Category: CIS News

C&IS Alumna Recognized for Work on Viral Dunkin’ Campaign

C&IS alumna Kristin Clark

Kristin Clark, an alumna of the College of Communication & Information Sciences (C&IS), was recently named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 List in Marketing & Advertising. Clark, 28, was recognized alongside creative partner Matthew Low for her success in the creation of the brand partnership between Dunkin’ and TikTok star Charli D’Amelio that generated more than four billion impressions worldwide.

The partnership allowed for the creation of a new iced coffee drink inspired by the influencer’s go-to-order called “The Charli” to hit the menus of Dunkin’ stores nationwide. The campaign sought to incorporate elements that resonated with younger audiences on social media and created a natural partnership between the brand and D’Amelio.

“Working on ‘DunkinXCharli’ was a brand new experience for a lot of my colleagues and our clients. TikTok was a new thing. It was uncharted territory for many brands and creatives as well,” said Clark. “But what made it exciting was that the idea was so clear, authentic and real. No one had to question the authenticity behind our partnership.”

TikTok Influencer Charli D’Amelio

Charli D’Amelio is the most-followed creator on the TikTok app with over 138.4 million followers, and is widely recognized for posting dancing videos to trending songs on the platform with a Dunkin’ iced coffee in hand.

“It was the perfect partnership,” said Clark. “Of course it had its challenges, some clients didn’t even know what TikTok was, or who Charli was, and here we are asking them to put her drink on the menu nationwide. But the data we gathered was undeniable and ended with a stellar campaign that we’re all really proud of,” Clark said when asked about the creative direction of the campaign.

Clark graduated from The University of Alabama with a bachelor’s degree in advertising and digital art production in 2015. Since then, she has worked for BBDO Worldwide, an advertising agency headquartered in New York City, for over seven years, serving in different roles from intern to creative director. Throughout her time at the agency, Clark has worked on a scope of creative campaigns with brands ranging from M&M’s and Snickers, to pro bono projects with charities to help provide funding for the global education crisis.

She credits much of her success to the guidance she received from her C&IS professors. “My professors, from the start, always focused on teaching me how to operate and see a future for myself when my time at UA was up,” Clark said. “Not only was I supported and given the tools to be the best student I could be, but the best professional once I took those steps out into the real world.”

Clark advises current C&IS students and alumni alike to find what inspires them and chase after it. “You have the tools, knowledge and support around you to achieve anything. I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw any current C&IS students on the list in a few years,” said Clark.

To view Kristin’s profile on Forbes, click here.

To view the full Forbes 30 Under 30 List in Marketing and Advertising, click here.

C&IS Alumna Debra Nelson Funds Elevate Endowed Scholarship

C&IS alumna Debra Nelson

College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) alumna Debra Nelson has funded a diversity-focused scholarship as part of the Rising Tide Capital Campaign. Her endowment, the Elevate Endowed Scholarship, will prioritize support for students who demonstrate financial need and, specifically, for female students who have lost their mothers.

After losing her own mother at 14 years old and facing uncertainty as to whether higher education would one day be available to her, Nelson was inspired to help the next generation of college students gain access to higher education and pave the way for their future.

“My mother instilled in me that education opens doors to opportunity. Because of her encouragement, I loved reading and learning, and believed there was something to what she preached,” Nelson said. “I recognize there are many young people who, for social, economic, or other reasons, might question whether college is possible for them. By creating the Elevate Endowed Scholarship, I am honoring my mother’s vision and supporting individuals who, like me, grew up without mothers.”

She also hopes that her endowment will reflect her passion for promoting the values of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in higher education. Nelson cites reading “Grady’s Gift,” the story of a woman in Alabama who could not attend college in the state because of her race, as one of the things that still resonates with her and encourages her to prioritize supporting higher education initiatives.

“I believe the lack of access to public higher education circumvents human potential. When this occurs, there are residual impacts on every dimension in our society. This notion of exclusion propels me to talk about the benefits of diversity, equity and inclusion. Through behaviors and structures, I believe our College can become the example of diversity, equity and inclusion that other institutions model,” Nelson said.

