Category: CIS News

Research and Creative Activity: Dr. Elliot Panek

Dr. Elliot Panek

In some sense, everyone is part of a community, but, in an era when millions of people interact with one another online, how do we define “community?” Why do most online communities fail while others flourish? These are some of the questions C&IS professor of journalism and creative media, Dr. Elliot Panek, is asking, and he’s analyzed millions of comments on Reddit to help find the answers.

Reddit is a popular website that hosts large-group discussions on thousands of different topics, ranging from politics to relationship advice. The team examined six years of data within 30 different popular Reddit groups or “sub-reddits,” analyzing the influence of group size and the passage of time on two characteristics of online communities: the dispersion of participation in group discussion and the active member turnover from month to month.

“Some people dabble in online communities just to get a question answered or participate in a forum,” said Panek. “For other people, online communities are central to their lives. What we’re trying to understand is when online community life becomes central to people.”

The results of this study found that, as online discussion groups grow, participation in discussion tends to become concentrated among fewer and fewer contributors. Additionally, as groups age, it becomes harder to retain new contributors.

This data provides answers to fundamental questions about establishing and growing online communities, as well as how to keep existing group contributors active in the online community. These findings are useful for communication professionals who work in areas such as social media account management, application development, marketing, online education and organizational communication with the public online.

“Online communities are easy enough to create, but the question is, ‘Are they going to be here in six months?’ For the vast majority, the answer is no,” said Panek. “Our research suggests that the creators of online communities need to be more proactive in incentivizing and encouraging widespread participation to motivate group members to stick around and be more active in the conversation.”

In addition to Panek, the team is comprised of Connor Hollenbach, Jinjie Yang and Tyler Rhodes all of whom are undergraduate or graduate students at The University of Alabama. To read the full results of their published research titled, “The Effects of Group Size and Time on the Formation of Online Communities: Evidence From Reddit,” click here.

The College of Communication and Information Sciences’ faculty and students at The University of Alabama conduct cutting-edge research that creates knowledge and provides solutions to global issues across the full communication and information spectrum. To learn more about the College’s research initiatives, visit cis.ua.edu/research.

C&IS Graduate Alumna Spotlight: Ann Salamy

Ann Salamy (pictured above with her niece, Mira) at the Amazon Community Banana Stand

Leverage your network, and hustle.”

As Amazon’s Senior Program Manager, alumna Ann Salamy (M.A., Communication Studies ’98) manages Amazon’s corporate MBA program for Europe. With her international experience in technology, financial services and higher education, Salamy has had roles ranging from a diversity specialist to program manager and has lived in New York, London, Seattle and now Luxembourg. A leader in talent management and workforce development, she traces her previous roles at UBS, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to her early days as a C&IS master’s student.
 
“I’ve taken a very non-linear career path, and I’ve loved it,” said Salamy. “At C&IS, more than anything else, I learned about the power of teamwork and relationships. Twenty years later I’m still in touch with many of my classmates, and we’ve gone on to pursue a variety of different career paths — from teaching to business to diplomatic service.”

Read below to see Salamy’s insight into her graduate work at C&IS, her current career and the lessons she’s learned along the way. 

What is your official job title?

I’m a Senior Program Manager at Amazon; specifically I manage Amazon’s corporate MBA program for Europe. The MBA program, called “Launch”, is a three-year rotational program for MBA hires. It covers six countries across Europe and offers roles in a variety of Amazon’s corporate businesses –  including Consumer, Finance, Devices, Business Development and Amazon Web Services. I’m based in Luxembourg – Amazon’s European headquarters.

Why did you choose C&IS for your graduate studies?

An influential communication studies mentor during my undergraduate studies at James Madison University encouraged me to pursue my master’s degree, and to specifically consider The University of Alabama. Once I learned more about the program, the small program size and the variety of specializations really appealed to me. During my two year program, I was a Teaching Assistant and during my second year, I also worked with the College Development Director. Additionally, UA sparked a career-long passion in diversity and women’s studies that I’ve gone on to pursue in my prior roles at UBS, LehmanBrothers, Goldman Sachs, UNC and Amazon.

