Category: CIS News

C&IS Celebrates Luce Scholar Mary Caroline Yuk

Tuscaloosa, Ala – Mary Caroline Yuk, a recent graduate of The University of Alabama (UA), has been recognized as a Luce Scholar by the Henry Luce Foundation for her work on hearing healthcare disparities and gerontology.

Yuk and her older brother Patrick were born profoundly deaf but gained the ability to hear through cochlear implants and Auditory Verbal (AV) therapy. Now, she works alongside leading scholars, researchers and advocates to improve and grow AV therapy among low-income households world-wide.

RF radar and American Sign Language research, featuring Mary Caroline Yuk, Dr. Darrin Griffin and Dr. Sevgi Zubeyde Gurbuz
From left: Mary Caroline Yuk, Dr. Darrin Griffin and Dr. Sevgi Zubeyde Gurbuz

As an undergraduate, Yuk enrolled in Dr. Darrin Griffin’s special topics class, “Perspectives on Deaf Culture.” A two-time NSF grant winner, Dr. Griffin is an associate professor and the Communication Studies interim chair in the College of Communication & Information Sciences. Yuk worked alongside Dr. Griffin and Dr. Sevgi Zubeyde Gurbuz to develop sign language recognition using radar and machine learning, which aims to make technology more accessible to American Sign Language. The project combines communication, neuroscience and accessibility research to help hearing impaired individuals use sound-only technology like voice search.

“Dr. Griffin is a remarkable and rare professor, to whom I owe a great deal of credit for metamorphizing my conception of deafness. I am now a more considerate and sensitive scholar as a result of taking his class and working with him on initiatives that aim to help the underserved, such as the ASL radar detection technology project,” said Yuk.

She also worked with Dr. Griffin on a successful project to test the effectiveness of a clear mask for both D/deaf and hearing students at the University of Alabama during classroom instruction. A clear mask creates accessibility and provides a world of difference for deaf students in the classroom, but the product can prove beneficial for everyone. Transparent masks can also be a great resource for students who know English as a second language and neurodivergent students. To demonstrate this, they conducted a survey to assess whether a clear mask was also beneficial for the larger student population. They had 19 professors wear the clear mask for one class period and polled 148 students to assess their opinion of the clear mask.

Yuk then created and produced a video in collaboration with the Center for Public Television at University of Alabama; Dr. Griffin; Dr. Natalie Adams, an associate professor of Social and Cultural Studies; and Dr. John Miller, associate professor at New College. In the video, researchers interviewed three deaf and hard-of-hearing students about their their experiences during the pandemic, as well as their opinion on using clear masks during lectures.

“In class, it was immediately evident that Mary is the kind of person who is multicultural in her experiences, thinking, communication and research interests,” said Griffin. “She is a STEM scholar who understands the value and impact of her education in communication, and I believe her work will make large impacts on both scientific and cultural communities.”

Yuk graduated from UA as the Catherine J. Randall awardee and is a Marshall Scholar, the first deaf scholar in the history of the award and UA’s first recipient in over 40 years. As an interdisciplinary studies major in UA’s New College, her work blended information science and neuroscience by better understanding deafness and bringing AV therapy to underserved Alabama communities. Recently, she received her master’s degree from University of Oxford, where she researched corticofugal projections’ role in spatial hearing. Currently, she is working with Dr. Sarah Hogan and Auditory Verbal UK, the U.K.’s leading AV therapy provider, to analyze and profile deaf children’s sensory integration difficulties and seeking a second master’s in Medical Anthropology from University of Oxford.

The Luce Scholars Program is a nationally competitive fellowship that empowers 18 young leaders to seek professional experiences in Asia. The program is open to U.S. citizens and permanent residents and provides stipends, language training and professional placement across a variety of fields.

APSC in Barcelona, Spain

The University of Alabama leads International Sport Conference in Barcelona

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Faculty and graduate students from the Alabama Program in Sports Communication (APSC) presented at the 15th Summit on Communication and Sport, hosted by the International Association for Communication and Sport Conference (IACS) in Barcelona, Spain. The conference ran from March 9 to 11 and featured discussions and panels led by international leaders in sports communication research.

