Category: CIS News

Research and Creative Activity: Pederson Receives NSF Grant

From left: Drs. Josh Pederson, Sonya Pritzker and Jason DeCaro

Three University of Alabama professors have been awarded a grant of more than $300,000  from the National Science Foundation to study the relationship between communication and physiological responses in intimate partnerships.

The study is a collaborative work of Drs. Sonya Pritzker and Jason DeCaro, of the department of anthropology, and Dr. Josh Pederson, of the department of communication studies.

DeCaro, Pederson and Pritzker will observe 50 couples by combining nine hours of in-home video observation with moment-to-moment monitoring of activity in the autonomic nervous system as well as multiple, in-depth interviews of the observed couples.

“We think the way romantic partners interact on a daily basis contributes to individual and relational health,” said Pederson, UA assistant professor of communication studies. “This grant allows us to study how these processes happen in real-time outside of laboratory environments.”

The study will use monitoring technology, saliva test kits and video recording to analyze emotion communication and physiological responses of couples.

By examining the links between communication and physiological processes in these intimate partnerships, the study seeks to determine how communicating emotions in everyday life impacts the indicators of psychosocial wellbeing. The study therefore offers a significant public service and has broad implications beyond the realm of academia.

The study,  “Embodying Emotion in Interaction: A Biocultural-Linguistic Study of Communication and Physiology,”  builds upon the team’s Level-2 collaborative project grant awarded by the Research Grant Committee at The University of Alabama in 2017. This research focused on a similar method of physiological measurements and observation of 10 couples.

The study will use monitoring technology, saliva test kits and video recording to analyze emotion communication and physiological responses of couples.

“This project is one of only a few studies in the world to combine linguistic methods from anthropology and communication studies with psychophysiological methods in biocultural medical anthropology,” said Pritzker, UA assistant professor of anthropology. “It is complicated, and a huge part of the pilot research consisted in figuring out how best to do this in a way that will offer the most insight into how the way we speak to one another in specific moments affects the body.”

Pritzker and DeCaro, UA professor of anthropology, in collaboration with Pederson, also recently received a grant of $20,000 from the Wenner-Gren Foundation to hold a workshop, titled, “Embodying Language in the Context of Culture: Developing Bicultural-Linguistic Anthropology through Research on Interaction.”

That workshop will bring together American and European researchers to examine how the human body affects and is affected by everyday communication in the context of culture, and it will be held at The University of Alabama in summer 2019.

The National Science Foundation funds research in most fields of science and engineering through grants and cooperative agreements to more than 2,000 colleges, universities, K-12 school systems, businesses, informal science organizations and other research organizations throughout the United States. NSF receives approximately 40,000 proposals each year for research, education and training projects, of which approximately 11,000 are funded.

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 the College’s research initiatives, visit cis.ua.edu/research

C&IS Launches Public Opinion Lab

Housed in the Institute for Communication and Information Research (ICIR), the Public Opinion Lab is an innovative space for social analytics designed for both academic and industry research. The Public Opinion Lab opened August of this year and is made possible through a partnership with Crimson Hexagon, an AI-powered data source of consumer insights. Crimson Hexagon offers a user-friendly dashboard that provides real time data pulled from a repository of public consumer conversations from global sources such as Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Instagram. Crimson Hexagon’s data is used and trusted by the world’s leading brands and agencies such as Walmart, Adidas and Paramount. Now, both students and researchers at The University of Alabama will have access to this platform through the Public Opinion Lab and can use the pulled social listening data to form robust insights for brands or research reports.

More specifically, the Public Opinion Lab will be used by campaigns classes at The University of Alabama, the summative and last course for public relations and advertising students within C&IS. The dashboard in the lab creates customized word sentiment analysis, word clouds of the most commonly used words on a given topic and provides demographic and geographic breakdowns of a selected audience. These insights can help create data-driven campaigns and can help clients anticipate and understand critical communication problems.  This database can be used for predictive modeling for trends and conversations about brands or topics. Dr. Jameson Hayes, the director of the Public Opinion Lab, says that he hopes this integration will “expose students to the tools that agencies are already using for their clients.”

