Category: CIS News

C&IS Student wins Munson scholarship for Black Warrior Riverkeeper Internship

Seth Self, a senior public relations student, was recently awarded a scholarship grant from the Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation. Through this grant, Self will complete an internship with Black Warrior Riverkeeper, a nonprofit organization in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Munson Foundation’s grants to the College of Communications & Information Sciences (C&IS) have funded conservation internships for students in the advertising and public relations department since 2008.

“The environment needs strong advocates, and thanks to the generous and continuous support of the Munson Foundation, our students like Seth use the public relations skills they have acquired from our program to highlight, promote and think strategically about gaining support for environmental conservation efforts,” said Dr. Damion Waymer, department chair of advertising and public relations.

At The University of Alabama, Self serves as the communications director for the Blackburn Institute and as a C&IS Ambassador. He will incorporate the skills he has learned in the classroom and through campus involvement to support Black Warrior Riverkeeper.

“I am so honored to receive this scholarship to intern with Black Warrior Riverkeeper,” Self said. “As someone from Alabama who’s passionate about the environment, this is such an incredible opportunity. I cannot wait to get to work and support the mission of Black Warrior Riverkeeper with the knowledge and skills I’ve gained from UA.”

The Black Warrior River watershed covers over 17 counties within Alabama, including both Cullman and Tuscaloosa counties. Among many other projects, Self plans to expand Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s annual free distribution of Southern Exposure Film Fellowship environmental documentaries to public libraries throughout the watershed.

“It is always an honor to work with The University of Alabama’s nationally ranked department of advertising and public relations,” said Charles Scribner, executive director of Black Warrior Riverkeeper. “This year, we are excited that our Munson Intern, Seth Self, is from the Black Warrior River watershed in Cullman County.”

Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore the Black Warrior River and its tributaries. The membership-based nonprofit organization promotes clean water for the sake of public health, recreation and wildlife habitat throughout the Black Warrior River watershed. For more information, click here.

Endowed Faculty Positions Leave A Lasting Impact

Cultivating enriching educational experiences is at the forefront of the College of Communication and Information Sciences’ (C&IS) mission. The continued support and generosity of C&IS alumni and donors provides numerous opportunities ranging from student programming to grants for faculty projects and research. While all of these initiatives have helped further the mission of C&IS, one in particular has proven to have an enduring impact: endowed faculty positions.

Over the years, gifts to the College have resulted in the creation of six endowed faculty positions. These permanently funded positions have not only allowed C&IS to recruit renown scholars but also provided the faculty in endowed positions the opportunity to further their professional goals and serve as industry leaders in their respective fields.

Dr. Andrew Billings, professor and executive director of the Alabama Program in Sports Communication, has experienced firsthand the wealth of opportunities that accompany these positions. In 2011, Billings was named the Ronald Reagan Chair of Broadcasting for the College’s Department of Journalism and Creative Media.

“Dr. Billings is a prolific researcher in the area of sports communication. His research, publications, and mentoring of our graduate students have brought great distinction to C&IS. His work creates collaborative opportunities with top researchers throughout the world and makes a significant impact in the discipline,” said Mark Nelson, Dean of C&IS.

Billings describes the position as one that has offered him great freedom and versatility during the last decade.

“It’s been exciting to tackle more projects simultaneously, work with more people both here and across the globe and keep a foot in the classroom where you are still engaging students every semester,” he said.

Throughout his time as chair, Billings has had the opportunity to further his own professional goals. Within a year of starting in the position, he established The University of Alabama Program in Sports Communication, a program focused on advancing knowledge of communication and sport issues. His expertise and dedication to this program has led it to become one of the leading educational programs in the sports communication field.

In addition, he has also focused on many projects that extend beyond the scope of the University. Billings has participated in speaking engagements around the world and served as a chair for divisions and interest groups for both the National Communication Association and the International Communication Association, which he described as “terrific, life-altering experiences.”

His involvement in national programming has also been coupled with working on numerous research projects and publications. Billings has authored, co-authored, or edited 21 books, written more than 220 journal articles and book chapters, and is one of the most published media sports scholars in the world.

