Category: CIS News

2016 C&IS Dean’s Medal Ceremony

deans-medal-12-16Dean Nelson awarded The Dean’s Medal on Friday to C&IS Board of Visitors Member, Mr. William Brock Lewis. This was Dean Nelson’s first Dean’s Medal to award.

The award is given to individuals who exemplify the qualities of sustaining friendship, unsurpassed loyalty and dedication to the College of Communication and Information Sciences. Since its inception in 2002, only ten recipients have been awarded the Dean’s Medal.

“Mr. William Brock Lewis far exceeds our measures for this special award,” Dean Nelson said. “It has been a privilege to work with Bill since I was named Dean in July 2014.”

Lewis’ passion for excellence has played a monumental role in creating a sustainable brand for C&IS and in shaping its strategic plan. He has served on the C&IS Board of Visitors since 2011, serving as Chairman from 2015-2016. An alumnus of UA, Lewis served as editor to “Forum,” a national public relations magazine and was a leader in student organizations during his time as a student. He graduated with his bachelor of arts degree in 1969 and 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.

The Rising Tide: Capstone Agency

capstone-agency-2The past two years have meant a lot for the Capstone Agency. The nationally affiliated, student-run firm brought home first place in the Bateman Case Study Competition, as well as the Teahan Chapter Award for best student-run firm. In a matter of a few years, the reputation of the Capstone Agency has gone from great to elite and this is not accidental.

The process of becoming the nation’s top firm has a support structure of intentionality, hard work and time. And still—with improvement being a fixed priority—the firm isn’t slowing down. The key way that Capstone Agency develops students is through the process of mentorship. Younger, less-experienced students are given opportunities to ask questions, to learn on the go and to spend time treading the footsteps of their similarly ambitious peers.

Katie Gatti, firm director, entered the firm as a second-semester freshman. Early on, she held agency office hours that put her in close proximity to senior firm members. Because of this, she’s a great example of just how far the mentorship experience can take you. Questions she asked about how to structure documents and when to apply for job postings would lead to bigger conversations that would shape not just her experience in Capstone Agency, but also the direction of the entire firm.

“Experiences that I had organically, I have tried to make a guarantee for our students,” Gatti said. “This year we’ve implemented doubled-up office hours to make sure that that experience is something that people are going to get for sure.”

These students are committed to finding opportunities to learn from one another. They also legitimately want to help each other. At a potluck dinner, there are two kinds of people: those who will brag about the “family secret” in their prized baked beans and those who will give you the entire recipe. Capstone Agency students are the latter.

“It is very much a culture of ‘a rising tide lifts all ships,’” Sonny Franks, Capstone Agency director of account services said, “because I know that ten years from now when I’m looking to make a career change… these connections that I’m making now are going to serve me so well.”

The agency has also begun offering workshops for their students to help them prepare for the workplace, put together resumes and market their experience in the agency to interested employers. These workshops are the direct result of conversations and eureka moments that older students had when they were the younger agency members.

“There has been a lot of organic mentorship, but we really are trying to create kind of that value added for our members because we ask a lot of them,” Franks said. “We really do want to make it as valuable of an experience as possible.”

The experience alone is far more than workshops and mentorship. Capstone Agency members are getting a real look at what it takes to work in a communications firm. Imagine being fresh out of college and headed into an interview for a big firm. How much better would it be to have real-life experience applicable to the job you’re applying for? This is the kind of opportunity that Capstone Agency is currently providing for its students.

“Professionally, I feel that I’m a leg up,” Gatti said. “[Interviewers] always want to know what you’re doing, what your role is, what experience you’ve gotten—and just being able to talk about that in a semi-coherent way has been extremely helpful.”

Being a nationally recognized communications firm may indicate to the casual observer that Capstone Agency is only for upper class students majoring in advertising and public relations, but the agency isn’t limited to these kinds of students. In fact, the current leadership encourages freshmen and sophomore students to apply, and the skillset isn’t limited to a particular field of study.

“If you’re a bright student, if you’re a fast learner and a good writer, it really doesn’t matter when [you apply],” Gatti said. “You could be a first semester freshman as long as you have the basic skills that are really just good for public relations.”

