Category: CIS News

C&IS Student Founds New Student Org: Music and Memory

C&IS senior, Sarah Loper, (communication studies) is bringing Music and Memory to The University of Alabama. Music and Memory is a nonprofit that provides nursing home residents with therapeutic, personalized music.

She founded a campus chapter of Music and Memory with 26 other students in hopes of spreading awareness about the power of music and connectivity. Loper will lead the group in collecting iPods and donations throughout the fall semester to bring the donations to nursing homes in Tuscaloosa in time for the holidays.

Loper, whose great-grandparents suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s, discussed the importance of talking about this issue and shared her passion for those affected debilitating diseases affecting the memory.

“These are people’s family members, mothers and fathers,” said Loper. “I want Music and Memory Tuscaloosa to spread its impact all throughout Tuscaloosa county and beyond.”

New Student Lounge

C&IS strives to give its students every opportunity to succeed and excel inside and outside of the classroom. To make the C&IS student experience even better, the old student lounge space was renovated to offer a transformed, comfortable area for students to study, gather together and recharge in between classes.

The new student lounge is designed with students in mind. Located in Reese Phifer 103, this space is perfect for student organization meetings, class project collaboration or personal study. The conference room seats 10 and is equipped with Apple TV connectivity on the extra-large, high definition monitor. There is also a collaboration room furnished with white boards for groupthink sessions and brainstorming.

For the casual pit stop, the main room is outfitted with sofas and tables, perfect for catching a break before your next class. The Student Executive Council regularly offers refreshments in the student lounge—including a variety of snacks, coffee and energy drinks—as a fundraiser for the SEC’s Student Organization Fund. This fund helps C&IS student organizations secure resources for on-campus events, travel expenses and general organization needs.

Space in the collaboration room and the conference area is limited and should be reserved ahead of time to secure your spot. To reserve any of the spaces in the new student lounge, call Tisch Student Services at 205-348-8599 or send an email to

Documenting Hurricane Harvey

When Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Southeast Texas on Friday, August 25, C&IS professor, Dr. Chandra Clark received a call from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). She was asked to monitor the situation and consider going to Houston, Corpus Christi and Beaumont, Texas should the storm greatly impact these areas. Unfortunately, it did. The storm’s tempestuous winds and heavy rain destroyed much of what stood in its path, and Clark prepared to travel.

Clark spent the next week prepping—following reporters on social media, researching and mapping out stories and locations. Each day before the trip, she and her colleague, Scott Hodgson of the University of Oklahoma, would conference call with the NAB and Broadcast Education Association (BEA), planning out coverage and establishing contacts for stories. Their purpose was not to cover Hurricane Harvey so much as it was to cover those who covered Hurricane Harvey.

These stories also illustrate the role of communication from federal, state and city leaders to broadcasters, and how crucial radio and television are in the process of getting information to viewers and listeners in a real-time situation where lives are on the line. The team documented the 2011 EF4 tornado which affected Tuscaloosa, the 2012 hurricane known as “Superstorm Sandy,” and a 2013 EF5 tornado which struck Moore, Oklahoma.

C&IS Welcomes New Faculty

New Faculty Members:

The College of Communication and Information Sciences has an established record of distinguished faculty, whose fingerprints are visible in the excellence of each graduating class. This fall, C&IS introduces 17 new faculty members, which is one of the largest groups of new faculty in its history. C&IS welcomes the following new faculty members and celebrates all of the outstanding achievements that are sure to follow.

Tom Arenberg: Instructor, News Media, JCM

Matt Barnidge: Assistant Professor, Emerging Media, JCM

Jennifer Becker: Assistant Professor, Interpersonal Communication, COM

Nancy Brinson: Assistant Professor, Advertising, APR

Heather Carmack: Associate Professor, Health Communication, COM

Jim Elmborg: Director, Professor, SLIS

Teresa Gawrych: Instructor, Media Production, JCM

Jameson Hayes: Assistant Professor, Advertising, APR

Marquette Jones: Instructor, Media Production, JCM

David Lawson: Instructor, Electronic News, JCM

Leah LeFebvre: Assistant Professor, Interpersonal Communication, COM

Laura Lemon: Assistant Professor, Public Relations, APR

Coral Marshall: Instructor, Sports Communication, APR

Tiffany Mohr: Assistant Professor, Public Relations, APR

Jessy Ohl: Assistant Professor, Rhetoric & Public Discourse, COM

Ethan Stokes: Assistant Professor, Public Relations, APR

Alyxandra Vesey: Assistant Professor, Media Studies,  JCM

New Faculty Positions: 

In addition to our new faculty members, C&IS recognizes the achievements of our existing faculty who have moved into new roles this academic year.