In addition to being an advocate for higher education opportunities, Nelson is also a successful communication professional. She currently serves as the founder and president of Elevate Communications, a professional development and communication services firm that provides training and communication solutions in DEI, leadership and organizational development, and program and performance management.

Nelson currently serves on the C&IS Board of Visitors and is a member of The University of Alabama President’s Cabinet.

Student scholarships are a funding priority for C&IS as part of the Rising Tide Capital Campaign. The Rising Tide Capital Campaign is a University-wide effort to raise a minimum of $1.5 billion in philanthropic support for strategic priorities over a 10-year period. For more information, visit

Plank Center Leaders Honored by Ball State University

Two of the University of Alabama’s – and the industry’s – preeminent experts in public relations are being honored this week at the 2022 Vernon C. Schranz Distinguished Lectureship at Ball State University’s School of Journalism and Strategic Communication in Muncie, Indiana.

Dr. Karla Gower, director of the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at the University of Alabama is keynote and Dr. Bruce Berger, founding director and professor emeritus of the Plank Center, will receive the National Public Relationships Achievement Award. The in-person event is set for 7:30 p.m. March 30 at Ball State’s L.A. Pittenger Student Center Ball Room. It is open to the public.

Founded in 1979, the Vernon C. Schranz Distinguished Lectureship in Public Relations is the nation’s longest running public relations lectureship and has brought some of the most prominent public relations leaders to campus. Speakers provide insight into public relations trends and create a forum for new ideas among Indiana’s public relations practitioners, faculty and students.

The Ball Corp., located at the time in Muncie, Indiana, home of Ball State University, started the series in 1979 in honor of Schranz, the company’s first public relations officer and an advocate for higher education.

Schranz often shared his expertise with students and endowed an undergraduate public relations scholarship through a gift of Ball Corporation stock. The lectureship has built a reputation for providing content necessary for the growth and development of the public relations field. It offers an examination of the developing status of the public relations profession and creates a forum for the expression of new ideas and concepts. It serves as a professional development opportunity for Indiana public relations practitioners, faculty and students.

Dr. Bruce Berger

Dr. Berger, an author of two books, has focused his research on public relations leadership, employee communications and public policy influence.

Before entering academia, Dr. Berger was a PR professional and executive for 20 years. He worked at the (then) Upjohn Company, a pharmaceutical research and manufacturing company, serving as manager of Public Affairs, based in Brussels, Belgium, and subsequently as director of Worldwide Human Health Public Relations. In 1989, he became the corporate Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Whirlpool Corp. and president of the Whirlpool Foundation.

Dr. Karla Gower

Dr. Gower has authored three books and co-authored another. She is the Behringer Distinguished Professor in the Advertising and Public Relations Department of the College of Communication and Information Sciences at The University of Alabama. She has served as director of The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations since 2008, when Dr. Berger retired.

She practiced law in Canada for eight years before moving to Arizona in 1992 to attend Arizona State. She worked in public relations at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Arizona, during the Clinton administration’s attempts at health care reform, in internal communications and media relations at GateWay Community College and was part of a three-member team of writers in the Office of University Development at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Research Spotlight: C&IS Professors Collaborate with Alumnus on Beach Happiness Research

Planning a beach vacation is the perfect way to welcome the warm spring and summer weather, and according to the research of C&IS faculty, it will improve your overall happiness too.

Associate professor Dr. Jameson Hayes and instructor Jay Waters recently completed a research study in collaboration with The 30A Company, a beach media and lifestyle brand in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. The study will be featured in the Spring edition of 30A’s Beach Happy magazine and showcases the importance of travel to a person’s overall happiness.

Hayes, who is the director of The University of Alabama’s Public Opinion Lab, conducts research with several corporate and governmental partners. After seeing the real-world impact this study could have on people’s happiness and quality of life, he was especially eager to collaborate with 30A.

“The Public Opinion Lab regularly works with industry partners on projects, and when Mike Ragsdale and the 30A team approached us about this project, it was a no-brainer,” Hayes said. “It was a fun, positive topic with a great goal of helping us understand the link between travel, the beach lifestyle and happiness.”