Although his personal successes have brought him great recognition over the years, Billings attributes his proudest moments in the role to the work he has done with students. “My proudest accomplishment is serving as the director for 19 dissertations in my time at Alabama,” he said. His interactions with students have allowed him to serve as a mentor and friend for many students within the College and form long-lasting relationships that will extend far beyond his time in the role.

While it is evident that endowed positions bring great value to the faculty members who hold them, it is equally as important to acknowledge the overall benefits they bring to the College.

“Endowed faculty positions are instrumental to the success and visibility of our college’s academic programs and our research. These endowments allow us to recruit outstanding faculty and fund critical research that brings both new discovery and acclaim to the University and to the College,” Nelson said. Establishing an endowed position is a gift that impacts generations of young scholars and their students in perpetuity.

Endowed faculty positions 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

C&IS Researchers Study Gulf Coast Severe Weather Communication

A new study by a team of professors from the College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) will examine the effectiveness of public risk messaging to help residents along the Gulf Coast stay safe during hurricanes and other extreme weather events.

Drs. Cory Armstrong, professor of journalism and creative media, Matthew VanDyke, associate professor of advertising and public relations, and Brian Britt, associate professor of advertising and public relations, are supported by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium for the project.

They will analyze social media discussions and conduct interviews and surveys to understand the information channels, tools and resources that coastal emergency managers, community leaders and residents use for short-term and long-term decision-making when preparing and going through severe weather.

“We’re not weather experts, but we’re communication experts,” Armstrong said. “What we can bring to this project, and what’s appealing to the Sea Grant folks, is that we can understand communication and distribution of these messages and how to measure that, how to understand it and how to then give recommendations for how these experts get their messages out.”

Understanding how the public receives and acts upon severe weather alerts and warnings can help emergency managers craft the most effective messages to save lives. The team will focus on the three southern-most emergency management areas of Mississippi and the two southern-most areas in Alabama.

The study will take place during three phases over the course of two years. The first phase will consist of analyzing conversation patterns on social media. By searching keywords, hashtags and specific date ranges on those platforms, the team can evaluate how people seek and relay information and concerns before, during and after extreme weather events.

“Before these tools were available, you’d have to rely on survey data and retrospective-type stuff that would be harder to get a full and perhaps accurate picture of how things played out,” said VanDyke. “This is an exciting new application for the theory, but to also get a more valid snapshot of what public discussion looks like in these areas.”

The second phase has an engagement plan where the team will interview decision-makers, such as emergency managers and city officials, to understand when they decide to start preparing before a storm arrives, what tools they use in making those decisions and how they process risk factors to their areas.

“Decision-makers may or may not have the technical background and understanding to be able to decipher the meaning of uncertainty,” VanDyke said. “What scientists mean by uncertainty might be different than how we in the general public interpret uncertainty, so being able to marry both public and decision-maker needs is really important.”

Focus groups will also be conducted with community members and public opinion leaders to see how they evaluate official messages and how they’re going to make choices during these storms.

“Comprehension and terminology are the big issues,” said Armstrong. “I can see the need for training and awareness of what watches, warnings and these types of terms mean, or maybe coming up with some more uniform terms to talk about coastal issues.”

The third phase will use large-scale sample surveys to determine the differences in information processing and tools, with a specific focus on comparing underserved, urban and rural populations.

“People who live in urban areas have this belief that it’s not going to happen to them or not going to be that big of a deal,” Armstrong said. “Then there’s the people in rural areas that live in flood plains. Every time a huge storm comes in, they’re getting flooded, and it may be that they’re more prepared than others because it happens so frequently.”

Armstrong said taking all this information and coming up with a mitigation plan, especially in underserved areas, is one of the key goals of this study.

“We’re talking about people with limited resources who don’t have ways to evacuate,” she said. “Hurricane Katrina proved sometimes you just can’t leave. What kind of plans can we make for these people who can’t or won’t evacuate? I’m always concerned about that.”