John Burgess: Assistant Professor, Information Systems, SLIS

Nick Corrao: Assistant Professor, Media Production, JCM

Darrin Griffin: Assistant Professor, Interpersonal Communication, COM

Steven Yates: Assistant Professor, School Library Media, SLIS

Brett Sherrick: Assistant Professor, Media Management, JCM

C&IS Prominent at AEJMC Annual Conference

As a flagship institution, The University of Alabama is well-represented in major professional and academic organizations across a variety of industries. The College of Communication and Information Sciences’ relationship with the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) is an excellent example.

AEJMC is the largest, umbrella organization for educators in the fields of journalism and mass communication. Founded in 1912, the organization has grown to over 3,700 educators, students and practitioners from around the world. UA’s leadership and representation within AEJMC enables its faculty and students to be a part of the conversation that frames the evolving industries of journalism and mass communication at the educational level.

In addition to having an influential representation throughout the membership of AEJMC, UA’s Dr. Jennifer Greer was sworn in as President of AEJMC, and UA faculty took a large role in the leadership of the annual conference. Nearly twenty faculty members hosted presentations, participated in panels and moderated discussions at over 40 AEJMC conference sessions.

As part of the annual conference in August, each division of AEJMC had a business meeting where updates are provided, officers are given a chance to speak and awards were distributed. The following awards and accolades are some recognizing UA professors and their work in their respective fields.

Dr. Brett Sherrick Given Promising Professor Award

The AEJMC division, Mass Communication in Society awarded their Promising Professor Award for faculty to C&IS professor, Dr. Brett Sherrick. Given annually, the award acknowledges excellence and innovation in teaching for three faculty members in the first five years of their full-time teaching career.

Dr. Brett Sherrick

“I’m honored to be considered for the Promising Professor Award,” said Sherrick. “As a professor, you get a lot of feedback from students, but you don’t get as much from teaching professionals. This is a nice way to validate my work.”

Part of the evaluation process for the award involves examining qualities and teaching styles of the considered professors. This includes an examination of the professor’s strengths and weaknesses as well as what makes their teaching styles unique.

“Transparency is very important to me. I want my students to understand the reasoning behind the decisions I make,” said Sherrick. “This also helps me understand and justify those decisions myself, which is an important step in trying to improve my teaching.”

Dr. Sherrick’s research covers a broad topic range including the video game industry and its effects, media psychology and pro-social media or media with a received benefit to the consumer.

“We teach students to create media, so the question I always ask students is, ‘What do you want media to do?’” said Sherrick. “As a consumer, they have the opportunity to “vote” through the media they consume.”

Dr. Jennifer Hoewe Given Article of the Year Award

Another division of AEJMC, Communicating Science, Health, Environment and Risk, awarded C&IS professor, Dr. Jennifer Hoewe their Article of the Year Award for an article she co-authored along with Dr. Lee Ahern and Dr. Colleen Connolly-Ahern of Penn State University.

Dr. Jennifer Hoewe

The article, titled “Worldviews, Issue Knowledge and the Pollution of a Local Science Information Environment,” investigates how political frames affect attitudes toward an environmental issue with local impact (storm water runoff).

“The deficit model of scientific communication [teaches] that if people just have more knowledge, they will better understand,” said Hoewe. “What we are finding is that it is just not that simple. It’s not just getting the public the information. Their predispositions, their preexisting attitudes and beliefs are going to factor into how they use that knowledge.”

The research team’s study showed that even with scientifically accurate information about the effects of storm water runoff, people’s willingness to support solutions that would be helpful to combat those effects was influenced by their politics.

