Category: CIS News

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.

Robin Boylorn Begins Editorship of Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies Journal

Dr. Robin Boylorn, professor of interpersonal and intercultural communication at The University of Alabama, has been named editor of the Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies journal. The journal is a peer-reviewed publication that publishes scholarship for an international readership on communication as a theory, practice, technology and discipline of power.

Established by the National Communication Association, the journal seeks essays that are relevant and innovative to contribute to the culture of communication. Last year, Boylorn was named editor-elect of the journal allowing her to establish an editorial board, oversee the review process for the journal and make publication decisions.

“It is a tremendous responsibility and opportunity to help shape the conversations in the field and to co-create space for progressive and forward-thinking conversations in communication and critical/cultural studies,” said Boylorn.

Boylorn formally transitioned into the role of editor on January 1, 2022, and will serve in the position until December 31, 2024, while accompanied by her editorial assistant, LaTonya Taylor, a doctoral candidate within the College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS).

“I am honored to be the first black woman editor of an NCA journal, and of Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies in particular,” Boylorn said. “It is invigorating to have the opportunity to oversee the review process and engage with scholarship from the beginning to final stages of production.”

Boylorn’s inaugural issue will be published in March 2022 and will be available here.

Marie and Bob Robinson Endow Two Faculty Positions and a Scholarship

Bob and Marie Robinson

Marie Robinson and her husband, Bob Robinson, have funded two endowed faculty positions, The Bob and Marie Endowed Professorship in Interpersonal Communication and The Bob and Marie Endowed Professorship in Leadership Communication, and one undergraduate scholarship within the College of Communication & Information Sciences (C&IS). Through this generous gift, Robinson hopes to repay the kindness of others who allowed her the opportunity to study and graduate from The University of Alabama.

The establishment of the two endowed faculty positions will provide the College with faculty stipends to support competitive salaries and research projects.

The Robinsons believe that strong, well-funded academic programs attract a high-quality caliber of students who, over time, succeed and perpetuate the strength and growth of the University. By providing support for these positions, they know students in C&IS will continue to receive innovative instruction and become global leaders in the industry.

“When we first began our giving journey, we were singularly focused on funding scholarships,” Robinson said. “Since then, and as we’ve become better educated about how giving streams run together over time, we’ve diversified our plan to include faculty endowments.”

Marie Robinson graduated from The University of Alabama in 1989 with a B.A. in journalism. She currently serves as the executive vice president and chief supply chain officer for Sysco. Previously, she has held senior executive roles within Capri Holdings, Michael Kors, Toys“R”Us, The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Smart and Final Stores, LLC, and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

Robinson currently serves on the C&IS Board of Visitors and was awarded the Betsy Plank Distinguished Achievement Award in 2018 for her excellent display of leadership in corporate strategy and operations management. She is also the chair of the C&IS Capital Campaign committee.

“It is my personal belief that communication fuels the world,” Robinson said. “If we cannot interact productively with each other, within our homes, communities, and workplaces, how will we come together to improve the human experience?”

Endowed faculty positions 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

Alabama Public Radio Selected for Public Media Digital Transformation Program

Alabama Public Radio is among 75 public media stations selected to participate in the Digital Transformation Program, a virtual program developed by the Poynter Institute to educate, assist, and coach public media senior leaders and their staff on the best strategies and tactics to transform their organization’s digital operations and culture. The training is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

Director Elizabeth Brock notes, “This is an extraordinary opportunity for Alabama Public Radio on many fronts.  APR is a hands-on teaching laboratory for UA’s College of Communication and Information Sciences. Participating in this program will help expand our service to our communities and better prepare a diverse group of student journalists for a rapidly changing digital world.”

The program includes online coaching and training to Alabama Public Radio leadership and staff members to accelerate their digital transformation efforts.

“CPB’s commitment to advancing innovation and diversity continues to be reflected through our strategic investments helping system leaders advance a digital-first, audience-centric approach,” said Patricia Harrison, CPB president and CEO. “The program will provide coaching and resources to help stations become more agile and leverage digital content, platforms, and data to grow and engage new and existing public media audiences.”

In addition to one-on-one and peer group coaching sessions, the program will include a series of educational webinars, work exercises, and resource materials that span the program curriculum. The program will be delivered to four groups of up to 20 public media leaders and their station’s personnel at a time. The groups will have staggered start and end dates over the course of two years, with a new group starting every three months.