The team will be providing their findings after each phase so decision-makers can continuously analyze and update their plans as the project progresses. A summary of the entire study will be made available to the academic and practitioner communities at the end of the two-year period.

“Here at Alabama, there’s a big push to get more resources built, more information pooled, more accurate forecasts, and it’s just marrying that with where people actually are,” said VanDyke. “In a lot of cases, it’s not an information problem as much as it is an infrastructure problem, or as much as it is values or personal experience or whatever that barrier is that prevents people from using that information.”

UA’s College of Communication and Information Sciences 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

This story originally appeared on UA News Center.

From Tennis Pro to CEO: Brad Friedman

C&IS alumnus Brad Friedman

When C&IS alumnus Brad Friedman (Public Relations ‘03) graduated from The University of Alabama nearly two decades ago, he wasn’t exactly sure what his first post-graduate plans would be. He was seeking a career that would bring both fulfillment and excitement, but pinpointing an opportunity that would satisfy those criteria was harder than it seemed.

As a member of the University’s tennis team during his undergraduate career, he had multiple professional tennis opportunities looming. He also knew that working for his family’s business would always be an option as well.

After some deliberation, Friedman set out to pursue his tennis career. However, after three years of working as a head tennis professional at country clubs in Calabasas, California, and Atlanta, Georgia, he decided it was time for a change. Friedman felt a calling to return to Birmingham, Alabama, and begin working for the family business, City Paper Company, as a vice president.

Founded in 1897, City Paper Company isn’t just like every other longtime, family-owned business. It’s a company built upon decades of history, tradition and hard work.

The company was founded by Friedman’s great grandfather, who emigrated from Poland to Ellis Island, and later found his way to Birmingham in the late 1800s. When the company originated, it was focused solely on providing industrial packaging. But over the years, both the company’s offerings and leadership began to change.

After the death of his great grandfather, Friedman’s grandfather assumed ownership of the company in the 1940s and expanded its offerings to include school supply packaging and retail packaging. He diligently led and managed the company until he was 87 years old and passed the torch to Friedman’s father and uncle.

According to Friedman, the company’s resiliency can be evidenced in how much it has overcome throughout the decades. “City Paper Company has survived two world wars, the Great Depression, and most recently, a global pandemic,” Friedman said.

And, despite all of these challenges, the company continues to thrive.

Today, Friedman is the CEO and president of the company after purchasing it from his father and uncle in 2019. Under his and his wife’s leadership the company has continued to grow and offer the unique products and unmatched service his grandfather sought to provide from the very beginning.

“Over the decades, we’ve morphed as a company and we’ve followed paths where we can excel,” Friedman said.

While maintaining its tradition of offering retail packaging, the company now offers promotional marketing items such as apparel, drinkware, signage and more. It has also built an impressive client list boasting with household names such as Harley Davidson, Carnival Cruise Lines, Hallmark and Cracker Barrel.

Although the company’s recent abundance of success makes the company’s journey and evolution over the years look easy, Friedman’s family has worked hard to beat the odds every step of the way. As Friedman explains, “only two percent of family-owned businesses ever make it past the second generation.” With City Paper Company’s 125th anniversary approaching this July, it’s clear that the company has not only beaten the odds, but it has thrived while becoming a fourth-generation business.

The recipe for success isn’t always clear cut when it comes to working for a family business but, over the years, Friedman has focused on two keys to success that can be applied to almost any career path or personal endeavor: flexibility and optimism.

“Don’t be set on what you want to be doing 20 years from now,” Friedman said. Sometimes it’s the unlikely paths and an open mind that will lead you to decades of success.

C&IS Students Travel to France to Produce Joie de Vivre Magazine

The College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) strives to provide students with experiential learning opportunities that allow them to experience the world outside of Reese Phifer Hall.

As part of one of the College’s international travel courses, C&IS students had the opportunity to visit France during spring break to plan and produce Joie de Vivre, an online magazine.