Unlike many other division-specific awards, there is no submission process for Article of the Year. Instead, an initial cut to the top 6 articles considered is performed by ComSHER officers and then a team of 5-7 experts of the field score the articles for quality and likelihood of impact on the field.

“I am really proud of the paper,” said Hoewe. “I think we put forth some really interesting ideas, and it was a unique way to test what we were looking at. It is an honor just to be considered.”

Dr. George Daniels Awarded First Place for Top Teaching Award

Also from C&IS, Dr. George Daniels was awarded first place for the Best Practices in Service Learning in Journalism and Mass Communication Teaching 2017 competition, sponsored by the AEJMC Elected Standing Committee on Teaching.

Dr. George Daniels

His entry, titled “Transforming Mass Media Students into Problem Solvers: A Mass Communication Diversity Service Learning Course,” highlights a course which places graduate and undergraduate students in a variety of service roles designed to increase their awareness of and sensitivity to difference and diversity.

“The class is a challenging course to develop,” said Daniels. “There are so many moving parts, it involves students working in the community and you are constantly developing partnerships.”

Dr. Daniels and the second- and third-place finisher in this year’s competition gave presentations on their entries at the annual conference.

“It is a great honor to have been the selected as the top person in the country this year for teaching in service learning,” said Daniels, “When you’re recognized nationally for doing a good job in that area, it certainly means a lot.”

Alpine Living Wins 3rd Place in National Magazine Competition

The C&IS student-produced magazine, Alpine Living, won third place in a national magazine competition for its website. This competition, sponsored by the Magazine Division of AEJMC recognizes the top student magazine—print and online—as well as individual stories within the magazines.

In March 2017, a group of graduate and undergraduate C&IS students traveled to New Zealand to produce a 100+ page, full-gloss, international travel magazine highlighting the culture, people and history of the country. For the seventh edition of this publication,  students traveled to Auckland, Christchurch and Queenstown, New Zealand and also had a brief stay in Sydney, Australia.

C&IS student, Matthew Wilson won 2nd place in one of the top article categories for his story, titled, “Sea of Dreams.” His story captures the perspective of Project Jonah and the Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari in the preservation of marine life habitats in New Zealand’s Golden Bay and Hauraki Gulf.

C&IS Faculty Receive Top Paper Awards

In addition to the awards mentioned above, several C&IS faculty members were awarded top paper awards for their divisions.

Dr. Laura Lemon received a Top Special Topics Paper Award from the Advertising Division for her work titled, “#Sponsored #Ad: An Agency Perspective on Influencer.”

Dr. Wilson Lowrey and Tom Arenberg received a Top Faculty Paper Award from the Community Journalism Interest Group for their collaborative work titled, “The Impact of Web Metrics on Community News Decisions: A Resource Dependence Perspective.”

Ethan Stokes received the McCombs and Shaw Top Student Paper Award in the Political Communication Interest Group for his work titled, “A Global Election: Analyses of Arabic, Chinese, and Russian News Coverage of the 2016 U. S. Presidential Election.”

UA to Host Annual AEJMC Colloquium in 2018

The University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences will host the 43rd annual AEJMC Southeast Colloquium on March 8-10, 2018. This is the longest running regional research gathering for AEJMC. 2018 will mark the fifth time that UA has hosted this event.

The colloquium is similar to the annual conference in its opportunities for networking and continuing education, but the primary focus of the colloquium is research.

“There is a little more leniency in terms of the research papers not having been through as much review, and it is a great place to get initial feedback on projects you are working on,” said Daniels. “And it is grad student friendly, with the mix of grad students to faculty being about two-thirds graduate students.”

Additionally, the Southeast Colloquium provides attendants with an on-campus feel, rather than a hotel conference center in a major urban area. Participants will attend sessions in Reese Phifer Hall, tour University of Alabama facilities and experience Tuscaloosa attractions.

As a pre-conference, the colloquium will be preceded by the Ninth-Annual Discerning Diverse Voices Symposium. This day-long event welcomes participants from around campus and elsewhere in the nation for a unique venue for diversity-related research and creative activity.