What lessons from C&IS have helped you throughout your career?

More than anything else, I learned about the power of teamwork and relationships. As a small class, we really relied on each other to help with challenging coursework, to cover our teaching assistant responsibilities, and to celebrate our accomplishments. Twenty years later, I’m still in touch with many of them – we’ve gone on to pursue a variety of different career paths – from teaching to business to diplomatic service.

How can students make the best use of their graduate studies?

I encourage everyone to own your own career and understand what success means for you. I’ve taken a very non-linear career path, and I’ve loved it. After my master’s degree I worked for several years teaching and with university development/alumni affairs, and I then went to Vanderbilt for my MBA. Since receiving my MBA, I’ve worked in investment banking, higher education and technology – I’ve had roles ranging from a diversity specialist to program management, and I’ve lived in New York, London, Durham (NC), Seattle and now Luxembourg.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

It’s really the little things – the most rewarding part of my current role is when an MBA takes the time to specifically thank me for the work that I’m doing to support their careers. We work in a fast paced environment, and knowing that somebody prioritized taking the time to thank me and acknowledge my contribution means a lot.

What motivates you?

I’m motivated to get things done – my best days are those that I can look back upon and see what I delivered.

Thank you, Ann! 

Read All About It!

Journalism and Creative Media students help Oakdale Elementary students create a newspaper for their community. 

Through the C&IS course, News Design and Visualization, journalism and creative media students work with children at nearby Oakdale Elementary School to help the kids create their own community newspaper: The Oakdale Eagle.

Founded in 2011 by a small group of Oakdale Elementary personnel and UA collaborators, the Oakdale Eagle has become a schoolwide endeavor. In 2018-19, 10 children worked as Oakdale Eaglereporters in tandem with 13 University of Alabama students enrolled in JCM 320 News Design and Visualization. By the end of the academic year, they will have published four editions of the newspaper for the Oakdale community.

Oakdale Elementary is located in an economically disadvantaged area of Tuscaloosa, and a majority of its students come from low-income families.

Dr. Rebecca Britt, who teaches the class is an associate professor in the department of journalism and creative media. She tells her students it’s important to let each child’s creative spirit shine through in his or her writing.

“I had to take a back seat and know what I wanted to say wasn’t important; it was what the kids wanted to say,” says Jennifer Smith, a senior majoring in sports journalism.

Zharia Simmons, a fifth grader who has been part of the program for three years, wrote an article in Fall 2018 about Oakdale’s new fifth-grade teachers. She said her favorite part of the process was “typing up the articles and the different drafts.”

Latrina Spencer, an Oakdale Eagle faculty advisor and kindergarten teacher, says Zharia and her classmates have gained confidence through the program. “It lets them warm up to people and come out of their shells,” she says.

Britt says the relationship between the Oakdale Elementary community and the UA students is reciprocal.

The experience enhances the UA students’ communication and collaborative skills and gives them a chance to interact with the Tuscaloosa community and develop their portfolios, she says.

Oakdale Elementary recently extended its journalism program internationally by forming partnerships with schools in El Salvador and Kuwait. Melissa Kent, the library media specialist at Oakdale Elementary, says UA students and faculty have assisted throughout the expansion process.

Dr. George Daniels, assistant dean of administration for C&IS, was instrumental in establishing the UA-Oakdale partnership. Daniels coordinated a professional-development event in which Oakdale journalism-program advisors me with UA communications faculty members. He also has introduced Oakdale teachers and students to opportunities in public speaking, global communications, broadcasting, public relations and more. “He has been the guiding light to developing this program,” Kent says.

The alliance has fostered an extraordinary program for the young minds of Oakdale Elementary, Britt says, and some children continue pursuing journalism projects in middle school.