Dr. Andrew Billings, Executive Director of the APSC and Ronald Reagan Chair of Broadcasting in the Department of Journalism and Creative Media, organized the event and led The University of Alabama’s cohort, which featured faculty and students from the College of Communication & Information Sciences (C&IS), Culverhouse College of Business and the College of Human Environmental Sciences (CHES).

Conference sessions ran throughout Friday and Saturday and covered topics such as “Race, National Identity and the WNBA,” “Communication and the National Football League,” “Fans, Fandom and Fanship” and “Examining the Intersection of Sport, Social Media and Crisis Communicaiton.”

“While no formal metric exists, I am confident in stating that more sports communication work is being advanced from The University of Alabama than at any institution in the world,” said Dr. Billings. “That creates a global imprint that we’ve always sought to embrace, which includes hosting the IACS Summit. I’ve known their leadership since 2010, so I pitched the idea of jointly hosting the conference in their city. Fortunately, both schools saw this as ideal.”

Dr. Billings credited the former dean, Dr. Mark Nelson, for agreeing to fund the conference and current leadership for seeing it through.

“IACS in Barcelona was a wonderful opportunity to showcase The University of Alabama as a leader in sports communication research,” said Dr. Kim Bissell, Associate Dean for Research and Director of the Institute for Communication and Information Research (ICIR). “We represented an array of topics, showing the breadth and the depth of research being done here.”

Dr. Billings agreed: “At a conference with accepted submissions from 21 nations and six continents, UA was the most represented. That’s impressive.”

Over 150 sports communication professionals attended the event. Dr. Bissell noted that while some conferences host more attendees, IACS is where cutting-edge, industry leading work is being done.

Altogether, 12 faculty and graduate students attended the conference, including Dr. Scott Parrott, Dr. Kenon Brown, Dr. Jihoon Kim, Dr. Anneliese Bolland, Dr. Michael Bruce, Dr. Sean Sadri, Dr. John Vincent, Emily Dirks, Josh Jackson and Sidney Callahan.

The University of Alabama Program in Sports Communication offers public events, highlights research and creative projects, and leads discussions about communication and sport issues throughout the community and nation. The program connects students pursuing careers in sports with research and professional opportunities.

WVUA won four awards at the 2023 ABBY Awards.

WVUA 23 wins at 2023 ABBY Awards

Tuscaloosa, Ala. – WVUA 23 received four 2023 Alabama’s Best in Broadcasting (ABBY) Awards from the Alabama Broadcasters Association. The 17th annual ABBY Awards were presented Saturday, March 18, in Birmingham, and more than 300 radio and television broadcasters represented stations from around the state. 

“I’d like to thank our viewers for trusting us with your amazing stories,” said Kay Norred, WVUA 23 News Director. “WVUA 23 News will continue to honor our vision of informing and inspiring the communities we serve.” 

WVUA 23’s awards include: 

ABBY Award for Television Sports Reporting for Silent Warrior: Coach Paul Kulick, by Amy Martin and Michael Kulick. 

Award of Merit for Television General Assignment Reporting for Bethlehem Baptist Burns Again, by Chelsea Barton 

ABBY Award for Television General Assignment Reporting for Unity Within Our Community, by Chelsea Barton 

ABBY Award for Television Series for Outside the Huddle, by Stu McCann, Don Ward and Amy Martin 

“Teamwork is critical in everything we do,” said Amy Martin regarding the ABBY Award for television Series. “The team that worked on [Outside the Hustle] continues to be dedicated and passionate about telling West Alabama’s stories.” 

Alabama Forensic Council Wins 24th National Championship

The Alabama Forensic Council (AFC) recently competed in five national tournaments and brought home its 24th team national championship and nine individual events national championships among other awards.

During March, AFC attended the Novice National Forensic Association’s 40th Annual Novice National Tournament, the International Forensics Association Tournament in Tokyo, Japan, the Pi Kappa Delta National Comprehensive Tournament, the National Online Forensics Championship and the Asynchronous Speech Championship.

