Category: CIS News

Speak-off Winners Announced

The Public Speaking Program conducted its’ annual fall Speak Off competition. This competition was based on students currently enrolled in the COM 123 public speaking course and nominated by their lab instructor. The nominees’ video submissions were judged by Dr. Alexa Chilcutt, Director of the Public Speaking Program, and Dr. Adam Brooks, Director of The Speaking Studio. Winners were announced on October 19th.

First place and a $300 cash prize were awarded to Rachel Truex, who delivered an informative speech on Tornadoes and Tornado safety.

“My speech about tornado warning systems and how to stay safe in severe weather situations was inspired by my long-time fascination with tornadoes, and I really enjoyed writing it,” said Truex. “I knew that my genuine interest in the topic would show in my delivery of the speech, but I never thought I would even place, let alone win. It means a lot to me that I was even nominated, but winning had never crossed my mind!”

You can view Truex’s speech, submitted to the judges via YouTube below.

A full list of the 2020 Speak Off winners are listed below:

  • First Place $300 Oscar Newton Award Fund – Rachel Truex. Rachel is a sophomore majoring in Elementary Education.
  • 2nd $200 – Bailey Smith is a senior majoring in Dance Psychology and minoring in Biology.
  • 3rd $100 – Chet Wiltshire is a junior majoring in Aerospace Engineering.
  • 4th $50 – Camille Kahtala is a junior majoring in Kinesiology and minoring in Exercise Science.
  • 5th $50 – Tejas Dinesh is a senior majoring in Environmental Engineering History and minoring in Social Innovation and Leadership.

Capstone Agency Named Top Student-Run Firm by PRSSA (Again)

The University of Alabama’s Capstone Agency has been awarded Best Student-Run Firm by the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).

Given annually by PRSSA, this award evaluates firms based on their agency operations, billable hours, client work, client revenue, professional development opportunities for members, agency culture and pro bono work.

“I am so proud of the agency’s dedicated and hard-working members that continue to go above and beyond for our clients,” said Capstone Agency firm director, Kathleen McManus. “This award is a reflection of the agency’s resiliency and swift transition to the virtual world.”

This is the third time Capstone Agency has been awarded top firm by PRSSA (2018, 2016). Because firms are not permitted to win in consecutive years, this marks the third win in the last three opportunities for Capstone Agency.

“Capstone Agency personifies the very best of who we are as a department and showcases the kind of professionals we want our students to become,” said Dr. Damion Waymer, chair, Department of Advertising and Public Relations (APR). “This accomplishment, of which we are very proud, is affirmation that we are making continual progress toward achieving our aspirational departmental goals.”

This announcement comes during a banner year for UA’s APR department, which was named the Most Outstanding Education Program by PRWeek during the 2020 PRWeek Awards, and had two students recognized as top-5 finalists for the Most Outstanding PR Student Award.

Also recognized by PRSSA, The University of Alabama’s PRSSA Chapter was awarded Best Website. Their website can be viewed here:

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

The Department of Advertising and Public Relations is a part of the College of Communication and Information Sciences at The University of Alabama. To learn more about C&IS, visit

C&IS Associate Professor named the Broadcast Education Association’s Faculty Fellow of Diversity and Inclusion

Dr. George L. Daniels, an associate professor in the Department of Journalism and Creative Media, was recently named the Broadcast Education Association’s (BEA) inaugural Faculty Fellow of Diversity and Inclusion.

Daniels is a former assistant dean for administration and chief diversity officer for The University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS). Under his leadership, the College received the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s Equity and Diversity Award. Upon receiving this award, Daniels published an article in BEA’s Journal of Media Education where he discussed the initiatives and strategies C&IS employed to improve diversity and inclusion within the College.

As an alum of Howard University, a historically Black university, Daniels has a personal connection to BEA’s commitment to racial justice, diversity, and inclusivity. BEA provides free institutional memberships to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU) and aims to build relationships with HBCUs and Hispanic-serving institutions (HSI). As the Faculty Fellow of Diversity and Inclusion, Daniels plans to organize campus visits to non-participating HBCUs and HSIs to help faculty and students learn about the advantages of their free institutional membership.

“I want to take an active role in making sure others from historically under-represented racial groups can experience these same benefits of being a part of the Broadcast Education Association,” Daniels said. “I look forward to working with the BEA Board of Directors and the Diversity and Inclusion Committee as we get started on this effort.”

Daniels’ two-year term as the BEA Faculty Fellow of Diversity and Inclusion begins immediately.