For more information about the 43rd AEJMC Southeast Colloquium, visit the official site.

C&IS Places Four Television Academy Interns

Left to right: Kathleen Bodle, Abigail Armstrong, Drake McDonald. Not pictured: Shanrica Evans. 

Three College of Communication and Information Sciences students and one recent alumna are working as Television Academy Foundation Interns.

Each year, the Television Academy Foundation’s Internship Program provides approximately 50 students from across the nation with hands-on experience in the entertainment industry, mentorships and opportunities for accelerated career development in more than 30 categories.

“I think our students stand out because we’ve pushed them to tell their story,” said Dr. Rachel Raimist, associate professor of journalism and creative media. “The ones who have been selected have all written very personal essays, explaining what has made them the way they are and how that will influence the kind of stories they want to tell as a filmmaker, storyteller, director or writer.”

The University of Alabama has placed a total of 12 interns through the Television Academy Foundation’s internship program and has three faculty members in the College of Communication and Information Sciences who have completed the Foundation’s Faculty Seminar.

“C&IS has a great program, but we are not a film school,” said Raimist. “For our students to be competing against the top film schools in the country, getting positions in some of the most sought after categories, is quite incredible.”

The four from UA — three students and one alumnus — are engaged in paid, in-depth internships with professional television production companies in Los Angeles. The list of placements is as follows:

  • Abigail Armstrong, of Tuscaloosa, senior, in the category of TV Directing, for One Day at a Time, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Big Bang Theory
  • Kathleen Bodle, of Tuscaloosa, a May 2017 graduate, in the category of Movies for TV, for Stan and Deliver Films
  • Drake McDonald, of Tuscaloosa, senior, in the category of Children’s Programming and Development, for Disney Jr.
  • Shanrica Evans, of Decatur, Georgia, in the category of Episodic Series, for Shondaland. Evans is a UA alumna who is pursuing her master’s degree at the University of Southern California.

The Television Academy Foundation’s Internship Program received 1,630 applications from students in 386 schools across 45 states. The internship category of TV Directing, awarded to Armstrong, is especially competitive, due to its popularity among applicants and the limited number of internship placement opportunities.

“Feedback I’ve gotten on [UA Television Academy Interns] from their hosting companies is that they are very prepared and come ready to do the job,” said Nancy Robinson, director of the education program, Television Academy Foundation. “And they come here without a sense of entitlement, which is nice.”

The Television Academy Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established in 1959 as the charitable arm of the Television Academy.

Two C&IS Students are Munson Foundation Interns

Two C&IS students will be using their communication skills in the field of water conservation as beneficiaries of the Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation this summer. Hope Runyan (left) will be working with Black Warrior Riverkeeper, and Megan Perkins (below) with Freshwater Land Trust.

Each student will work in a nine-week internship at each of their respective locations, during which they will write blog posts, plan social media content, write press releases and attempt to grow the audience of their posts.

“A lot of the audience for Black Warrior Riverkeeper is based out of Birmingham, which is surprising,” said Runyan. “So, a lot of the work that I will be doing will be to try and grow the Tuscaloosa audience.”

At the end of the Summer, they will supply their supervisors with a binder, showcasing a complete summary of the work they have done and the measurable effects it has had.

“A lot of the leadership roles I am in here at C&IS often have me supervising projects,” said Perkins. “Now, I will be the one going back to the basics, creating the tactics for the client and managing the whole campaign.”

The University of Alabama received $18,000 from the Munson Foundation to fund two student internships and scholarships for this year, as well as an additional two-year extension of their grant status. The total support for student initiatives over the next three years for University of Alabama students is $54,000.

“I haven not taken any non-profit courses yet, so I am excited to see how that sector works,” said Perkins, “Doing consumer work is awesome, but there is such an added value doing something that touches people’s lives and helps them.”

The Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation is a philanthropic foundation which provides grant money aimed at the conservation of natural resources in eastern North America and the Caribbean Basin, with an emphasis on the United States. The foundation typically grants money to the following areas: marine resource conservation and management with priority to fisheries, South Florida ecosystems, and Alabama environmental issues.