Mentorship and real-world experience aren’t the only things driving the firm forward. The friendships that Capstone Agency members have forged through all of their time together have given their working relationships an added benefit. These close-working relationships are more than passing friendships; they’re future contacts and partners in the communications industry.

“I think because we share these common passions, we have deeper relationships,” Gatti said.

Applications are officially open for next semester’s Capstone Agency members and will close on January 6. Dedicated, hard-working students who have strong aspirations for success and want to learn on the go are welcome to apply.

capstone-agency

Click here to access the Capstone Agency application. 

Secret Meals for Hungry Children raises over $100,000

secret-meals-gala-website-4Five years ago, Susy Daria’s upper-level APR class took on Secret Meals for Hungry Children as a client for a semester-long project. The program was started by Alabama Credit Union, and has provided weekend meals for thousands of children in the Tuscaloosa and Alabama community. The class was divided into teams and worked to brand, plan and execute a campaign that would fundraise for the charity. Working with Secret Meals for Hungry Children became a tradition, and eight semesters and countless creative executions later, Daria’s classes have contributed over $100,000 to address the issue of hunger in Alabama’s elementary school-aged children.

In order to celebrate the fundraising achievement, Susy Daria and a team of students including Sarah Jenks, Victoria Davis, Saxby Sperau, Danielle Castille and Caroline Doss worked to host the Secret Meals Grand Gala November 10 at NorthRiver Yacht Club.

“It’s incredible to see these students do good work for a good cause. Their passion and enthusiasm to give back within their chosen profession makes my job as an instructor infinitely easier,” Daria said.

Community sponsorships and partnerships allowed all proceeds from the evening to benefit the Secret Meals program, and a silent auction featured food, jewelry and artwork from local vendors.

“Our partners are so gracious, and they have made it easier for us to continue building relationships,” Caroline Doss said.

The student team hosted community supporters, current and past students, and their own family members, and helped educate guests about the nutritional gap that was created on weekends for nearly 20% of children who live below the poverty line in Alabama.

As the evening’s program kicked off, Sarah Jenks applauded the efforts of former students, “We would not have been able to give back as much as we have without the positive reputation of Secret Meals in the community.”

A slideshow and video compilation showcased the past five years, featuring snippets of what former students had learned and the events they had planned. Fundraisers such as “Hunger is no joke,” “Masterpieces for Meals,” “Secret Sips” and “Hunger Feeds,” raised awareness and money for the Secret Meals program.

Representatives from Secret Meals for Hungry Children thanked the APR classes for their dedication to the program, and Alabama Credit Union presented Susy Daria with an Apple Award, an honor reserved for an individual who has given selflessly to the Secret Meals for Hungry Children program.

“I am lucky to have been given this opportunity to work with a fantastic client and community of supporters,” Daria said during her acceptance speech with tears of happiness in her eyes. The Secret Meals Grand Gala marks the final fundraising event for the semester for Daria’s classes, and she could not think of a more appropriate way to celebrate the program’s past successes, and set a tone for the future.

Electionland at UA

The College of Communication and Information Sciences’ Department of Journalism and Creative Media is partnering with a coalition of organizations to create a virtual newsroom that will produce stories on voting problems as they happen. The initiative, termed Electionland, is one of the first of its kind.

By creating a virtual newsroom to produce stories on voting problems in real time, and by distributing leads about voting problems to local journalists who can follow up on them, the project aims to help those who might have been turned away to cast their ballots. It’s an issue ProPublica believes is particularly urgent this election cycle because of new legislation that could affect citizens’ access to the ballot box, and because of the doubt cast on the validity of the system by one of the presidential candidates.

“There is no more essential act in a democracy than voting,” ProPublica stated in a news release announcing Electionland. “But making sure that the balloting is open to all and efficiently administered has been, at best, a low priority for many state legislatures, a victim of misplaced priorities and, at times, political gamesmanship.”

Chip Brantley, senior lecturer of emerging media, and his team of C&IS faculty and students will aid the organization in its initiative this Election Day from their own newsroom on The University of Alabama’s campus. Using a variety of social networking sites, data software and reporting systems, the team of approximately 30 students will monitor polling sites across the states of Alabama and Mississippi.