BEA was established in 1955 and is the premier international academic media organization. BEA drives insights, excellence in media production and career advancement for educators, students and professionals.

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

C&IS Graduate Student Wins Best Student Film at DC Black Film Festival

Elroy Johnson, a journalism master’s student in the College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS), recently won best student film for his documentary “Building the Bridge” at the DC Black Film Festival in Washington, D.C.

The film highlights the experiences of three African American teenage boys in a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)-based program. It explores the lack of exposure youth of color have to STEM opportunities and what community members, educators and parents are doing to address this concern in the Dallas neighborhood of Oak Cliff, Texas. Johnson, a Dallas native who currently works as a social studies teacher in the city, was first inspired to document Oak Cliff due to a family connection: his parents grew up in the neighborhood.

As an educator, Johnson realized that there was a need within his community of Oak Cliff for a conversation about educational equity and disparity. He saw an opportunity to document students from underrepresented groups in particular as a way to engage the community on the students’ need for STEM resources.

“There are definitely organizations and educators that are trying to engage students with STEM opportunities – particularly students that are marginalized that are not as reached in this area,” Johnson said, “There’s also a lack of actually knowing how to find these resources. There’s a disconnect in some ways with [students] knowing where to access these resources and how to use them.”

Johnson’s film helps to highlight the efforts of Oak Cliff community members in showcasing STEM resources and addressing the issue of educational disparity.

After completing his master’s degree, Johnson plans to continue storytelling through documentaries and films focused on education and other social issues.

The film is sponsored by the City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture. To view the trailer for the award-winning documentary, click here.

The DC Black Film Festival exhibits film, web series and television content by and about people of African descent. The festival is committed to discovering, celebrating and helping films and filmmakers.

Center for Public Television Wins Emmy Award

A production team from The University of Alabama Center for Public Television (CPT) won an Emmy award on Saturday, September 12 for their short documentary “Visual Vernacular”.

The team comprises students Kailey New (Fort Payne, AL) and Liam Parker (Northport, NY), and CPT staff members Seth Farmer and William Green. They worked in collaboration with communication studies associate professor Dr. Darrin Griffin to find the topic for the project.

“Visual Vernacular” was inspired by the experience of Justin Perez, a former American Sign Language instructor at The University of Alabama. Perez is a fifth-generation Deaf person and has traveled the country teaching classes and workshops on the performance art called visual vernacular.

According to Perez, visual vernacular is a way of storytelling through gestures and pictures and can be effective in communicating with all people.

“It doesn’t matter who I’m talking to—deaf people or hearing people,” he said. “It’s a very easy way of communication and understanding, and it’s just really a part of me.”

You can view the winning short documentary here and learn more about Perez’s story here.

The short documentary was one of six Southeast Emmy nominations for The University of Alabama’s CPT. Four additional College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) students were members of nominated production teams: Montana Maniscalco (Moody, AL); Mack McCollum (Pelham, AL); Nathan Stephenson (Birmingham, AL); and Reagan Wells from (Colombia, MO). The other nominated projects from CPT are listed below.

  • Life is So Delicious: Seth Farmer, Will Green, Reagan Wells*
  • Movie Guy: Seth Farmer, Will Green and Nathan Stephenson*
  • The Forum: Seth Farmer, Nathan Stephenson*, Will Green and Communication Studies associate professor Dr. Darrin Griffin
  • The Hurricane Creekkeeper: Will Green, Seth Farmer, Mack McCollum* and Montana Maniscalco*
  • Tuscaloosa Bicentennial: Seth Farmer, Will Green and Reagan Wells*

(* denotes C&IS students)

Southeast Emmy entries are judged by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

C&IS Welcomes New Faculty

The College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) is dedicated to fostering collaboration, unity and passion through distinguished faculty and staff. This fall C&IS welcomes eight new faculty members who bring with them each a notable record of academic achievement. C&IS is proud to introduce the new faculty who will continue the College’s tradition of excellence:

Dr. Margaret D’Silva, Department Chair for Communication Studies

Jeremy Levine, Assistant Professor, Journalism and Creative Media

Jay Kim, Instructor, Advertising and Public Relations

Dr. Courtney Boman, Assistant Professor, Advertising and Public Relations

Dr. Landon Palmer, Assistant Professor, Journalism and Creative Media

Dr. Brandon Colvin, Assistant Professor, Journalism and Creative Media

Mark Mayfield, Instructor and News Media Internship Coordinator, Journalism and Creative Media

Dr. Kaitlin Miller, Assistant Professor, Journalism and Creative Media

Public Relations Program Named #1 in the Country by PRWeek

The Department of Advertising and Public Relations (APR) in the College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) was named the Most Outstanding Education Program by PRWeek during the 2020 PRWeek Awards. APR finished ahead of the four other finalists, Boston University College of Communication, NYU School of Professional Studies, Syracuse University/Newhouse and Pennsylvania State University. This marks the ninth time that APR has been named a finalist, and the first time the program has won the honor.