As a C&IS alumnus and former student researcher in the College’s Institute for Communication and Information Research (ICIR), 30A founder and CEO Mike Ragsdale shares the professors’ passion for research and the value it can bring to his community and beyond. Ragsdale’s desire to use this research to better understand his customers made the study even more significant for the C&IS professors.

“I think anytime we can work with real clients and bring them information that can help them understand their customers better, it’s rewarding. It’s doubly so when you have a company like 30A that seeks out the information and sees the value in it,” Waters said.

The study’s feature in Beach Happy magazine not only provided C&IS and the Public Opinion Lab the opportunity to conduct industry research, but it helped the 30A company to visualize the benefits of travel for a person’s quality of life, and it helped to put this information into numbers. The data gathered by Hayes and Waters suggests that looking forward to a future vacation makes people happier and is essential to mental well-being.

“Travel makes us better people and happier people. And it is easy to do. I hope that people will look at this information, decide to make travel a priority, and see travel not as an expense but as an investment in their quality of life,” Waters said.

This collaboration also gave both Hayes and Waters opportunities to work with C&IS students and put into practice the work they teach students in their advertising and public relations courses.

“Working with industry partners on projects requires a ton of skills that we teach in class every day,” Hayes said.

Through this research study, C&IS faculty and students gained experience in a variety of skills including account management, research design, data analytics and communication design. According to Waters, this study related directly to the topics he teaches in his consumer research course.

“The three primary tools that I tell students they need in research are curiosity, skepticism and humility,” Waters said. “When I do a project like this, it’s easy to think you’ve seen it all and that there’s nothing new to learn, but to be effective, you have to bring those three mental tools to every project.”

Hayes explained that in addition to looking at the information in Beach Happy magazine, he hopes people will be encouraged to plan future trips to scenic destinations such as Florida’s Scenic Highway 30A.

“The results have a clear and refreshing message. Looking forward to your next trip to your happy place actually makes you a happier person overall.  So, always have a trip on the horizon; you will be happier for it,” Hayes said.

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

APR Named Top-Five Program by PRWeek for 11th Time

The Advertising and Public Relations Department (APR) within the College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) was named a top-five finalist for Outstanding Education Program at the 2022 PRWeek Awards.

This is the eleventh time the program has been recognized with this honor. The four other finalists for this year’s award included DePaul University, University of Florida, Penn State University and Syracuse University.

“This recognition reflects the hard work and investments that we have made in our students, faculty and facilities,” said Dr. Damion Waymer, department chair for advertising and public relations.

Waymer attributes the success of the department to the numerous opportunities it provides for students.

“We continue to invest in our students by teaching them data analytics, giving them multiple opportunities for robust, hands-on experience via organizations such as our award-winning, student-run, Capstone Agency, and our faculty seamlessly integrate cutting-edge research techniques and technologies into our classrooms and curriculum. We are thrilled that PRWeek has recognized our program as one of the top PR educational programs in the country.”

Submissions for the Outstanding Education Program award category are judged on the criteria of faculty contributions to PR in teaching, research and service to the industry, as well as the program’s efforts to connect current and former students to the PR industry in three specific areas: job and internship placements, speakers and events, and consulting and experiential learning.

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

To learn more about this year’s PRWeek Awards finalists, click here. To visit the Department of Advertising and Public Relations website, click here.

C&IS Grant Writing Institute Positions 2022 Cohort for Success

The College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) Grant Writing Institute is returning in 2022 with a new cohort. This year’s participants are focusing their research on areas impacting a variety of fields.

The Grant Writing Institute provides participants with the tools necessary to complete an application for research funding and submit the application to a federal or state agency or a foundation within 12 months of the start of the program.

This year’s participants are seeking to advance research regarding health and social media, the healthcare environment, and preserving minority voices.

The 2022 C&IS Grant Writing Institute participants are:

Dr. Shaheen Kanthawala

Kanthawala, assistant professor in journalism and creative media, will submit her proposal to the science division of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Kanthawala seeks to advance her research regarding TikTok and health, and is developing a conceptual model related to conspiracy theories and how platforms like TikTok utilize algorithms to better understand their users. Kanthawala contends that viewers are more likely to believe health misinformation on platforms like TikTok due to the algorithm’s ability to understand users so thoroughly.