After completing five of their six total national tournaments this season, the team has won more than 100 awards. Most notably, AFC won the National Championship in Team Individual Events Sweepstakes at the 2023 Novice National Tournament.

Additionally, students won nine individual event national championships in duo interpretation, extemporaneous speaking, impromptu speaking, persuasive speaking, poetry interpretation, prose interpretation, rhetorical criticism, slam poetry and individual sweepstakes.

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


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.

Dr. Chris Roberts Hosts First Office of Research in Media Integrity Event

The Office of Research in Media Integrity (ORMI) in the College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) hosted its debut event earlier this year.

Dr. Chris Roberts, associate professor in journalism and creative media, is director of ORMI and invited three experts in media ethics to join him for a discussion titled “My, how your growing! How young adults mature morally, from college to their media work lives.”

The speakers were Dr. David Craig, a presidential professor in the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma; Dr. Katie Place, a professor in the School of Communications at Quinnipiac University and senior research fellow at The Arthur W. Page Center for integrity in public communication; and Dr. Patrick Plaisance, editor of the Journal of Media Ethics and the Don W. Davis professor in Ethics at the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State.

The professors are part of a long-running research project following the moral development of 100-plus students who graduated nationwide with media-focused degrees in 2018 and 2019.

Their work centers around theories of emerging adulthood, a distinct phase of life where young adults begin making long-term commitments in relationships and their occupation. Scholars argue that emerging adulthood is a relatively new phenomenon as young adults are often waiting longer than people in previous generations to marry and make long-term job commitments.

Through administering multiple personality tests and interviewing each graduate four times since 2018, the professors have gained much insight into the characteristics that recent graduates value most during their moral development.

“The findings are fascinating and instructive for our students as they begin to consider their post-college lives,” Roberts said. “For example, ‘love of learning’ was the key character strength our participants listed just after finishing college. By year three, ‘kindness’ topped the list.”

ORMI welcomed faculty, staff, students and community members to join their debut event. Later that week, they spoke to C&IS graduate students and faculty at the Institute for Communication and Information Research’s “Broader Impacts” event.

The Office of Research in Media Integrity seeks to be the home for systematic, innovative and important research into media integrity and ethics. It reaches across media platforms, academic disciplines, methodologies and ideologies to create a new understanding of media integrity and communicate it effectively across academic and public platforms. The office was formed in anticipation of the Janet Hall O’Neil and Frank O’Neil endowed faculty position in journalistic integrity.

For more information about ORMI, visit

C&IS unveils Hermes Rises statue in Reese Phifer Hall

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – On February 7, The University of Alabama’s College of Communication & Information Sciences (C&IS) unveiled Hermes Rises, a sculpture by Leah Webb, dedicated to Everett Holle and the Holle Family Foundation.

“Everett was an icon in Birmingham television and radio,” said Sharon Tinsley, president of the Alabama Broadcasters Association. “Even as a young broadcaster, I think he immediately realized the impact that a radio or television station can have on the community. He understood the power of broadcasting and used it for good.”

The statue, located on the second floor of Reese Phifer Hall, is a bronze, art deco interpretation of Hermes and represents the College’s commitment to excellence and opportunity.

“My intention with this sculpture is to imply a colossus and in so doing underscore the immense importance of quality communication to every aspect of human culture and interaction. Any depiction of Hermes that I have come across has small wings attached to the sandal. Clearly those wings are not doing the heavy lifting and are symbolic. As such, I granted myself permission to bring a new approach to that symbolism and opened wide the doors of my imagination. I intended to create a truly Tuscaloosan Hermes and decided to reference the earliest inhabitants,” said Webb.

Though Holle passed away in 2017, his legacy continues to impact students at The University of Alabama. The Holle Awards for Excellence in Creativity and Communication celebrate and reward student achievement in the areas of book arts, filmmaking, forensics, media writing, public speaking, screenwriting and sports media. These annual awards include a $10,000 prize for the winner of each category.