By viewing users’ posts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, the “feeders” will report voting problems to a team of professional journalists assigned to specific regions of the country. From there, the national Electionland desk – also staffed by professional journalists – will liveblog pertinent election happenings and appear on national media to discuss these issues as needed.

The University of Alabama’s Department of Journalism and Creative Media is one of only 14 journalism programs in the nation selected to participate in this year’s Electionland. Other programs include: Columbia University, CUNY, the University of North Carolina and the University of Missouri. Corporate and organizational sponsors include: ProPublica, Google News Lab, Univision, First Draft, and USA Today Network.

C&IS professors Dr. Kim Bissell, Dr. Scott Parrott, Dr. Jen Hoewe and Meredith Cummings have also contributed to the UA Electionland project.

C&IS Welcomes Dr. Bill Evans as Associate Dean for Graduate Studies

The fall 2016 semester introduced new faculty members and initiatives to C&IS. Dr. Evans, professor in the Department of Journalism and Creative Media, will now serve as the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and said he looks forward to continuing to grow and invest in the doctoral program. Dr. Evans brings more than 13 years of experience to the position. His leadership is supported by a team that includes Marylou Cox, program assistant, who transitioned into her new role after serving the Telecommunication and Film department for 12 years.

This new leadership team cites the University’s investment in graduate education as an important resource as C&IS continues creating a program that excels in all areas of graduate study. A strong commitment to expanding research and welcoming new faculty members keep the C&IS doctoral program leading national rankings. C&IS continues to increase the number of graduate students each year, with 334 enrolled this fall, 50 of which are in the PhD program.

The C&IS doctoral program focuses on an interdisciplinary approach to the study of mass communication and information sciences. As students work alongside leaders in sports communication, health communication, emergent media and more they develop leadership, research and teaching skills that will continue to advance the fields of communication and information sciences.

An Advocate for the Deaf: Dr. Darrin Griffin

Dr. Darrin Griffin, assistant professor of communication studies, is an advocate for Deaf* culture and has conducted research on nonverbal communication, interpersonal communication, lies and deception. As a child of deaf adults (CODA) Griffin’s experiences have shaped his interests and scholarly work on nonverbal communication since the beginning of his academic career.

Griffin’s understanding and exploration of Deaf culture has led to several Deaf culture initiatives in the College of Communication and Information Sciences. Most recently, he hosted a training session for local law enforcement officers on best practices when working with deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Officers also learned basic sign language to use during traffic stops and key components of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In addition to his work with public officials, Griffin has piloted an interim course on Deaf culture. This summer, students spent two weeks immersed in Deaf culture studies on campus before traveling to Washington, D.C. where they visited Gallaudet University – a private university for the education of the Deaf. Griffin has plans to expand the curriculum to include a winter interim course with a travel component. This time, the group will head to Austin, Texas – Griffin’s home town and one of the hubs for Deaf culture in America.

*in reference to the culture surrounding individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, the “d” in deaf is capitalized.

Dr. Darrin Griffin received his undergraduate degree in Deaf studies and deaf education from the University of Texas at Austin. He then moved to Buffalo, New York where he earned his PhD. His dissertation focused on deaf schemas. For more on Griffin’s work, visit this site.

 

Student Executive Council (SEC) President Claudia Hogan: Involvement and the C&IS CommUnity

The sweeping sprawl of tables at Get on Board Day features over 500 campus organizations ranging from student government to a variety of mentoring programs and pre-professional societies. Students have more opportunities than ever to connect their passions with a purpose. Outside of Get on Board Day, each year the College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) also hosts CommUnity, an event to showcase the over twenty student organizations housed in the college. CommUnity allows students to join organization leaders in the Rotunda of Reese Phifer for information and countless involvement opportunities. Current Student Executive Council President, Claudia Hogan, says that it is the starting point for anyone looking to get involved within C&IS.

Hogan, a sophomore studying Public Relations and Political Science from Gadsden, Alabama, found her place on campus within Professional Women in Communication and Business (PWCB) during her first semester on campus. She recognized the influential power of building her professional skills while creating a network with other women on campus and quickly decided to became more involved. At the end of her freshman year, Hogan ran to represent the department of Public Relations as a delegate in Student Executive Council (SEC), and after earning her spot in SEC, she ran and was elected to the position of President.