“Anytime you go out of your way to take a leadership role and help others, it benefits you,” says Mackenzie McClintock, a senior majoring in sports journalism. “It helps you grow as a person.”

To learn more about Oakdale Elementary School’s journalism program, the Oakdale Eagle, or the JCM 320 News Design and Visualization course, contact Dr. Rebecca Britt at rkbritt@ua.eduor Dr. George Daniels at gdaniels@ua.edu.


Story by Isabell Page | Photos by Jackie Sutton and Olivia Keasling

C&IS Announces New Board of Visitors Executive Committee

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) announces the 2019-2020 Board of Visitors Executive Committee. These three executive members will create vision and provide leadership for the Board.

Debra Nelson, President of Elevate Communications, LLC, will serve as chairwoman. Barry Copeland, President of The Copeland Strategies Group, LLC, and Robin DeMonia, Executive Vice President of Direct Communications, will serve as Vice Chairman and Secretary-Treasurer.

“We are humbled and excited to have such an accomplished and driven group of industry leaders on our executive committee this year,” said Dr. Mark Nelson, Dean of C&IS. “I have known Debra, Barry and Robin for many years and am confident they will serve our College well.”

Debra Nelson is recognized among the leading public relations and diversity and inclusion practitioners in the U.S. She has held executive positions at industries spanning media, higher education, automotive manufacturing, construction, and gaming and hospitality. Today Nelson leads Elevate Communications, LLC, a firm dedicated to delivering professional development and communication services. Her clients include large and small companies located throughout the U.S. Prior to founding Elevate, Nelson was Corporate Director and Head of Communications for Brasfield & Gorrie, a leading construction firm based in Birmingham, Alabama. Her prior executive appointment was Vice President at MGM Resorts International where she steered the diversity initiative to national prominence and helped the company increase revenue and profitability.

Barry Copeland is a retired business executive who spent most of his 42-year career in business in the Birmingham area. Today, he is president of The Copeland Strategies Group LLC, a company he founded in July of 2014 to help non-profit organizations’ boards of directors develop and implement strategic plans and targets. Copeland spent 13 years at the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA), where he was a part of the senior management team that created the BBA in 2009 from a merger of the former Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and the Metropolitan Development Board.

Robin DeMonia is executive vice president of Direct Communications, a public relations firm based in Birmingham. Her previous experience includes 25 years as a journalist in Alabama, including seven years as a state government reporter and 10 years as a member of the editorial board of The Birmingham News.

About the Board of Visitors:

The University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences Board of Visitors serves as an advisory group for C&IS. Our Board of Visitors are established communication professionals and industry leaders who work closely with senior administration to effect positive change in the College’s curriculum, experiential learning opportunities and advancement activities.

Directors of MLK Documentary from NBC Screen Film for C&IS Students

How have monumental changes in media affected activism in the digital age? A new documentary, “Hope & Fury: MLK, the Movement and the Media,” tackles this question by looking at the roles the media played and continues to play in the civil rights movement, from the March to Montgomery to demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri.

“Hope & Fury” directors Rachel Dretzin and Phil Bertelsen were present at Gorgas Library on Monday, January 14, for a special screening of part of the film and to answer audience questions. Hosted by The College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS), this event was part of a greater, university-wide celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday.

“We look at the movement through the lens of the media,” Dretzin said. “We also expand that lens to look at the way the media covers civil rights today.”

The film is narrated by NBC anchor Lester Holt and features interviews with prominent journalists and civil rights figures like Al Sharpton, Tom Brokaw and John Lewis. The screening was the first of 16 events during January at the University celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. King.

“The idea behind the events that we’re having on campus is to engage more students,” said Dr. George Daniels, Assistant Dean of Administration for C&IS. “Sometimes that means learning about what happened in the past, and sometimes it means understanding where we are in the present. Students need to be engaged, front and center.”

100 years ago, newspapers and radio stations were the only news media. 50 years ago, television news became king. Today, news is an instantaneous process, thanks to the rise of social media. Higher-quality smartphone cameras can broadcast around the world in a matter of seconds by millions of amateur photojournalists. As a result, the nature of activism has changed significantly.