“The support that the Holle Foundation gives us through the Holle Chair and Center is critical for the College and our ability to support, develop and recruit leading minds in this area, whether they are faculty or students. These minds will transform the College into the vibrant intellectual space that Everett Holle imagined and enjoyed,” said Dean Brian Butler.

The Holle Family Foundation was established in 2014 to honor the legacy of Everett Holle and his parents, Evelyn and Fred. After Holle’s passing, the foundation pledged $10 million to fund the Holle Awards in perpetuity and establish the Holle Center for Communication Arts.

Dr. Michael Bruce Named Department Chair for Journalism and Creative Media

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) has announced Dr. Michael D. Bruce as the department chair for Journalism and Creative Media. Previously, Bruce served as the department’s interim chair and the interim director of the Digital Media Center.

“I’ve been interim for basically a year and a half, and it’s nice to bring clarity and certainty to the department. I’m excited for the opportunity to work alongside C&IS leadership and lead the department into the future,” said Bruce. “I look forward to further solidifying partnerships between the department, college and Digital Media Center.”

With over 30 years’ experience and 200 sporting and live event credits, Bruce joined the C&IS faculty in 2011 to help build the College’s undergraduate concentration in sports media. He teaches graduate research methods and serves on numerous committees within and outside the department. In 2017, he was appointed president of the Broadcast Education Association’s board of directors.

“The University of Alabama is proud of Dr. Bruce’s leadership and commitment to broadcast education. He’s done an excellent job as interim, and I look forward to continue working with him. The future of JCM is in good hands,” said Dr. Brian Butler, dean of C&IS.

The Department of Journalism and Creative Media was formed in the fall of 2016 after a merger of the departments of Journalism and Telecommunication and Film. Since, it has become home to award-winning faculty and students whose work can be heard, read and watched worldwide.

Dr. Jessy Ohl Receives 2023 Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award

Dr. Jessy Ohl, associate professor of communication studies, was awarded the 2023 Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award from The University of Alabama Graduate School. This award highlights individuals who value the importance of mentoring students and serving as a role model to help them prepare for their future professional careers.

Ohl began working in the College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) in 2017 and has been the primary advisor for many master’s and doctoral students. In addition, he has served on multiple thesis and dissertation committees in the Department of Communication Studies, and has served as an external committee member to a doctoral student enrolled at another University.

He has a reputation for having high academic standards while providing guidance and mentorship to his many students. Ohl successfully serves as a professional role model and strong influence on students’ academic and professional goals, and his students and colleagues speak highly of his compassion, empathy and willingness to go above and beyond as a mentor.

One former student, Christina Marie Brown, first met Ohl in 2011 at the University of Mary Washington, where he served as her undergraduate academic advisor and professor. Brown later benefited from Ohl’s mentorship again at UA when she earned her master’s degree from the Capstone in 2020.

“Over the course of the past ten years, Dr. Ohl has become more than just a professor or advisor to me. He is a friend, a mentor, a role model and someone who genuinely inspires me to always be the best version of myself,” Brown said. “He took the time to foster my ideas and encouraged me to pursue all of my academic interests. He provided me with opportunities outside of the classroom to foster my curiosity and interests, all of which fundamentally changed the way I saw myself as a student.”

In addition to several current and former students and mentees, Ohl received much recognition and praise from his colleagues in C&IS, including fellow communication studies professor, Dr. Robin Boylorn.

“Dr. Ohl is the epitome of a graduate student mentor. His ethical leadership, thoughtful and intentional guidance and contagious passion for the study of rhetoric makes him a popular and highly sought-after advisor in our master’s and Ph.D. programs, and across disciplines and institutions,” Boylorn said. “His general leadership and remarkable capacity to make every student feel seen, recognized and supported helps create a safe space for students to learn and grow. His investment in student success situates him as an aspirational guide and thought partner for them, especially first-generation students and those from traditionally underrepresented populations.”

The Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award highlights the importance of offering consistent and meaningful guidance to graduate students, while serving as an inspirational and ethical role model and preparing them for success at the next level of their professional careers. It is awarded each year to a faculty member at The University of Alabama who embodies the traits of an outstanding mentor.

