Category: CIS News

C&IS Student Receives Premier Award

C&IS News Media Major, Tionna Taite

News media major Tionna Taite is one of nine recipients of The University of Alabama’s (UA) highest honor, the Premier Awards. The awards are given to students, faculty and staff who exemplify the highest standards of scholarship, service, leadership and character. Taite received the William P. and Estan J. Bloom Award, which honors a junior who has improved intergroup relations within the University community.

In addition to her coursework in C&IS, Taite serves as the editor-in-chief of UA Honors College’s MOSAIC magazine, and she recently created the University’s first Black-student-led magazine, “Nineteen Fifty-Six,” which highlights Black culture, Black excellence and the Black student experience.

Taite’s work toward improving intergroup relations at UA stems from her desire to give a voice to students from historically marginalized groups.

“It is important for me to improve intergroup relations within the University community because I believe all students should have a way to be heard, especially minority students at a predominantly white institution,” Taite said. “I am honored to be selected as a recipient for the Premier Awards, and I am glad to have a platform that enables me to improve understanding among groups on campus.”

Upon graduation, Taite plans to pursue a law degree and become an intellectual property lawyer. She also plans to do pro bono work centering around civil rights cases and aspires to establish mentorship programs for minority girls who are pursuing a higher education.

View the full list of the Premier Awards recipients and learn about each of their achievements here.

C&IS is committed to promoting an environment that fosters diversity and inclusion and is proud of the efforts of our students, faculty and staff. To learn more about diversity, equity and inclusion in C&IS, visit

C&IS Alumna Excels in Journalism Industry

Alumna Tina Turner (B.A. in Communication in News Media ’20) is currently working as the inaugural Jim Lehrer Fellow at PBS NewsHour. The Jim Lehrer Journalism Fellowship program was created in 2020 in honor of Jim Lehrer, co-founder and anchor of PBS NewsHour. The year-long program selects one college graduate each year who is interested in pursuing a career in journalism and provides them with hands-on experience in the areas of broadcast and online editorial and production units.

Turner credits much of her success and preparation for the role to her time at C&IS. “C&IS does an excellent job of providing valuable learning opportunities for students. There are so many news media and journalism jobs offered and I tried to take advantage of as many of them as I could,” she said.

During her time as a student, she participated in a variety of experiential learning opportunities ranging from working as a student reporter at Alabama Public Radio (APR) to working as the station manager at WVUA-FM her senior year.

Turner’s campus involvement and dedication to honing her journalism and reporting skills undoubtedly paid off as she was recently named a top ten finalist in the audio category of the Hearst Journalism Awards Program. The program awards students for outstanding work in the journalism field. Turner was recognized for two audio reports she completed during her student internship with APR.

Her advice for those looking to excel in their career is simple. “Put in the time. Put in the work,” Turner said. “You have to devote time to finding out what you want to be great at,” she said.

Click below to view Turner’s two award-winning submissions:
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C&IS Hosts Virtual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

C&IS hosted its biennial Hall of Fame ceremony on Friday, Feb. 19. The virtual ceremony honored Nancy Parker Boyd, E. Culpepper Clark, Jan Crawford and Bryan Stevenson. C&IS Board of Visitors member Barry Copeland, president of The Copeland Strategies Group, served as emcee. The video produced by the Center for Public Television to honor each of our inductees can be viewed here. Additional information about each inductee is available below.

Nancy Parker Boyd

Nancy Parker Boyd graduated from the College of Communication and Information Sciences with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism in 1988 before beginning her television broadcast career with TV stations in Georgia and Alabama. After anchoring the news for several years at WAFB in Baton Rouge, she made New Orleans her home where she covered New Orleans and South Louisiana for three decades. A five-time Emmy Award-winning journalist who served as a morning anchor for WVUE FOX 8 in New Orleans, Boyd was a legend in the community and an inspiration to young aspiring journalists. Boyd passed away in a plane crash while reporting a story on August 16, 2019.

E. Culpepper Clark

Culpepper “Cully” Clark is dean emeritus of the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, a position he held from 2006 until his retirement in 2013. Prior to the University of Georgia, Clark worked at The University of Alabama for 27 years, including serving as dean of the College of Communication and Information Sciences. His published works have focused on the New South Movement and his book, “The Schoolhouse Door: Segregation’s Last Stand at the University of Alabama,” was named a Notable Book by the New York Times Book Review.

Jan Crawford

Jan Crawford is the chief legal correspondent for CBS News and a recognized authority on the U.S. Supreme Court. Her 2007 book, “Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for the Control of the United States Supreme Court” gained critical acclaim and became an instant New York Times Bestseller. Crawford is a 1987 graduate of The University of Alabama and a 1993 graduate of the University of Chicago Law School. She has taught journalism at American University and frequently speaks about the Court to universities, law schools, legal organizations and civic groups across the country.

Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a human rights organization in Montgomery, Alabama. Stevenson is a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, incarcerated and condemned. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Harvard’s School of Government and the author of the award-winning New York Times bestseller “Just Mercy,” which was recently adapted as a major motion picture.

About the Hall of Fame:

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

Capstone Agency Gives Back Through Annual CreateAthon Event

Dean Nelson joins Capstone Agency members to kick off the fifth annual CreateAthon

Imagine a 12-hour day full of virtual meetings…two days in a row.

That’s what the nationally affiliated, top-ranked, student-run communications firm, Capstone Agency, undertook for its fifth annual CreateAthon, a pro bono marketing marathon where students harness their skills to benefit the local community.

Nearly 70 students took part in the event, producing $40,487 worth of donated marketing work for nonprofit organizations around Tuscaloosa and Birmingham.

This year’s event was held virtually over two 12-hour days. Students worked in their own living spaces, gathering on Zoom calls for collaboration.

Even though the event looked different than in years past  it’s typically a 24-hour marathon where students gather in Reese Phifer Hall to pull an all-nighter  students delivered impressive results.

“I was initially worried about how engaged and enthused our participants would be in this year’s virtual event, but I was blown away by the energy and motivation our members maintained,” said Stephanie Cohen, a junior marketing major who serves as the pro bono director for the Capstone Agency. “I think that speaks volumes about the culture of our agency. It looked different this time, but we were all just really excited for the opportunity to help these nonprofits, who need it this year more than ever.”

CreateAthon served seven local nonprofits, including Arts ‘n Autism, Miracle League of Tuscaloosa, Parkinson Association of Alabama, Success By 6, Sweetwater Outreach, Tuscaloosa International Friends and YMCA of Tuscaloosa.

Each nonprofit presented the agency with a communications problem, and students worked through the event to create marketing solutions to donate to the organizations. All of the nonprofits who benefited this year were impacted in some way by the pandemic.

“Most of the organizations we worked with wanted help with how to do things virtually, such as how to effectively brand a virtual fundraiser,” said Cohen. “These organizations rely heavily on fundraisers, and the pandemic really affected their ability to do those last year.”

Over CreateAthon’s five-year history at UA, students have donated over $250,000 worth of creative services, benefitting 30 local nonprofits.

“Capstone Agency members are always so eager to give back to the organizations that do so much for our community, and I’m so grateful to be a part of it,” said Cohen.

This story originally appeared on UA News Center.

C&IS Student Among Most Promising Multicultural Students

A University of Alabama senior was selected as one of the American Advertising Federation’s Most Promising Multicultural Students of 2021.

Hanna Fridriksson, a Mobile native, is one of 50 college students from across the country chosen to participate in the Most Promising Multicultural Students program, a premier event put on by the AAF to give traditionally underrepresented, multicultural students an opportunity to network with and learn from top advertising, marketing and media professionals.

The program is part of an AAF initiative to promote diversity, equity and inclusion within the advertising industry.

“It’s a really great program, and I’m thankful for the opportunity,” said Fridriksson, who is in UA’s accelerated master’s program in advertising and public relations. “The advertising world is a bit homogenous, in a sense. It’s really nice to see that there are programs trying to push back on that and add diversity into the industry because it’s really important for different perspectives to be represented.”

Students were selected for the program by a panel of leading industry professionals, including representatives from Apple, Google, L’Oreal and Twitter, among others.

The four-day event, held last year in New York City, will be fully virtual this year and run Jan. 26-29, 2021.

“I’ve been fortunate to build some relationships from a program I did last summer,” said Fridriksson, who participated in a virtual summer fellowship with the American Association of Advertising Agencies’ Multicultural Advertising Intern Program. “With the Most Promising program, I’d love to grow my network and create relationships with some new people in the industry, and hopefully land a really great internship or job for this summer.”

During her time at UA, Fridriksson has been highly involved with the Capstone Advertising Federation, UA’s chapter of AAF, and has been on the executive board since her sophomore year. She began as secretary and now serves as president.

In addition, she serves on the student executive council for the College of Communication and Information Sciences and is a member of UA’s Ad Team.

Last semester, Fridriksson studied abroad in an exchange program with Kedge Business School in Bordeaux, France, which ended early due to COVID-19.

Fridriksson is set to graduate from UA in May 2022 with both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Upon graduation, she plans to move to a big city and work for an advertising agency to gain experience and build her portfolio; she dreams of eventually working for a large beauty brand, such as Sephora.

This story originally appeared on UA News Center.

