received speak not only to our members’ dedication, hard work ethic and talent, but also to the quality of the C&IS student experience,” said Maret Montanari, Firm Director, Capstone Agency. “The College, as a whole, provides opportunities, like Capstone Agency, for students to gain hands-on professional experience before graduation. We are fortunate to have these development opportunities to set our members up for success beyond The University of Alabama.”

Capstone Agency’s submission for Best Campaign featured work completed for Alabama Power, titled “What Powers UA.” The winning submission for Best Tactic came from the firm’s Valentine’s Day promotion for The University of Alabama’s club hockey team.

Also recognized at the PRSSA National Conference, UA’s PRSSA chapter received the Star Chapter award and won the Best PRSA/PRSSA Relationship Award. The Star Chapter Award, encourages chapter leadership to provide programming and relationship-building opportunities for students and rewards them for achieving these goals. The PRSSA faculty advisor, Tracy Sims, was also recognized for her commitment and guidance to the chapter.

“It was such an honor to have Capstone Agency and PRSSA receive awards at the PRSSA National Conference,” said Anna Claire Toxley, Vice President, UA PRSSA. “It is because of the continued support of the College of Communication and Information Sciences that both organizations are able to develop strong leaders and produce quality work that earns national recognition.”

Capstone Agency is a nationally affiliated, student-run, integrated communications firm comprised of communication students at UA. The agency has been a student organization in the College of Communication and Information Sciences since 2008.

The University of Alabama PRSSA Chapter is a leading pre-professional organization for students interested in public relations, communications and other related fields.

C&IS Senior Heads Up T-Shirt Startup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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