The implications for this lab extend outside of the classroom. Currently, the Public Opinion Lab is being used to examine how military veterans and their families discuss suicide online. Ultimately, the insights gathered from this study could help improve dialogue between medical services and military services. Hayes says that there are a variety of ways this lab can be used for social science purposes. “I’m very excited about the breadth of interest in the lab,” said Hayes, “The Public Opinion Lab has an impact on the undergraduate- and graduate-level students and certainly with faculty research and grant capabilities, as well.”

The Public Opinion Lab goes beyond likes and hashtags on a social website. The interface draws from billions of data points across multiple social networking sites to examine patterns of emotional sentiment and relationships between brands and consumers. To learn more about the lab, visit their Twitter.

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 our research initiatives, visit cis.ua.edu/research.

APSC Hosts ESPN’s Chris LaPlaca

The Alabama Program in Sports Communication kicked off the academic year with a visit from ESPN Vice President for Corporate Communication, Chris LaPlaca. LaPlaca has been with ESPN for over 38 years, serving in various capacities as the sports media giant has evolved.

LaPlaca spoke candidly to a student audience of all C&IS majors, sharing memories about ESPN’s path to notoriety, the relationship between sports and politics, and how they should seize opportunities now that will secure their future success in a variety of industries.

“Have a genuine agenda for every moment and in every opportunity you have, make a connection,” said LaPlaca. “You never know how the people you meet now can help you one day, so be purposeful in everything you do.”

Students present at the event asked LaPlaca questions about ESPN, building a writing portfolio and how to best prepare for careers in the sports media world. LaPlaca admitted that ESPN does not usually hire students fresh out of college, and encouraged students set themselves apart from their competition by pursuing internships and other learning opportunities, and making mistakes that they can turn into growing experiences.

LaPlaca challenged students with the mindset and determination behind much of ESPN’s decision making. Generally speaking, “You get to a certain point where you’re successful and you want to maintain what you have. [At ESPN], we have never done that,” said LaPlaca. “We shoot high. Sometimes we miss, and when we do, we learn from that.”

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.

SLIS Names EBSCO Endowed Chair of Social Justice and Diversity

The School of Library and Information Studies is pleased to announce that Dr. Bharat Mehra will join its faculty in January of 2019 as the EBSCO Endowed Chair with emphasis in social justice and diversity.

Mehra has a distinguished national and international reputation as a scholar and advocate for librarianship as a profession engaged in work toward a more inclusive and just society. His research focuses on diversity and social justice in library and information science and community informatics, or the use of information and communication technologies to empower minority and underserved populations to make meaningful changes in their everyday lives.

He will provide leadership to a faculty already committed to social justice as evidenced by its unique curricular offerings and commitment to equity and inclusiveness as core library values through teaching and research.

Mehra received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign in 2004. He comes to Alabama from the University of Tennessee where he has been on the faculty since completing his doctoral work. He has authored or co-authored over fifty articles in peer refereed journals, and co-edited one book, Progressive Community Action: Critical Theory and Social Justice in Library and Information Science. He has also been funded for over a $1,000,000 for his work with public librarians as change agents in the southern Appalachian region.

His research areas include diversity and inclusion, intercultural communication, social justice in library and information science, critical & cross-cultural studies, community engagement, community informatics, rural libraries, human information behaviors of underserved populations, action research, and qualitative methods.

Professor Mehra is a highly respected leader in Library and Information Science in the areas of social justice, inclusion, and diversity. The School of Library and Information Studies is thrilled to have him join them in January 2019.

To learn more about the School of Library and Information Studies, visit their website.

Oakdale Elementary Summer Speak Off

“Each one of you is already a leader,” said Dr. George Daniels to a classroom of 3rdand 4thgraders. “You are leaders through the research that you have already completed, and you are leaders by getting up here and presenting it to your classmates. And we’re excited that you are going to learn even more about leadership and communication in the fall.”