Dr. Andy Billings and Dr. Kenon Brown Awarded IOC Grant

Drs. Andrew Billings and Kenon Brown were awarded a $20,000 grant from the International Olympic Committee to study mobile and second-screen media use for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

The grant is selected by the Olympic Studies Centre for priority fields of research identified by the International Olympic Committee as a part of the fourth edition of the Advanced Olympic Research Grant Programme.

Also collaborating on this grant are Drs. Michael Devlin, of Texas State University, and Natalie Devlin, of the University of Texas.

“We can access the Olympics on our phones, laptops and iPads,” said Billings. “The big question we have is: ‘Is mobile making you more likely to watch the telecast in the evening, or is it replacing television viewing?’”

The team will distribute and analyze survey data from Canada, China, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States to determine the differences in the Olympic viewing habits from one country to the next.

This research will show the impact of mobile and second screen use upon the viewership of the Olympics as a whole, and could help network producers schedule online content to maximize their audience’s interest.

“If you’re ‘consuming’ the Olympics on digital platforms, does that mean that you’re watching the Olympics, that you’re looking at what an athlete just posted on Instagram, or reading a synopsis of what happened at the Games? Those are all very different things,” said Billings.

“We’re trying to figure out if your mobile is your second screen while you’re watching your main screen in your living room, or if the main screen is gone or turned off and people are using their phone or their iPad as their primary screen.”

Since 2014, the Olympic Studies Centre has selected six or seven international research project proposals each year. This year, the OSC received 24 project applications from 20 countries spanning five continents.

Billings will travel to Lausanne, Switzerland in September to present a formal proposal to the IOC. Though the project is already approved, the meeting will provide opportunity for feedback from the committee and give Billings access to the IOC’s archives and library collections.

JCM Partners with UA’s CrossingPoints Summer Bridge Program

Richard Tucker and Joshua Robinson

During the first summer session, two students from CrossingPoints embarked on an exciting journey as they participated in TCF 201, intro to video production. This is the first time CrossingPoints students have joined a class from C&IS.

CrossingPoints’ Summer Bridge Program enables its students with intellectual disabilities to experience college life and explore the ins and outs of postsecondary education. The students live on campus in residence halls, partake in at least one class that aligns with their academic interests, participate in a part-time internship and are also involved in several recreational activities on campus.

Steven Yates Elected President of AASL

C&IS’ School of Library and Information Studies assistant professor, Dr. Steven D. Yates, has been elected President of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL).

A division of the American Library Association, AASL is well-positioned within the greater library community to be a strong voice for school librarians and the profession. Yates’ one-year term as the AASL President will begin during the ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition held in Chicago, June 22-27. He is the first UA faculty member to serve as president of AASL.

AASL accomplishes its mission of empowering leaders to transform teaching and learning by staying abreast of current educational and technology trends and building the school librarian community. AASL advocates for every student to have an effective school library program with a certified school librarian at the helm.

“We take every opportunity we can to not only advocate for school library resources, but also work to equip our school librarians to advocate for themselves,” said Yates. “Especially with the last economic downturn, some districts are looking to save money, and think they can cut the librarian, but don’t realize the school-wide impact a quality school librarian can have.”

AASL establishes the national standards for school librarians that are released every ten years. These are used by states and library education preparation programs. The newest version, National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries will premier this November at the AASL National Conference held during Yates’ term.

“Serving as president when the new standards come out is one of the things that attracted me to the position when I was asked to run,” said Yates. “The standards are a powerful advocacy tool that enables us to say, ‘If you’re able to provide this learning environment through your school libraries, your students are going to be better prepared for college and their careers.’”

As president, Yates wants to increase the diversity of AASL committee appointments and the school library profession. He also plans to use existing technology to bring an element of more meaningful, face-to-face communication to monthly governance meetings.

Yates will receive his Ph.D. from The University of Alabama in August of 2017. He holds two master’s degrees in communication studies and library and information studies. Before joining UA’s School of Library and Information Studies, Yates served as a school and public librarian in Birmingham.

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) is the only national professional membership organization focused on school librarians and the school library community. AASL has 7,000 members and serves school librarians in the United States, Canada, and around the world.