The Backbone Awards

Students Host First Annual Backbone Awards, Recognizing Ad Agencies with Integrity

The Backbone Awards

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Students from Minerva, The University of Alabama’s advertising portfolio program, challenge the advertising industry’s ethics by sending “Backbone Awards” to agencies and professionals whose works makes a positive cultural impact.

Minerva nominated nine advertising agencies and professionals for The Backbone Awards’ inaugural competition. They then invited university students across the country to vote for their favorites. This year’s bronze winner is Leo Burnett for their “The Last Class” anti-gun violence campaign. Aluminum winners include MullenLowe and The Workshop, who are recognized for their anti-sexual violence and free creative mentorship program, respectively.

Minerva students award Leo Burnett the first bronze Backbone Award.

The award is a response to The One Club’s Young Ones competition, which tasked students with crafting a campaign highlighting “Call of Duty: Warzone,” a first-person shooter video game, “celebrated by mainstream culture.” But just four years earlier, the organization had asked students to build a campaign against gun violence, citing “cultural glorification” as one of the many contributing factors to the gun violence epidemic.

“It felt like they were following hot topics and money over wanting to make active changes in both advertising and the world,” said Morgan Egan, a master’s student. “We wanted to let The One Club know that we were paying attention and felt like they did not have a backbone when it came to these issues.”

In response, Egan and her classmates Erin Brown, Ginger Ellis, Matthias Meyer and Miles Neto developed The Backbone Awards to spotlight advertising work that stood for something more than just selling a brand. The trophies are cast in aluminum and bronze and feature a sculpt of a human spine.

“It is an art form to have a backbone in this industry, so we wanted the award to be a heavy piece of art you hang on your wall. It looks raw and gritty because that is how much of this subject matter tends to be. It is heavy, like gun violence and speaking up for underrepresented groups,” said Mark Barry, assistant professor in advertising and public relations and director of the Minerva program.

Capstone Agency and UA PRSSA Win National Awards

Capstone Agency and The University of Alabama’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) won several awards at the PRSA/PRSSA International Conference (ICON).

Capstone Agency, the University’s student-run, integrated communications agency, received the Student-Run Firm Best Campaign and Best Tactic awards.

The firm was awarded best campaign for a project they did in partnership with Arts ‘N Autism. Students developed the campaign during the 2022 CreateAThon pro bono event.

“A Team of Capstone Agency associates was tasked with getting more donors for Arts ‘N Autism by developing print marketing strategies in Tuscaloosa and surrounding areas,” said Caden Harris, former Capstone Agency firm director. “If you saw a puzzle piece at Glory Bound or any local restaurants, that was us.”

They received best tactic for their work with the Parkinson Association of Alabama (PAA) to rebrand their website. A client team worked alongside PAA to ensure the transition was seamless, and they added new features to their website to boost attendance at their fall fundraiser.

“I was thrilled to get the call that our associates’ work had been recognized for the best campaign and best tactic at ICON. Being able to see the look on these teams’ faces when we got the news made me remember exactly why I wanted to be involved in leadership at Capstone Agency,” Harris said.

In addition to Capstone Agency’s success, PRSSA received the Teahan National Chapter Award for Chapter Newsletter and a Star Chapter award.

Trinity Hunter, a senior public relations major who was recently selected as one of the American Advertising Federation’s (AAF) Most Promising Multicultural Students of 2023, received the Stephen D. Pisinski Memorial Scholarship.

PRSSA and Capstone Agency advisor, Tracy Sims, believes that these awards are representative of the positive impact these students have on their local communities and the field of communication.

“Our students positively impact their organizations through developing and implementing communication campaigns and community service projects. Many of them also gain strong leadership and management skills that will help them be successful in their careers after college,” Sims said. “Being selected for these competitive awards shows that our students are among the top communication students in the nation. Their individual talents combined with a collective commitment to excellence help to distinguish them from their peers.”

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. Learn more at

Capstone Agency is a nationally affiliated, student-run, integrated communications agency comprised of top students at The University of Alabama. The agency has been a student organization in the College of Communication and Information Sciences since 2008. To learn more about Capstone Agency, visit