Eleven third and fourth grade students from Oakdale Elementary School’s 21stCentury Summer Enrichment Program have spent much of the last month researching countries in preparation for the Summer Speakoff, which paired C&IS students in COM 124: Introduction to Public Speaking with the Oakdale students.

Even while they await the opening of their renovated school in August, the elementary school students who attended classes Monday through Thursday at Central Elementary for five weeks this summer, gathered information on China, Italy, Mexico and Great Britain.

The group of students is a part of a summer program through Oakdale Elementary School that teaches them how to effectively use skills in communication and information sciences to become better communicators and leaders. Tuesday, they were on campus for a Jr. Speak-off, presenting speeches on countries they have researched but never visited.

Their speeches were judged by their classmates, as well as honors public speaking students at UA. First place among the students earns a $20 gift card to Chuck E. Cheese and, despite that added pressure, the students all looked and sounded like pros.

“We have been thinking about this for over a year,” said Dr. Lucille Prewitt, principal of Oakdale Elementary School. “We started our program with a newspaper and journalism focus, but we want to extend it school wide. Every child will have an opportunity to be a part of something involving communication.”

The program aims to include learning experiences in various fields of communication and information: journalism, broadcast and digital media, public speaking, intercultural communication, research and graphic design. To assist with the transition, all of Oakdale Elementary’s educators participated in the Global Communicators Teachers Academy with C&IS faculty in January.


Oakdale Elementary School educates approximately 325 students from Pre-kindergarten to 5thgrade. The past year, Oakdale has been closed for renovations. When they reopen on August 8, students and teachers will have access to the only public-schooled, public speaking lab in the state of Alabama, patterned after UA’s Speaking Studio in Reese Phifer.

“Oakdale Elementary School is becoming a school for global communicators and leaders,” said Daniels. “We’re excited to see the students here giving their speeches. It’s an indication of what we hope to see through the program moving forward.”

SLIS Hosts AERI 2018

The University of Alabama School of Library and Information Studies will host the tenth-annual Archival Education and Research Institute (AERI) on campus from July 9-13.

The Archival Education and Research Initiative (AERI) is devoted to strengthening archival studies as an academic discipline, supporting archival research and education, and encouraging emerging archival scholars. As part of this mission, AERI supports yearly institutes, sponsored by academic institutions hosting archival education programs.

“We are delighted to welcome our colleagues to the University, and for many, on their first visit to Alabama,” said Dr. Robert Riter, co-organizer of AERI 2018 along with Dr. Tonia Sutherland.

These working meetings provide opportunities for archival studies faculty, doctoral students, scholar-practitioners, and emerging archival scholars to share research, discuss teaching methods, and consider the needs and responsibilities of the archival and records disciplines. Colleagues, representing an array of academic institutions, and eight countries, will devote a full week to these endeavors.

Kiara Boone presents at AERI 2018 on behalf of the Equal Justice Initiative.

The institute kicked off Monday morning with a plenary session led by Kiara Boone, Deputy Program Manager for the Equal Justice Initiative, a human rights organization with emphases on ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment and challenging racial and economic injustice.

Boone spoke to the importance of archival work in the EJI’s mission by noting that recordkeeping “helps people understand a more comprehensive truth of our history. If we do not have records of [racial injustice] then history will reshape the narrative over time.”

Boone is one of many outstanding presenters who will speak this week, sharing the importance archival work, research and education has in telling stories and effecting change in a wide variety of contexts.

About AERI: The Archival Education and Research Initiative is a collaborative effort among academic institutions to support the growth of a new generation of academics in archival and recordkeeping education and research who are versed in contemporary issues and knowledgeable of the work being conducted by colleagues. The initiative seeks to promote state-of-the-art in scholarship in Archival Studies, broadly conceived, as well as to encourage curricular and pedagogical innovation in archival education locally and worldwide. For more information, visit their website.

About SLIS: The School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) is a top-ranked program for library, information and book arts education. SLIS aims to develop creative and critical thinkers and leaders for the information world through a supportive teaching and learning environment, collaborative research and community engagement.