“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by PRWeek as the most outstanding public relations education program in the nation,” said Dr. Damion Waymer, department chair for advertising and public relations. “It is evidence of The University of Alabama having one of the best student-run agencies in the nation, a decorated faculty, award-winning students, and a highly-regarded Industry Immersion program that gives students exposure to top companies and agencies. We have always believed that we have a very special public relations program, and it is great to be recognized officially in this regard!”

Additionally, two APR students were named in the top 5 finalists for the Most Outstanding PR Student Award: Maribeth McClenny from Tallahassee, FL, and Annie Hollon from Flower Mound, TX. McClenny was named as Honorable Mention for the award. This marks the fourth year in a row at least one C&IS student has been a finalist, including back-to-back winners of the award in 2018 and 2019.

“This honor is indicative of the continued excellence of our advertising and public relations department,” said Dr. Mark Nelson, dean of C&IS. “It is a testament to our dedicated faculty and staff, who go the extra mile to ensure the success of our students. We are proud to have such a quality academic program with outstanding experiential learning opportunities.”

The judging criteria for submissions consider each program’s faculty contributions to PR in teaching, research and service to the industry, and the program’s initiatives in connecting current and former students to the PR industry in three areas: job and internship placements, speakers and events, and consulting and experiential learning.

Submitted entries for the PRWeek Awards are deliberated upon by a panel of judges including PR education professionals and senior PR professionals from agency, corporate, nonprofit and government teams.

C&IS Names New Communication Studies Department Chair

Dr. Margaret D’Silva

The College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) has announced Dr. Margaret D’Silva as the newest chair of the department of communication studies. Dr. D’Silva joins C&IS after spending 27 years at the University of Louisville’s department of communication, as well as serving as the director of Louisville’s Institute for Intercultural Communication.

“Dr. D’Silva brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Department of Communication Studies,” said Dr. Mark Nelson, Dean of C&IS. “She has a diverse portfolio of teaching experience, research, and student programs that will continue to enhance the departmental mission and the experience for our students and faculty. We are very fortunate to have her join the College.”

Dr. D’Silva will follow Dr. Beth Bennett, who will continue her work in the College as senior associate dean, a role she was holding alongside her position as department chair for the last few years.

Dr. D’Silva holds a Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Kentucky and has served as editor of the journal Intercultural Communication Studies, Chair of the Asian Pacific American Caucus & Studies Division of the National Communication Association and Chair of the Southern States Communication Association’s Intercultural and Popular Communication Divisions.

Prior to earning her Ph.D., Dr. D’Silva received her bachelor’s degree from St. Agnes College in Georgia and her master’s degree from the University of Mysore in Mysore, India. Her research includes public communication campaigns, children and television, and global mass media. Dr. D’Silva begins as department chair on July 1, 2020.

Welcome Dr. D’Silva!

Center for Public Television Earns Six Emmy Nominations

This weekend, the Center for Public Television and Radio (CPT), part of the Digital Media Center, received six Southeast Emmy nominations. The projects nominated included a mix of CPT staff and students and faculty from the College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS).

The projects nominated are:

  • Life is So Delicious: Seth Farmer, Will Green, Reagan Wells*
  • Movie Guy: Seth Farmer, Will Green and Nathan Stephenson*
  • Visual Vernacular: Will Green, Kailey New*, Seth Farmer and Liam Parker*
  • The Forum: Seth Farmer, Nathan Stephenson*, Will Green and Communication Studies assistant professor Dr. Darrin Griffin
  • The Hurricane Creekkeeper: Will Green, Seth Farmer, Mack McCollum* and Montana Maniscalco*
  • Tuscaloosa Bicentennial: Seth Farmer, Will Green and Reagan Wells*

(* denotes C&IS students)

“Receiving a single nomination is an honor, and receiving six nominations is truly remarkable,” said Elizabeth Brock, Director of the DMC. “The fact that all six nominations were for projects produced by teams of professionals and students is a source of great pride to all of us who work at The University of Alabama’s Digital Media Center. Our mission is to provide Alabama communities with important, well told stories, and to provide students with real world experience that will help them in whatever careers they pursue after graduation.”