The Best of 2020

Though 2020 brought challenges around the world, we are proud of all that our College has accomplished this year! Here are just a few of the honors and achievements we are celebrating:

  • Our public relations program was named the Most Outstanding Education Program in the country by PRWeek.
  • C&IS had nearly $8 million worth of research grant submissions this year, which is the most we have ever seen as a college.
  • In just under three days, donors, who included C&IS faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends, contributed more than $15,000 to this year’s Bama Blitz passion project and exceeded our fundraising goal.
  • The Center for Public Television received 6 Emmy nominations and 1 win.
  • Two C&IS Advertising students were named to the AAF Most Promising Multicultural Students Class of 2020.
  • Capstone Agency was named the top student-run agency for their 3rdconsecutive opportunity.
  • SLIS raised more than $23,200 in new free books to School Libraries in the Black Belt and Beyond.
  • A $325,000 renovation enhanced meeting and laboratory space for the Institute for Communication and Information Research and the Office for Graduate Studies.
  • 68 alumni and industry professionals committed to serving as Oakley Society Mentors.

We owe much of our success to the support of you—our alumni and friends. Thank you for making this a year worth celebrating!

C&IS Posts Record Retention Rate for 2019-20 Freshman Class

C&IS Living Learning Community students attend class in their residential community, John England Jr. Hall.*

The College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) is pleased to announce that—through the collective hard work of faculty, staff and C&IS supporters—it has achieved 90.3% first-to-second-year retention rate among the Fall 2019 cohort.

This means that 90.3% of the Fall 2019 C&IS first-time, full-time students returned to The University of Alabama for the Fall 2020 semester. The retention rate breaks the University’s institutional goal of 90% retention and continues a positive trend of steady increase at C&IS in the past four years, an overall increase from 85.4% in 2016.

“It’s impossible to attribute this success to any one specific variable,” said Dr. Sara Hartley, associate professor and associate dean for undergraduate studies and external relations at C&IS. “But I am confident that our efforts in recruiting highly qualified students, centralizing academic advising for the first two years, and our additional outreach and engagement opportunities for students have made a tremendous impact. This shows us that the intentional work is paying off in a big way.”

In other words, a collective effort from a variety of internal and external C&IS supporters made this possible.

For more than 5 years, C&IS freshman and sophomores have received academic advising support through the College’s three professional academic advisors, part of Tisch Student Services and External Relations. Furthermore, Tisch takes a holistic approach in advising all C&IS students and works to support students in the classroom and beyond the classroom.

Additionally, C&IS works tirelessly to enhance the student experience through its nationally recognized student organizations, travel programs and professional development workshops. On top of this, the College recently launched a living learning community and Freshman Interest Groups (C&IS FIGs) to provide even more opportunities for the first-year student population. Combine all of these things together and the results speak for themselves.

Lastly, strengthening these areas of institutional support, C&IS donors have been tremendously impactful in their generosity. The notable increase in scholarship support ensures that some of the students who face financial challenges are able to remain enrolled.

These results also come as a bit of a surprise as some had predicted nationwide retention rates to fall this year due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Not only did the retention rate see a notable increase from last year, the pattern appears now to be holding steady for Spring 2021 with numbers similar to what C&IS saw in the months preceding Fall 2020.

When a high school senior leaves home for their freshman year of college, they lack a full picture of what their first-year experience will be like. The recruitment brochures and the on-campus visits are tremendously helpful in filling in the gaps, but they won’t truly know what it’s like to be on campus until they’ve spent a full year there. First-year-to-second-year retention rates are meaningful indicators of a positive student experience because they indicate that the student has completed their first year on campus and decided to return for the next chapter.

“We love to see retention rates increase and hold steady because these numbers represent individuals with unique stories and personal, academic goals,” said Hartley. “Returning to C&IS for their second year demonstrates that these students trust this institution to help them achieve these goals on their path to the extraordinary.”

*This picture was taken in Fall, 2019—prior to Covid-19 precautionary measures.

Communication and Information Sciences Hall of Fame Inductees Announced

The University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences will hold its biennial Hall of Fame Ceremony on Friday, February 19, 2021 as a virtual induction ceremony and celebration of the honorees.

The 2020 class of inductees includes Nancy Parker Boyd, E. Culpepper Clark, Jan Crawford and Bryan Stevenson.

Admission is open to the public. General admission tickets can be purchased for $75 and will provide ticket holders access to the induction ceremony at 7 p.m. CST. Premium tickets can be purchased for $150 and include access to the ceremony and an exclusive, virtual cocktail hour at 6 p.m. CST with a live Q&A with the 2020 Hall of Fame inductees. Premium ticket holders will also receive a special C&IS Hall of Fame gift box prior to the event.

For more information and to purchase tickets or to sponsor the event, visit the C&IS website here.

The 2020 Class:

Nancy Parker Boyd, award-winning journalist, children’s book author and community hero.