As civil rights demonstrations continue nationwide in places like Ferguson, Missouri, social media has become the most popular and immediate outlet for news to break. Facebook Live streams, live-tweeting and other methods of sharing that would have been alien to marchers in Selma in 1965 have brought the modern civil rights movement back to the public eye. However, due to the global audiences of social media, the eye belongs to the entire world.

“All of our students in the College are focused on building messages, learning how to build messages, analyzing messages—all of those are tied up in this documentary,” said Daniels. “It was a really good example of the power of documentary as a form to convey a message about Dr. King.”

UA to Screen NBC’s ‘Hope and Fury’

In advance of the 2019 observance of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a team of producers of a recently released documentary about the civil rights leader and the power of the media will visit The University of Alabama later this month.

Award-winning Producer and Directors Rachel Dretzin and Phil Bertelsen will screen “Hope & Fury: MLK, The Movement and The Media” on Monday, January 14, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. in Gorgas Library 205. As a part of the screening, they’ll share with UA students, faculty and staff on the story behind the documentary film that examines how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and leaders of the civil rights movement used the power of print and visual media, especially television, to awaken America to the shame and injustice of racial inequality

“We are looking forward to having this top-notch team that has produced projects for PBS’ Frontline and now for NBC and MSNBC come to our campus and engage with our UA community,” said Dr. George Daniels, assistant dean for administration in College of Communication and Information Sciences. “I know Ms. Dretzin and Mr. Bertelsen will help our students understand the work of Dr. King in a whole new way.”

First premiering on NBC last March, leading up to the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King, “Hope & Fury: MLK, The Movement and the Media” combines firsthand personal recollections with rare, archival footage and photographs—some previously unseen to spotlight the role of media not only back in the 1950s and 1960s, but also more recently in protests over police brutality.

“This screening is one of several programs that The University of Alabama Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Committee has coordinated for this year’s campus celebration,” said Dr. G. Christine Taylor, Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “The committee has chosen the theme ‘The Fierce Urgency of Now: A Day on Not a Day Off’ for this year’s celebration.”

The College and its academic units including the School of Library and Information Studies, and the Departments of Communication Studies, Advertising and Public Relations, and Journalism and Creative Media joined forces to bring Dretzin and Bertelsen to Tuscaloosa.

“In some way, ‘Hope and Fury’ touches what we do in C&IS in all our units here in the College from preparing archival students to public relations tactics, news reporting and filmmaking. It’s the perfect project for us to support across the College,” said Daniels. “We are looking forward to sponsoring this event for the entire University community.”

C&IS Year in Review

The Best of 2018

What a year! We are honored to share with you the stories and standouts of our students, faculty, alumni and staff. Here is a roundup of just a few of our favorite features from 2018. 


SLIS Breaks Record for Book Bonanza: School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) awarded a record $25,752 in new, free books to elementary, middle, and high school libraries in Alabama via the SLIS Book Bonanza for the Black Belt & Beyond Program.


PRWeek Awards: C&IS Senior, Maret Montanari, was named PRWeek’s Public Relations Student of the Year and is the University’s first. The Department of Advertising and Public Relations was once again named a top-five finalist for Outstanding Education Program in the 2018 PRWeek Awards.


Alpine Living Wins National Mark of Excellence: C&IS student-produced magazine, Alpine Living, was awarded the national Mark of Excellence from the Society of Professional Journalists in the category of Best Affiliated Website. Alpine Living features content from the travels of 15 journalism and creative media students in New Zealand.


Public Opinion Lab Opens: Housed Reese Phifer Hall, the Public Opinion Lab is an innovative space for social analytics research. The Public Opinion Lab opened August of this year and is made possible through a partnership with Crimson Hexagon, an AI-powered data source of consumer insights.