“The selected participants are some of the nation’s most trusted sources citizens turn to for local news and information,” said Poynter President Neil Brown. “Our partnership with CPB will help public media outlets build digital-first strategies that inspire an even greater — and more sustainable — connection to grow with their communities.”

The stations selected, from Alaska to Florida, Southern California to Maine, include 40 public radio stations, 16 public television stations and 19 joint licensees. They will join the five National Multicultural Alliance Organizations – Black Public Media, the Center for Asian American Media, Latino Public Broadcasting, Pacific Islanders in Communications, and Vision Maker Media – to form four cohorts of 20 public media leaders, who will participate in the nine-month program. The first cohort will begin training in January.

About CPB
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,500 locally managed and operated public television and radio stations nationwide. CPB is also the largest single source of funding for research, technology and program development for public radio, television, and related online services.  For more information, visit, follow us on Twitter @CPBmedia, Facebook and LinkedIn and subscribe for email updates.

 About Alabama Public Radio

Alabama Public Radio’s transmitter and translator network reaches approximately two-thirds of the state, including Tuscaloosa, Huntsville, Montgomery, Muscle Shoals, Florence and parts of Birmingham. APR is an NPR affiliate, carrying a mix of NPR news and information, classical music, and other music genres. The APR program schedule includes a significant amount of locally produced music, news and public affairs programming and has earned more than 150 international, national and regional awards. Learn more at 

About The Poynter Institute
The Poynter Institute for Media Studies is a global leader in journalism education and a strategy center that stands for uncompromising excellence in journalism, media, and 21st-century public discourse. Poynter faculty teach seminars and workshops at the Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, and at newsrooms, conferences, and organizations around the world. Its e-learning division, News University, offers the world’s largest online journalism curriculum, with hundreds of interactive courses and tens of thousands of registered international users. The Institute’s website produces 24-hour coverage about media, ethics, technology, and the business of news. Poynter is the home of the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership, the Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact, the International Fact-Checking Network and MediaWise, a digital information literacy project for young people, first-time voters, and senior citizens. The world’s top journalists and media innovators rely on Poynter to learn and teach new generations of reporters, storytellers, media inventors, designers, visual journalists, documentarians, and broadcasters. This work builds public awareness about journalism, media, the First Amendment, and discourse that serves democracy and the public good. Learn more at

UA PRSSA Wins Two National Teahan Awards

The 2021-2022 UA PRSSA Executive Board

The University of Alabama’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) was recently awarded the Dr. F.H. Teahan Chapter Awards for Diversity and Outstanding Professional Adviser for the 2020-2021 academic year.

C&IS alumna Sara (Sanderson) Franklin was awarded the Outstanding Professional Adviser Award for the second time, the first being in 2017. Franklin is a member of Alabama PRSA and is the executive director of community engagement and partnership for the Epilepsy Foundation of Alabama.

“For more than five years, Sara Franklin has served as UA PRSSA’s professional adviser, and her commitment to building a bridge between our public relations students and PR professionals in the Alabama PRSA chapter is unwavering,” said Tracy Sims, advertising and public relations senior instructor and UA PRSSA’s faculty adviser.

Franklin organized several networking opportunities for the PRSSA chapter, including hosting a panel of professionals representing PR agencies and in-house PR for corporations

and nonprofits. She also connected UA students to mentors through the Professional Mentorship Program, which prepares UA PRSSA seniors for membership in PRSA and successful careers in public relations.

This year also marks the second time the UA PRSSA chapter has received the diversity award, the first being in 2019. Throughout the year, the UA PRSSA diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) board planned virtual events to generate awareness among its members of inclusion issues related to the public relations industry. The chapter hosted virtual meetings with representatives from Howard University, Temple University and The University of Texas at Arlington to discuss ideas to progress DE&I initiatives.

Katrin Friesen, former UA PRSSA vice president of diversity and inclusion, said that her hope was for these programs to educate PRSSA members and prepare them for their future in public relations.

“The industry we are pursuing holds an obligation to do the public justice, so educating ourselves and others is very important to becoming strong PR professionals,” Friesen said.

Friesen and members of the DEI board actively worked to integrate diversity and inclusion into the chapter’s activities, and Friesen hopes this legacy will continue in the future for UA PRSSA.

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.