Dr. Heather Carmack

Carmack, associate professor in communication studies, plans to submit two proposals, both to subdivisions within the National Science Foundation (NSF). One project aims to focus on stress and burnout in healthcare workers in healthcare settings, and how tele-work and working from home contributes to mental health issues. Carmack’s second proposal also focuses on healthcare and seeks to better understand bullying within healthcare environments, whether in the contexts of provider to provider or patient to provider interactions. Carmack argues that bullying within healthcare settings has risen exponentially, and her proposal seeks to study this rise in greater depth.

Dr. Dimitrios Latsis

Latsis, assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Sciences, focuses on the digital preservation of minority voices within the state of Alabama. He will submit two proposals to the National Archives for specific funding opportunities related to Hidden Collections. One of his proposals will focus on historically Black colleges and universities within the state of Alabama. Latsis plans to digitize recordings of individuals or groups from the state so their voices are preserved.

Led by Dr. Kim Bissell and Dr. Anneliese Bolland, the Grant Writing Institute is a partnership between the Institute for Communication and Information Research, the Dean’s Office and departments within C&IS. C&IS faculty and students 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

Capstone Agency Serves Local Nonprofits Through CreateAthon 2022

Capstone Agency, a nationally accredited, student-led communications firm, held its sixth annual CreateAthon Feb. 11-12, donating the equivalent of $57,743.50 worth of services to 10 local organizations. 

More than 60 students from UA participated in the 24-hour event, which was held in person after being completely virtual in 2021.

“It was an amazing experience being back in person,” said Camden Skoll, pro bono director of Capstone Agency. “The energy in all the rooms was unmatched compared to being virtual — everyone can thrive off each other’s excitement and dedication to produce great work for the nonprofits. Everyone was able to form so many new friendships and make everlasting memories while helping the community.” 

This year, Capstone Agency worked with the Boys & Girls Club, NAMI Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa Children’s Theatre, Catholic Social Services, Freshwater Land Trust, Books to Prisons, Turning Point, Schoolyard Roots, Family Counseling Services and Tuscaloosa International Friends. 

Each nonprofit presented the agency with a communications problem or marketing effort, and the students worked throughout the event to create solutions and ideas for the organizations.  

One team was tasked to design a plush toy giraffe as well as a long-term marketing campaign for NAMI Tuscaloosa, an affiliate of the National Alliance for Mental Illness. The giraffe, named Jessie, will be incorporated into NAMI Tuscaloosa’s marketing campaigns for mental health awareness, communication and more. 

“I was elated with the results,” said John Stewart, president of NAMI Tuscaloosa. “This plush character helps prepare children and caregivers with coping mechanisms and communication. It’s another outlet for those in need, but it will also be incorporated throughout NAMI’s marketing efforts. Jessie the Giraffe will be associated with NAMI for many years.”

This story originally appeared on UA News Center.

Bill and Judy Lewis Support Three Initiatives Through Capital Campaign Gift

Bill and Judy Lewis with C&IS Dean Dr. Mark Nelson

College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) alumnus Bill Lewis and his wife, Judy, have funded three initiatives through their gift to the Capital Campaign. The couple’s generous donation will support the C&IS Industry Immersion program and will also be used to establish the Bill and Judy Lewis International Experience Fund and the Bill and Judy Lewis First Generation Endowed Scholarship.

Lewis hopes that their gift will provide a wealth of opportunities for both current and future students at The University of Alabama.

“I wanted to provide payback to what I learned and experienced at UA that shaped my life,” Lewis said. “We chose to support three efforts at UA that we discerned important. Both the Industry Immersion program and the International Experience funds provide valuable real-life experience and connectivity.”

The funds allocated for the College’s Industry Immersion program and the creation of the International Experience Fund will ensure that C&IS students are able to seek enriching experiences abroad, such as classes and internships, that will broaden their knowledge and skill set.