Forensics National Champion: Jalen Drummond finished first nationally in Informative Speaking at the 41st American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament (AFA-NIET) Championships. The Alabama Forensic Council traveled to the AFA-NIET with over 20 students competing.


Dr. Josh Pederson Receives NSF Grant: Three University of Alabama professors have been awarded a grant of more than $300,000  from the National Science Foundation to study the relationship between communication and physiological responses in intimate partnerships.


Biennial Hall of Fame Ceremony: This year’s College of Communication and Information Sciences Hall of Fame ceremony honored five inductees: Jennings F. Bryant Jr., Rece Davis, Fred D. Gray, and Houston and Voncile Pearce. View the photo album from this year’s ceremony here.


Best Student-Run Firm: C&IS’ Capstone Agency was awarded Best Campaign, Best Tactic and Best Student-Run Firm in the 2018 Public Relations Student Society of America Student-Run Firm Awards. These awards celebrate outstanding campaigns and tactics completed by PRSSA’s nationally affiliated, student-run firms across the country.


Oh Receives Don Bartholomew Award: Jeyoung Oh, a doctoral student and two-time graduate of C&IS, was named the recipient of the prestigious 2018 Don Bartholomew Award for Excellence in Public Relations Research. Oh received the award at the IPR Annual Distinguished Lecture and Awards Dinner on November 28 at the Roosevelt Hotel.

Reflections from C&IS Graduates

We are proud to have a College made up of so many risk-takers, researchers, creators, storytellers and artists. Around 200 C&IS students will graduate this December and start their careers across the country in fields such as strategic marketing, public relations, advertising, film and law school. Before they graduate, we wanted to hear some of the stories of our December graduates. Below are their insights, photos and reflections from their time at C&IS.

What is your favorite memory in C&IS?

“My favorite memory in C&IS was all the holiday festivities…from Easter egg hunts to drinking hot chocolate with professors. The C&IS SEC bowling trip was also so much fun and a great opportunity to meet people in the college.” – Samantha Stiles, Journalism & Creative Media

“Campaigns. It was so much fun working with my group, covering all fields of advertising and working together towards a common goal.” – Alex White, Advertising

What was your favorite class during your time in C&IS? Why?

“APR 433 was the best experience. I worked with a full team to build an entire campaign for the White Sox using our own ideas.” – Harley Sabbagh, Public Relations

“My favorite class in C&IS was Professor Cantrell’s JCM 354 – Into to Production Management. Although my major isn’t film related, I learned so much about how movies are made and what goes into the film making process. It is hard work making a film, but Professor Cantrell made the class fun and interesting. She always had a smile on her face.” – Samantha Stiles, Journalism & Creative Media

“APR 427. Mark Harris was the best professor I have ever had. I got to strengthen my writing and public speaking skills and learned things that I will use outside of the classroom.” – Elly McKinnon, Public Relations

What is the best advice you have for incoming C&IS freshmen?

Have fun in college and explore what this diverse campus has to offer. There is so much to do, and you’ll be delighted with all the activities and social events that go on at campus. Enjoy these years while they last because your college years will fly by!” – Ben Senicz, Communication Studies

“Go out to events and meet people. Some of your favorite memories will come from spending time with classmates that you wouldn’t have known otherwise. Also, the computer lab on the 3rd floor of Reese Phifer is a great place for some peace and quiet.” – Samantha Stiles, Journalism & Creative Media

“Seek outside help from professors anytime you need their guidance. Proper time management and a disciplined work ethic breed success.” – Alex White, Advertising

“Prepare for the unexpected, have great time management skills and intern!” – Harley Sabbagh, Public Relations

What tools or strategies helped you succeed during your time in college?

“I didn’t think of college classes as optional. It was mandatory in my head, so I knew I had to go to class every day and work as hard as I could to come out on top.” – Samantha Stiles, Journalism & Creative Media

“Plan out every class semester-by-semester for every year.” – Laney Howard, Public Relations

“Don’t be afraid to test the waters and take classes in different colleges. I found advertising as a result of exploring other colleges. I couldn’t be happier that I did!” – Alex White, Advertising

 

Thank you to our honors graduates of December 2018 and best of luck!