The Southeast region comprises markets of all sizes from Alabama, the Carolinas, Georgia and Mississippi. The winners will be announced September 12, 2020.

Title cards for two of the nominated projects: Tuscaloosa Bicentennial (left) and The Forum (right).

APR Class Prepares Students for “the New Normal” of Live Entertainment

Even before the coronavirus outbreak, the streaming platform Twitch was quickly growing as an advertising market. The service had 127 million unique viewers worldwide in 2019 and was poised to continue to grow in 2020.

Then the pandemic happened, and shelter in place regulations led many people to join Twitch for the first time, while still more turned up their streaming numbers. According to TwitchTracker, since late February, users have broadcast over 200 billion hours of footage. For reference, that’s 230,000 years of footage.

NASCAR, the NBA and Major League Baseball have also leaned heavily into Twitch for content, with the latter showcasing one player from all 30 teams playing “The Show 20” in what they called “The Players’ League.” During last week’s finals, the Rays’ Blake Snell, an active Twitch user, defeated Lucas Giolito of the White Sox. ESPN broadcasted an NBA 2K tournament with active NBA players, which was won by the Suns’ Devin Booker.

Started in 2011, Twitch has experienced exponential growth over the past nine years as a video game streaming platform, but in the last few years, the service has expanded to include live events, original programming and an entire new market to be targeted by advertising, marketing and public relations professionals. As such, the College has been teaching students ways to utilize Twitch for two years in advertising and public relations instructor Randall Huffaker’s APR 490 class, a special topics course.

“It’s really about the content marketing,” said Huffaker. “Twitch is just the platform. It allows you to create whatever you want to create. It’s not about gaming, gaming is just one piece of it.”

In the class, students get hands-on experience operating a branded Twitch channel, including streaming video gameplay, but also live entertainment and original content. In March, Encore, the live music program from the department of journalism and creative media, was live-streamed on Huffaker’s class’s Twitch channel.

The best way to prepare for this kind of new platform is for students to be hands-on. This allows them to control content, analyze metrics for what works, and adjust as needed. Simulations can only tell part of the story and will leave students short-changed at the end. More than that, students can follow passion projects and create whatever content they want to share with the audience.

“More and more industry experts see Twitch as more than a video game streaming service, they see it as a place to share ideas,” Huffaker said. An example Huffaker shared was a man in China who, at 4 o’clock in the morning, was sharing his religion to an audience of 400,000 people.

This is a global shift. In the United States, Twitch’s overall content is 95 percent gaming-focused. Outside of the United States, gaming only makes up 5 percent of Twitch’s content. For the other 95 percent outside the U.S., Twitch is an interactive forum to learn together and teach other people about personal interests. That’s the focus of Huffaker’s class.

“The hardest thing so far is trying to have a structure where they’re always creating stuff. It doesn’t just have to be gaming,” Huff said, focusing on the content marketing component. “When you get a steady mix of kids, you get them interested in many different things.”

Each semester, gaming makes up less of the class content. In his first semester teaching this class, Huffaker said it was all gaming. Now, three semesters later, it’s down to 80 percent. Original content topics have ranged from live music to college success tips to breakdowns of the latest episode of “The Bachelor.” The goal is for students to find a passion and build and nurture their own audience.

Huffaker wants to see the class continue to grow on campus. As a special topics class, Huffaker’s class is open to all of campus, including current students from engineering and health and human services. One area he’d like to see the Twitch channel expand is with the University Athletics Department, showing programs like The Nick Saban Show, or sports like wheelchair basketball, hockey and women’s soccer.

“People want to see content,” Huffaker said. Word is spreading on campus about the class, partly due to Huffaker’s efforts to spread the word and partner with other organizations and departments, and people are joining to build their own brands and create.

“I try to avoid lectures, outside of the first few weeks of class,” Huffaker said. “I just want them to create. It’s just up to them to find that passion and go to work.”

In the absence of traditional sports, many people around the world have turned to Twitch for entertainment and content, and the platform has garnered a much bigger audience, which in turn has led to more sponsors and a greater platform for future marketers. Twitch provides opportunities for both content creators and public relations professionals and marketers to reach a wider audience. Thanks to the dedicated C&IS faculty staying ahead of industry trends, students will be prepared to thrive in the world of “the new normal.”