The trip was part of the mass communication course International Storytelling led by Dr. Kim Bissell, associate dean for research and director of the Institute for Communication and Information Research. Students undergo an application process to take the course, and this semester, undergraduate and graduate students from several majors within the College were selected.

Leading up to spring break, the class met every Tuesday for three hours to plan out the magazine, the stories they wanted to write, and the places in France they wanted to visit. Once in France, students gathered content for their stories. When they returned home, they assembled the content and began finalizing the magazine.

Amelia McGowan, a graduating senior and accelerated master’s student, served as editor of Joie de Vivre. She first heard about the course while meeting with Dr. Bissell and was eager to learn more about the opportunity to study abroad. Previously, McGowan had never been able to fit a full study abroad program into her schedule. However, she found Bissell’s course to be the perfect opportunity as it allowed her to pursue her interest and gain leadership skills that she will take with her in her future endeavors.

“It sounds so cliche, but I think my biggest takeaways would be trust the process and trust yourself. When Dr. Bissell made me editor, I was flattered but also very nervous because I had never had that kind of responsibility before and I wasn’t sure I was ready,” McGowan said. “As I started to lean into my role and work with my team, I started to gain more confidence in my skills and trust myself to not only get the job done, but to do it well. I learned so much about what it takes to be a successful leader and be of service to those around me.”

McGowan said the trip and class was extremely beneficial and allowed her to gained ample writing and editing experience. It also gave her the opportunity to learn more about creative media careers, such as photography and film, that she hadn’t learned in her previous courses.

“I cannot recommend this class enough. One of the first things Dr. Bissell told us was ‘I want this to be something that you guys are proud of. I want you to produce things that you can use in your portfolios and showcase in interviews,’ and that really made me think that this was an actual program that would benefit me in the future,” McGowan said. “Going into this class, I didn’t know anyone, so I was a little nervous starting out. But as the semester went on, we all started to become closer. Once we were in France together, we had the best time and became really good friends! I think that’s been my favorite part about this whole experience; getting to know people outside of my major and watching them grow in their craft has been truly rewarding.”

Joie de Vivre is a magazine written, produced and designed by students at The University of Alabama. It contains content that was collected during their trip to Paris, France in March 2022. View the magazine here.

Five C&IS Students Win Silver Pencil Award at The Young Ones Award Show

Photo courtesy of Ayano Hisa

A team of five students from The University of Alabama’s College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) has been awarded a Silver Pencil from the Young Ones annual student award show.

Erin Brown, Morgan Egan, Ginger Ellis, Matthias Meyer and Miles Neto, who comprised the winning team, are all students in Minerva, the creative advertising portfolio program housed within C&IS.

The Young Ones is a highly competitive, international creative advertising competition hosted by The One Club for Creativity in New York City each year. A pencil award from The One Club is one of the most prestigious awards given in the advertising industry, and the team’s Silver Pencil is the highest award that has even been earned by students at The University of Alabama who have participated in the competition.

“Winning a Silver Pencil is incredible because it means that others in the advertising industry agree with what we are doing,” said Morgan Egan.

This year’s competition required students to respond to a creative brief from one of four sponsoring brands including Call of Duty: Warzone, Bang & Olufsen, DoorDash and Spotify.

The team’s winning submission, entitled “The Backbone Awards,” was both a response to a creative brief for Call of Duty: Warzone and an innovative approach to changing the trajectory of advertising awards.

According to Mark Barry, director of the Minerva program, the students’ submission addressed The One Club “flipping their principles faster than the coins they are chasing.” In turn, the students created a brand-new award, The Backbone Awards, in order to highlight and celebrate work and advertising professionals who do more than just simply sell products and build brands. The Backbone Awards will allow students to award both people and projects in the industry for work that shows the powerful and positive impacts that advertising can have on the industry.

“We’ve won pencils in the past, but this one is extra special,” Barry said. “These five students’ bravery to stand up and call out the organization hosting the awards competition is admirable. And, their submission, The Backbone Awards, is something that will continue to grow and get better over time.”