C&IS Students Work SEC Championship Game

From Left: Ali Schroeder, Aubrey Losack and Jordan Wynn celebrate with streamers after the SEC Championship Game

This year’s SEC Championship football game was the second-most watched ever, with more than 17.5 million viewers tuning in to see the Crimson Tide beat the Georgia Bulldogs 35-28. C&IS students, Aubrey Losack, Jordan Wynn and Ali Schroeder, made key contributions to this national sports moment by facilitating communication between industry professionals.

In partnership with SEC Communications, UA Athletics Communications chose three student representatives to work the SEC Championship game in Atlanta, Georgia on December 1. The selected students are all current C&IS students, from the departments of advertising and public relations, and journalism and creative media. At the event, the students navigated the fast-paced environment to aid the media, pull footage and organize content all while working alongside seasoned journalists and producers in a creative yet demanding opportunity.

Current journalism and creative media senior, Aubrey Losack, shared her experience leading up to and during the event.

“This experience helped me grow towards a career in sports media relations,” said Losack. “I was able to see both the game and the media relations industry from different perspectives.”

Losack and the two other selected student workers arrived the night before the game to help assemble media packets for the game. The following day, they met with the SEC Commissioner, Greg Sankey, to talk about the future of sports communications and gain insight into a career in broadcasting or sports media. The rest of the day was spent aiding communications professionals and preparing the press box to run efficiently.

“This was one of the best experiences I have ever had,” said Losack. “Being able to see what goes on behind the scenes was a learning experience that is hard to replicate anywhere else.”

C&IS Senior Selected to Work the Pink Carpet at the VMAs

To view this full interview with Viacom and Doyle’s interviews with celebrities, click here.

As an intern for Paramount Network, Alana Doyle had to the opportunity to contribute to various television shows and partnerships within the Viacom network. She worked to create press kits, pitches and write stories about television shows. Her internship ended with the biggest stage of all: MTV’s VMAs. Doyle was selected out of the class of summer interns to work the pink carpet and interview celebrities as a ViaCommunity reporter, Viacom’s social responsibility initiative.

ViaCommunity and Viacom’s Campus to Career teams invited current summer interns to submit a video proving how they would thrive on the pink carpet as a Viacommunity reporter, injecting the company’s social conscience into one of its most-followed programs.

Doyle was a given a one-week notice to compile her submission which was a take on the typical talk show format which she titled, The Daily Dose.

“Comedy Central’s The Daily Show is one of Viacom’s partners so I decided to play both roles: the interviewer and the guest,” said Doyle. “What better way to show that I could interview someone than to just interview myself?”

Her video tackled important social and economic issues while still remaining true to Doyle’s personality and passion for entertainment. Three days after submitting her application video, Doyle received an email that she said “changed the rest of her life.” Despite having no prior experience in acting or television, Doyle was the only intern chosen to interview celebrities at the VMAs.

“In all honesty, I still am pinching myself to this day just thinking about it,” said Doyle. “There was no way that I, a 21-year girl from Arizona, was about to not only attend the VMAs, but also be able to speak with celebrities at the VMAs.”

Doyle was flown up to New York City the day before the VMAs and was immediately connected with Viacommunity representatives who helped her prepare for her role on the red carpet. Because of her passion for mentoring younger generations, Doyle prepared questions that asked celebrities about their role in social issues and about how they are giving back to their communities.

“Once I hit the pink carpet, wiping a smile off my face was impossible,” said Doyle, “I really put everything I had into this experience so that I could walk away knowing that I did the best I could.”

Since then, Doyle has returned to C&IS with a new vision for her career in public relations and is extremely grateful for the leaders she met during her internship and time with the VMAs. She plans to graduate as a public relations major in May 2019.

To view this full interview with Viacom and Doyle’s interviews with celebrities, click here.