Rod Hicks Named SPJ’s First Journalist on Call

In an effort to address the issue of dwindling trust in the media, the Society of Professional Journalists has named veteran journalist and University of Alabama alumnus, Rod Hicks, as its first Journalist on Call. SPJ’s Journalist on Call is a unique, three-year position, developed and funded by the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

“We had many outstanding candidates for this position. Rod’s experience, enthusiasm and ability to communicate with people from all walks of life make him perfect for this role,” said Alison Bethel McKenzie, SPJ executive director. “He brings an abundance of great ideas to the table, and we are eager for him to begin this important work.”

Hicks, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, has experience at numerous news organizations across the country. Most recently, he served as an editor for The Associated Press at its Philadelphia-based East Regional Desk, which manages news coverage in 10 states. In this role, he worked on several major national stories including the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut, the Boston Marathon bombing and the sexual assault trials of Bill Cosby.

Hicks will serve as something of an ombudsman, helping journalists understand why the public doesn’t trust them and what they can do to re-earn more trust. He will also spend time with the general public, local officials and community groups to explain the important role ethical journalism plays in society. A great deal of the focus will center on how the media and public can work together in crisis situations. He will begin July 16.

“We live in a time when distrust of the press is at alarming levels. Democracy depends on civic engagement, and civic engagement should be built on a foundation of truth. We need someone to help calm the waters, build bridges and be a resource to both public and news media. Rod is the right person to do this,” said SDX Foundation President Robert Leger.

Hicks graduated from The University of Alabama in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in Advertising.

To see the Society of Professional Journalists’ full release, click here.

Alabama Public Radio wins National Edward R. Murrow Award

The APR news team with the RFK Journalism Award in Washington D.C.

The Radio Television Digital News Association has awarded Alabama Public Radio (APR) a National Edward R. Murrow Award for best news series in the small market radio category for their series, titled, “Alabama Rural Health Care.”

APR’s winning entry included four stories from their yearlong rural health investigation, covering Alabama’s rural hospital shortage, obstetrical care shortage, the 20th anniversary of President Clinton’s apology for the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment and a report on the potential of telemedicine to link doctors and patients in rural Alabama.

“It’s always a privilege to bring another national journalism award to the Digital Media Center,” says APR news director Pat Duggins. “But, in the case of rural health care, it’s also gratifying to help shine a light on an issue that impacts so many Alabamians.”

At the time APR recorded their series, seven rural counties in Alabama did not have a hospital; since then, the number has increased to eight. Furthermore, only sixteen Alabama counties have hospitals capable of delivering babies, which does not help the studies which have ranked Alabama as having the highest infant mortality rate in the nation.

APR’s investigation into these facts provide a critical analysis of the problem of health care in rural Alabama, shedding light on just how dark the situation is. In fact, the documentary produced from their news series was recognized by human rights organization, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights with the prestigious, national Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.

The members of the Alabama Public Radio news team are: Pat Duggins, news director, Stan Ingold, assistant news director and Alex AuBuchon, news host and reporter.

The national Edward R. Murrow awards will be presented in New York City in October. They are named for the internationally renowned broadcast journalist whose name they bear. Established by RTDNA in 1971, these annual awards recognize the best electronic journalism produced by radio, television and digital news organizations around the world.

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

Minerva Students Win National ADDY

23andMe Magazine AR mockup by Elizabeth Swartz and Charlotte Frank.

Recent C&IS graduates, Charlotte Frank and Elizabeth Swartz, have been awarded a Silver ADDY at the national level from the American Advertising Federation.

ADDYs are awarded to entrants in recognition of their creative excellence. A Gold ADDY is judged to be superior to all other entries in the category. A Silver ADDY is awarded to entries that are also considered outstanding and worthy of recognition. The number of awards given in each category is determined by the judges, based on the relative quality of work in that category.

Frank (Norwalk, CT) and Swartz (St. Louis, MO) created their campaign as a concept for 23andMe, a personal genome service that exists to help people access, understand and benefit from the human genome. Their ads targeted couples who are looking to start a family and want to use the 23andMe service as a tool to find out more information about their genetic makeup and what traits they could potentially pass to their biological children.