E. Culpepper Clark, former C&IS Dean, distinguished author, historian and educator.

Jan Crawford, CBS Chief Legal Correspondent, New York Times best-selling author and United States Supreme Court expert.

Bryan Stevenson, lawyer, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and social justice activist.

About the Hall of Fame:

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

JCM Students Join Mock Press Conference with Alabama Public Safety Officers

Five students from the Department of Journalism and Creative Media participated in a mock press conference with public safety officers from across the state of Alabama last Friday, November 13.

Hosted by the Alabama Fire College in Tuscaloosa, the event provides an opportunity for University of Alabama students to gain valuable live-interview experience as public information officers from the Alabama Public Safety Leadership Academy (APSLA) simultaneously receive a test in having to answer their questions.

“I’ve had a relationship with the APSLA and conducted this training with them using RTDNA members and students from my classes since 2014,” said Dr. Chandra Clark. “It’s really good training for both. Future and current public information officers practice responding to the media with different safety and pressing issues, and our student “reporters” drill them to try to get the answers they need for their stories.”

The students who participated in this event are Lacey Beasley, Crimson Jeffers, Hannah Jones, T.J. Ross and Martha Glen Sease.

“There’s not many opportunities to practice being a member of the press in news conferences—you typically just jump right in and hope your experience interviewing for stories will translate to a conference,” said Sease. “The members of the APSLA kept thanking us for coming and letting them practice, and I’m not sure they realized until we were able to speak more with them that they were also helping us.”

With the amount of hands-on educational experiences being limited by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the students jumped at the opportunity to assist the APSLA in the press conference—maintaining appropriate social distancing and wearing the necessary protective face masks.

“It was great to have exposure to real-life scenarios that could happen in a real news conference with first responders and officials,” said Ross. “This was a really fun and educational experience.”

The Alabama Public Safety Leadership Academy exists to broaden and enhance the management and leadership skills of select members of Alabama’s public safety agencies through a directed program exposing members to key strategic elements relevant to public safety organizational success.

Research Spotlight: Dr. Jiyoung Lee

When the coronavirus pandemic hit the scene in the United States in early 2020, many were completely unfamiliar with the virus, and few had experienced a real public health crisis—certainly not one of this scale. Seemingly overnight, Americans all became familiar with terminology such as “flattening the curve,” and “social distancing.” As shutdowns and mask mandates swept across the nation, the country braced for a long and uncertain fight.

Information about the virus, preventative measures and protocols flooded social media platforms. With countless sources reporting information on a novel strain of a virus, many of the articles, tweets, Facebook posts and Instagram live videos seemed to conflict. There was an abundance of good information out there to be read and understood, but there was also a lot of harmful misinformation.

For C&IS assistant professor Dr. Jiyoung Lee (journalism and creative media), there has never been a clearer need for her research. Primarily, her research areas include emerging media (such as social media or interactive media) and the way these media affect the way the public understands health misinformation or misinformation in general.

“I have particularly noted that whenever we faced this pandemic and other risky situation, we feel anxiety and are so uncertain,” said Lee. “And I have realized this kind of fear and anxiety actually leads us to believe the unverified information.”

According to Lee, people believe what they want to believe as a way of managing the anxiety, uncertainty or perception of risk they are feeling in a moment of crisis. And readily available information on social media can hurt—rather than help—a crisis situation as it evolves.

“Social media was designed to help people connect with each other, but users can definitely just be exposed to information that they want to see,” said Lee. “Probably because filtering algorithms oftentimes just show the information users have an interest in seeing, and social media allows people to connect only with the people they want to connect with.”

As a quantitative scholar, Lee uses online surveys and experiments as well as compensation analyses to study Facebook and Twitter posts. Lee’s passion and curiosity for this research area are driven by her interest in emotions and risk perception. Concerning emotions, one observation Lee has made about the ongoing pandemic situation is the way that it is causing many to react angrily. A current study of hers focuses on whether or not the anger people feel about a situation makes the more vulnerable to believing misinformation.

Another emotional issue seen during the pandemic is the effect that the large availability of information from different sources has on social media users. According to Lee, vast amounts of sources and articles leave many feeling exhausted from “information overload,” regardless of whether or not the information they are consuming is accurate. And this can hinder whether or not they seek out additional information.

“If people feel that they do not have the capacity to process more information, they don’t want to seek out new information. Then they just think about the situation based on the information they already have,” said Lee. “The most important thing to avoid right now is being a passive audience—even if they are exhausted and afraid. I encourage people to seek out information with greater force and double-check everything.”

As the coronavirus pandemic continues on, understanding how to find accurate information and avoid information overload is vitally important. To see some helpful tips from Dr. Jiyoung Lee, check out our video below. For more information on Lee’s research, you can check out her website here.

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