To learn more about the backbone awards, click here:

To view the team’s winning Young Ones submission, click here:

C&IS Faculty Elected to AEJMC Leadership Positions

Three C&IS faculty members received elected positions within the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), a nonprofit, educational association of journalism and mass communication educators, students and media professionals.

AEJMC’s mission is to promote the highest possible standards for journalism and mass communication education, to cultivate the widest possible range of communication research, to encourage the implementation of a multi-cultural society in the classroom and curriculum, and to defend and maintain freedom of communication in an effort to achieve better professional practice and a better informed public.

Congratulations to the three C&IS faculty members:

Dr. Suzanne Horsley

Horsley, Assistant Dean of Assessment, Accreditation and Diversity, was elected Accrediting Council Representative. Horsley will serve in the position for a three-year term and will work with the Executive Director to schedule sessions. Additionally, she will work with other representatives to issue written reports to the AEJMC Board of Directors following each meeting, which may also be published in the AEJMC newsletter.

Dr. George Daniels

Daniels, associate professor of journalism and creative media, was elected to the Professional Freedom & Responsibility Committee. In this position, he will serve as liaison to two or three divisions, working most closely with division chairs. The committee also works to sponsor a Resolutions Hearing.

Dr. Chris Roberts

Roberts, associate professor of journalism and creative media, was elected to the Teaching Committee. In this position, he will serve as liaison and maintain contact with assigned division and interest group teaching standards chairs. Roberts will also prepare a list of potential programming activities for division and interest group teaching chairs, provide divisions with goals that may be applicable to teaching standards, plan an AEJMC plenary once every three years, plan workshops and other teaching activities, and review papers submitted for Teaching Committee paper competitions when sponsored.

PRSSA Wins Four Alabama PRSA Student Awards

The University of Alabama’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) was recently awarded four Alabama PRSA Student Awards during the professional chapter’s monthly meeting in April.

The PRSA Student Awards are open to all PRSSA chapters within the state, and nine awards were given this year. The UA chapter won the awards for Outstanding Chapter, University Service and Chapter Newsletter. Additionally, Claire Dubreuil, a junior public relations major, was awarded the Wordsmith award.

Tracy Sims, senior instructor of advertising and public relations, has served as UA PRSSA chapter faculty adviser since 2008. She said that the opportunity for PRSSA chapters to receive recognition strengthens the value of what they do.

“I truly appreciate that PRSA Alabama created this opportunity for PRSSA chapters across the state to have their yearly chapter activities and successes to be recognized,” Sims said. “Such recognition reinforces the value of what they do for their chapter members, their universities and communities, and the public relations profession.”

Sims also said the most rewarding part of her role has been witnessing the chapter grow into a nationally award-winning organization and developing ethical leadership in the public relations field by providing career advice to PRSSA members.

“Over the years, our chapter leadership has focused on ways to increase involvement of our members beyond attending our monthly professional development meetings,” Sims said. “Members now can serve on various chapter committees, helping to create content for our social media accounts, writing for the chapter blog and participating in University and community service projects, for example. The chapter also has strengthened our diversity and inclusion initiatives, electing our first VP of diversity & inclusion in 2017-2018 and developing D&I pillars to guide our chapter activities in 2020-2021.”

Dubreuil, who first joined PRSSA as a freshman in 2019, said being involved with the organization has played a major role in expanding her knowledge of the PR industry and her skillset.

“We are constantly bringing in industry professionals who really want to form relationships with students and also bring internship offers with them as well,” Dubreuil said. “The meetings cover a variety of topics, so there’s really something for everyone and ample opportunities to learn about every area of PR. I think that college students should be taking every opportunity we have to learn while we’re still here, and PRSSA meetings are an easy and fun way to do that.”

Twelve UA PRSSA students have earned national PRSSA/PRSA Foundation individual scholarships since 2014, and since 2012, the UA PRSSA chapter and its PRSSA nationally affiliated student-run firm, Capstone Agency, have earned 22 total chapter awards at the PRSSA national level.

The University of Alabama PRSSA Chapter was founded in 1970 and currently boasts over 180 members. It is a leading pre-professional organization for students interested in public relations, communications and other related fields.