Student Executive Council is an organization unique to C&IS that features leaders from each of the student organizations within C&IS along with delegates from each area of study and Student Government college senators. SEC’s goal is to advocate for students across the college and help student organizations transform their dreams into tangible realities.

SEC makes it possible for students to host and promote events or travel to conferences across the country. This year, Hogan hopes to increase the amount of funds available for students and emphasize the importance of involvement to young students. “When you get involved early on in your college career, you have an opportunity to stick with organizations and to help shape them and see them grow,” Hogan says.

It is not often that students involved in so many areas across the college are able to sit in the same room and share their thoughts, perspectives, and ideas, and Hogan believes that in SEC “it’s everyone’s mission to make C&IS an even better place to study what we love.”

RESEARCH: LGBTQ Families and Children’s Literature

Dr. Jamie Cambpell Naidoo is an associate professor in the School of Library and Information Studies. His research interests include the portrayal of underrepresented groups in children’s and young adult literature and library services to gender-variant and LGBTQ children and parents. He is the 2016 recipient of the American Library Association’s Achievement in Diversity Research award.

LGBTQ Families and Children’s Literature

LGBTQ families with children are legitimate members of a community and should receive the same library services and educational opportunities as any other type of family. Children in LGBTQ families are not different than other children in their need to feel accepted, valued, and loved. Libraries hold a unique opportunity for these families by creating welcoming environments that acknowledge these families and celebrate their differences and similarities. By providing children’s book that represent LGBTQ families, libraries validate their experiences, provide opportunities for children in LGBTQ families to make important literary connections and develop positive self-efficacy and self-esteem, and assist all children in understanding themselves and the world around them.

Given the current political climate where specific states are creating anti-LGBTQ legislation designed to discriminate against individuals in LGBTQ families, we are at a critical juncture to educate our children to respect family and cultural diversity. If we want U.S. children to be successful members in our culturally pluralistic world, then we must instill common virtues such as kindness, acceptance, and understanding. The research that I conduct explores how librarians can assist children in celebrating diversity, rather than ridiculing and rejecting peers and other individuals whose perspectives are different from their own. This is covered in my book Rainbow Family Collections: Selecting and Using Children’s Books with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Content (Libraries Unlimited, 2012) and in my other publications such as the paper “Access to a world of Rainbow Family children’s books via partnerships and programs: Suggestions for library outreach to LGBT family associations,” 2015 IFLA Conference Proceedings (available here) http://library.ifla.org/1289/ and the article “Over the rainbow and under the radar: Library services and programs to LGBTQ families” in the journal Children and Libraries (Winter 2013). I also examine how educators can use digital apps and other forms of digital media to help children explore all types of cultural diversity. This is evidenced in my book Diversity Programming for Digital Youth: Promoting Cultural Competence in the Children’s Library (Libraries Unlimited, 2014) and article with Dr. Miriam Sweeney, “Educating for social justice: Perspectives from library and information science and collaboration with K-12 social studies educators” in the Journal of International Social Studies (2015).

C&IS Faculty Win Big at AEJMC

Faculty members in the College of Communication and Information Sciences attended the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Conference (AEJMC) in Minneapolis, Minnesota during the first week of August. AEJMC is a nonprofit, educational association of journalism and mass communication educators, students and media professionals. Its 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. Several C&IS faculty members received awards for their contributions to the fields of journalism and mass communication, and for their outstanding commitment to teaching.

Dr. Andrew Billings was honored as Mass Communication and Society Journal’s Reviewer of the Year.

Dr. Dianne Bragg won second place for “Great Ideas for Teaching” from the Standing Committee on Teaching. 

Dr. George Daniels and Dr. Wilson Lowrey won top paper honors in the AEJMC Presidential Paper competition for their examination of the Comm-J master’s program partnership with The Anniston Star.

Dr. Senyo Ofori-Parku earned the Professional Freedom and Responsibility Top Paper Award from the Advertising Division. 

Dr. Scott Parrott won second place in the Promising Professors competition in the Mass Communication and Society Division.

Dr. Brett Sherrick won the Mass Communication and Society Dissertation Award for his dissertation titled “Immersive Mediation: The Roles of Flow and Narrative Engagement in a Persuasive Health Game.”