“We initiated the International Experience Fund because traveling internationally is a passion for my wife and I, and we know personally how it can influence lives in many unexpected, positive ways,” he said. “When you get outside your normal boundaries, expand your life experiences and reach out for the unfamiliar, you often can learn things about yourself that you perhaps didn’t know.”

In addition to supporting students through their international-focused gifts, the Lewis’s First Generation Endowed Scholarship will help UA students who are the first in their family to attend college.

“We feel the First Generation Scholarship encourages students to dream of ‘what can be’ and offers them a way to achieve it,” Lewis said.

Lewis graduated from UA with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1969 and a Master of Arts degree in 1971. In 1987, Lewis joined with Norma Hanson and Terry Slaughter to build the nationally acclaimed advertising and branding firm, SlaughterHanson.

He has also served on the C&IS Board of Visitors since 2011, serving as Chairman from 2015-2016. Lewis credits C&IS Dean Dr. Mark Nelson for the impactful relationship he has had with him and many other alumni over the years.

“He has been an incredible magnet drawing me closer to our College and continuously encouraging creative opportunities for alumni to participate,” Lewis said.

Experiential learning opportunities and student scholarships are funding priorities for C&IS as part of the Rising Tide Capital Campaign. The Rising Tide Capital Campaign is a University-wide effort to raise a minimum of $1.5 billion in philanthropic support for strategic priorities over a 10-year period. For more information, visit

Robin Boylorn Named Holle Endowed Chair in Communication Arts

Dr. Robin Boylorn

C&IS professor Dr. Robin Boylorn has been named the inaugural Holle Endowed Chair in Communication Arts.

In this role, Boylorn will lead the development of a new scholarly center for the College, recruit the affiliation of distinguished national and international scholars, secure external funding and cultivate interdisciplinary communication performance and activities for The Holle Center for Communication Arts.

Both the Center and the endowed position, which were established through a $10 million gift to the College from Brigadier General Everett Hughes Holle, will focus on supporting creative activity and scholarship that advances human dignity, breaks down barriers to understanding, illuminates injustices, and encourages collaboration and empathy.

“Dr. Boylorn has an established record of achievement which includes a strong ability and desire to work effectively with students, faculty, staff, administrators, professionals and other college stakeholders,” said Dr. Mark Nelson, dean of C&IS. “I am confident her expertise, her commitment to interdisciplinary scholarship, and her collaborative approach to the communication arts will serve our College and the discipline very well.”

Boylorn currently serves as a professor in the Department of Communication Studies. Her areas of research include communication and culture, diversity and identity studies, representation, autoethnography and narrative inquiry, interpersonal communication and intercultural communication. In addition, she is also the current editor of the Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies journal, a peer-reviewed publication that publishes scholarship for an international readership on communication as a theory, practice, technology and discipline of power.

“Being selected as the inaugural Holle Chair in Communication Arts and the founding director of the Holle Center for Communication Arts is the greatest honor of my career,” Boylorn said. “I look forward to visioning possibilities for facilitating social justice through communication, storytelling and creativity.”

To learn more about the future Holle Center for Communication Arts, click here.

C&IS Professor is named a Featured Expert in Recent Super Bowl Study

Dr. Andrew Billings

As the date for Super Bowl LVI (56) approaches, fans, players and sports communicators alike are eagerly awaiting the prime-time excitement. In a recent Super Bowl study, journalism and creative media professor Andrew Billings was selected to voice his sports communication knowledge on the topic of this year’s Super Bowl, which is predicted to be the most viewed Super Bowl yet.

The study, developed by WalletHub, presents several Super Bowl fun facts and enlists the help of 12 leading sports experts across the nation. Dr. Billings’s professional knowledge surrounding sports communication made the C&IS professor an easy choice to be selected to give his insight.

Billings, who is the Executive Director of the Alabama Program in Sports Communication and the Ronald Reagan Chair of Broadcasting in the department of Journalism and Creative Media, is a proven leader in sports communication research. With 20 books and over 210 journal articles and book chapters, he is one of the most published sports media scholars in the world. His research spans a variety of topics relating sports and mass media, and his feature in this Super Bowl study is one of many accolades for the professor.

To read the full study and see Billings’s expert commentary, click here.