Dr. George Daniels Selected for Fulbright Award

Dr. George Daniels, associate professor in the department of journalism and creative media, was one of three UA faculty members selected for Fulbright awards for educators.

Daniels will participate in the pilot cohort of the Global Challenges Teaching Award through the US-UK Fulbright Commission and American Council on Education. This award is the first of its kind that provides an opportunity for universities in the U.S. and United Kingdom to partner in a virtual international exchange using the Collaborative Online International Learning, or COIL, method of teaching.

The award will promote digital innovation and democratize international exchange by bringing together classrooms on both sides of the Atlantic to address current global challenges. This year’s cohort will focus on three pressing issues: pandemics, climate change and racial justice, with the unique opportunity to share and compare knowledge across nations, widen their perspectives, and build all important transatlantic links that will help tackle these challenges collectively.

Daniels and Dr. Amal Abu-Bakare from the University of Liverpool in Liverpool, England, were selected to collaborate and connect their respective classes focused on racial justice. The goal of the virtual international exchange between UA and Liverpool is to share and compare knowledge across nations, widen students’ perspectives and build vitally important trans-Atlantic links that will help tackle global challenges such as racial injustice collectively.

“It is quite an honor to be the first winner of the Global Challenge Teaching Award for Racial Justice in the U.S.,” said Daniels. “I am looking forward to learning new ways to globalize learning for our students and expanding my own horizons in the area of international education. I believe what I learn about virtual exchanges and collaborative online international learning can benefit others here in The University of Alabama community.”

As part of the virtual exchange, both will not only connect their classes online but also travel to each other’s campuses during the fall semester to engage in person with students from the other campus. Daniels will focus on race, gender and media, while Abu-Bakare will teach about the politics of race and marginalization.

The Fulbright U.S. scholars program offers over 400 awards in more than 130 countries for U.S. citizens to teach, conduct research and carry out professional projects around the world. Learn more about the program here.

This story originally appeared on UA News Center.

AFC Finishes Tournament Season Strong with Eight National Championships

The Alabama Forensic Council (AFC) recently competed in four national tournaments and brought home a team national championship and seven individual national championships among other awards. During March and April, AFC attended the Pi Kappa Delta Biennial Convention and Tournament, the Asynchronous Speech Championship national tournament, the American Forensics Association National Speech Tournament and the National Forensic Association National Championship Tournament

The team had an incredible finish to its tournament season and received more than 100 awards across the four tournaments. Notably, AFC won the national championship for team sweepstakes at the National Forensic Association National Championship Tournament.

Additionally, four students – Alex Brewbaker, Anna Kutbay, Ja’Quacy Minter and Garrett Reynolds – collectively won seven individual national championships this tournament season.

At the Pi Kappa Delta Biennial Convention and Tournament, Alex Brewbaker and Ja’Quacy Minter won the national championship in Duo Interpretation, Minter won the national championship in Poetry Interpretation and Garrett Reynolds won the national championship in After Dinner Speaking. At the Asynchronous Speech Championship, Anna Kutbay won the national championship in Persuasive Speaking, and at the American Forensics Association National Speech Tournament, Kutbay won the national championships in Impromptu Speaking and Informative Speaking. She was also named the individual sweepstakes national champion for the second consecutive year, and Minter was named the individual sweepstakes national runner-up.

Read below for the full list of awards received by UA students at each of the four tournaments.

Pi Kappa Delta Biennial Convention and Tournament


Asynchronous Speech Championship National Tournament


American Forensics Association National Speech Tournament


National Forensic Association National Championship Tournament


The Alabama Forensic Council is The University of Alabama’s competitive speech team. As the oldest co-curricular organization on campus, the program aims to respect and build upon the successes of alumni and forge a path for current and future students. AFC provides students with skills and resources to engage in intellectual discovery, enable professional development, strengthen and utilize their unique voices, construct compelling messages, engage in interpersonal and rhetorical exploration and foster community through advocacy and argumentation.