ICIR Scholar Spotlight: Dr. Scott Parrott

Dr. Scott Parrott studies media and social cognition, or how media shape the way one thinks about other people and the mental processes by which this occurs. He is also interested in how mass media portray social groups.

What made you interested in your field?

In my former life, I was a news reporter in North Carolina. I was actually an investigative reporter toward the end, so we did these big projects, and the last major project I worked on was about mental health care. North Carolina had fallen on hard times –they had restructured the old mental health system, but it was not doing well. We did 19 or 20 articles on this topic. While I was reporting, I met a lot of people with a range of mental illnesses like anxiety to schizophrenia. They kept saying one of the major problems that they face in terms of healthcare and living healthy lives is how people with mental illness are portrayed in the media. The media do not do a good job of telling the world what it’s like to live with a mental illness, and so the things that people think about mental illness are usually wrong. This can lead to stereotypes, stigma, and problems for society. I made the transition from reporting to academia, and now I have the opportunity to see if they were right- and guess what, they were right.

Why is research needed in your field?

I think we underestimate the influence of media in our lives. Think about your own day -from the time you get up to the time you go to bed- and how often you interact with the media, even if it’s watching a movie or using social media. I think it’s really important to understand what kind of effect that’s having on us and why: the why is a big question in research. You’re not really supposed to be an advocate when it comes to research; you’re supposed to be neutral. But if your research can do good and try to change stigma, like the ones attached to mental illness, then that is a good thing.

What are some of the steps to your research process?

A lot of white boards. I think my problem is I’m interested in too much, so I have to put the blinders on and focus on one thing at a time. I have a difficult time with that because there is just so much in the world that is interesting, especially when it comes to media and the way our minds work. I, typically, just start with an idea that gets the wheels spinning. Then the next thing is to read as much as you can on the topic and see what’s been done because usually there’s not an idea that is completely original. The design is really important especially when it comes to experiments because you have to be sure that what you’re measuring is what you’re measuring with the questions you ask people. With media content, you’re exposing them to types of media, so you have to be sure the stimulus material is getting at what you’re interested in. Usually that’s it. It sounds really short, but it’s actually a time-consuming process.

Do your findings alter preconceived notions that you’ve had on a subject?

Yes. For instance, I do gender research as well, and there was a study we did recently where we looked at crime-based television shows and how they portrayed gender. Essentially, we found that women were underrepresented, so it was a predominantly male television world. But then when women, white women in particular, appeared in these programs, they often became victims of violence by random strangers, which completely disregards statistics from the FBI. So there is some kind of gender message going on there. The question for me again is why, why is this happening? I came up with this experiment where participants came in and sat down at the computer and I announced that they would write a script for a TV show. I told them that I was randomly going to assign them a genre, it could be anything from an ER drama to a sitcom, but really everyone got crime dramas. Ninety percent of the scripts had a female victim because of gender stereotypes. We view males as protectors, while we consider females in need of protection. However, the surprising finding was as I was reading the scripts later on, a pattern emerged. A lot of the scripts began with ‘a women is walking home alone from work at night and she is attacked from behind.’ So I used software to check that I wasn’t reading too much into it, and it turns out that the same description kept turning up in the scripts. These results took the research in a whole new direction, and it’s starting to look at what’s happening mentally. We are basing our perceptions of crime, mental illness, and other things on what TV is telling us, and TV is telling us lies. It shapes how we interact with the world.

What do you need to conduct your research?

I do content analysis, so I don’t need much to do my research. I just need people who enjoy doing the same types of research. So every Thursday I get together with a couple of Emerging Scholars students and we sit in a computer lab and analyze content -right now we are looking at portrayals of schizophrenia in news organizations. They’re great help. The other thing I use is a software called inquisit, which is something they use in psychology to measure reaction times.

Why do you involve others in your research?

It’s a lot more fun. My mentors, at some point, introduced me to research. Then I went to graduate school here, and later at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and participating in research was one of the most rewarding things in my life. It did completely change my life. I remember sitting in classes and my mind would be blown. I really like working with undergraduates and master students because they haven’t been introduced to much of the research world. When you can just see that excitement and fascination kicking in, it’s really rewarding.

*This interview was originally published on the ICIR website as a “scholar spotlight.”