“Having won a national ADDY is validation that the hard work and very late nights can pay off,” said Frank. “Sometimes it’s hard to know if after spending so much time up close to your work, if you love it because you’ve worked so long on it or you love it because it’s good. To have our work nationally recognized and applauded is an overwhelmingly proud feeling.”

Frank and Swartz both graduated in May as members of Minerva, the creative portfolio specialization within advertising and public relations. As a part of the One Club’s portfolio review in May, they both landed internships with Hudson Rouge, and advertising agency in NYC. They credit this opportunity and much of their success to the Minerva experience.

“Minerva prepared me for this fast-paced industry,” said Swartz. “As a graduate of Minerva, I had a leg up on the competition because I was taught how to concept and that the idea is always the most important part.”

  • 23andMe ad by Charlotte Frank and Liz Swartz
    23andMe ad by Charlotte Frank and Liz Swartz
  • 23andMe ad by Charlotte Frank and Liz Swartz
    23andMe ad by Charlotte Frank and Liz Swartz
  • 23andMe ad by Charlotte Frank and Liz Swartz
    23andMe ad by Charlotte Frank and Liz Swartz

“Minerva allowed my to find my voice in advertising and create a portfolio that many people take time after college to complete,” said Frank. “Being able to launch right from college into the industry has pushed me but also validated that everything I learned in Minerva really did prepare me for the real world.”

This brings Minerva’s ADDY total to 20 at the local, district and national level in 2018.

“I’m unbelievably proud of all the students for the time and energy they put into making this amazing creative,” said Mark Barry, director of Minerva. “This level of recognition is a testament to their hard work and dedication to their craft.”

The American Advertising Awards, formerly the ADDYs, is the advertising industry’s largest and most representative competition, attracting over 40,000 entries every year in local AAF Club (Ad Club) competitions.

For more information on Minerva, visit their website.

Raimist to Direct Episode of Queen Sugar

Journalism and creative media professor, Dr. Rachel Raimist, will direct an episode of Queen Sugar in New Orleans during the month of June. The invitation comes from notable film writer, director and producer, Ava DuVernay of Selma, 13th and A Wrinkle in Time.

Directing this episode will place Raimist in the Directors Guild of America, the preeminent organization of more than 17,000 members representing directors and members of the directorial worldwide.

“I have made independent films and documentaries, but for a long time I thought that breaking in to television might not be possible,” said Raimist. “DuVernay has been intentional about giving opportunities to first-time television directors from legendary independent film directors like Julie Dash, Cheryl Dunye and Patricia Cardoso to new directors with recent festival wins and folks like me, who don’t fit into either of these categories.”

Starring Rutina Wesley, Dawn-Lyen Gardner and Kofi Siriboe, Queen Sugar follows the life of three siblings, who move to Louisiana to claim an inheritance from their recently departed father—an 800-acre sugarcane farm. The siblings’ complicated lives are put aside to help their family revitalize the struggling farm.

The award-winning show’s executive producer is Oprah Winfrey and features all women directors over its three seasons. According to Women and Hollywood, women represented 32% of first-time episodic directors, a sharp increase from last season’s 19 percent and is nearly three times the number of the 2009–10 season.

Raimist is directing episode 311, titled,” Your Passages Have Been Paid,” which takes a deep dive into the lives of many of the show’s lead characters. Filmed on location in New Orleans, the episode will air in the fall on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network.

“So many of us knocked on countless doors trying to wedge our way into TV directing work only to get every door shut in our face,” said Kat Candler, Show Runner for Queen Sugar. “‘Come back when you have an episode under your belt’ they’d say. But not until Ava ripped the hinges of those doors, built her own house and invited us all in did things in this industry start shifting. She’s revolutionary in that way. People try to ask us, ‘what do we do how can we change things?’ they come up with all these panels, programs …  to try and fix things when it’s pretty simple, ‘Just hire us’.”

Raimist agrees.

“Episodic television is a particularly difficult medium to “break in” to as a woman of color director,” said Raimist. “To be called by Academy Award winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay and be invited to direct an episode of her show is a career-defining moment for me.”