Category: CIS News

Plank Center Holds Annual “Milestones in Mentoring” Gala

The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations celebrated its 8th Annual “Milestones in Mentoring” Gala at the Union League Club of Chicago on Thursday, Oct. 26. Close to 300 public relations professionals, educators and students were in attendance, including 24 faculty, staff, students and alumni from The University of Alabama.

Each year, the Center recognizes influential leaders whose commitment to mentoring generates a powerhouse of influence and accelerates success in our profession.

Capstone Agency Wins Best Campaign, Best Tactic at PRSSA National

Capstone Agency has been awarded Best Campaign and Best Tactic in the 2017 Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) Student-Run Firm Awards.

Given annually at the PRSSA National Conference, these awards celebrate outstanding campaigns and tactics utilized by PRSSA’s nationally affiliated, student-run firms across the country in the previous year. Capstone Agency won Best Tactic in 2015 and was named Best Student-Run Firm in 2016.

“The community within Reese Phifer is a huge part of the continued success of our firm and our public relations students, as a whole,” said Megan Perkins, Firm Director, Capstone Agency. “You are surrounded by people who care and are involved, which makes you strive to improve, as well.”

Capstone Agency’s submission for Best Campaign was their work completed for The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations, titled “Mentoring Matters.” The winning submission for Best Tactic came from the firm’s implementation flyers for their Less-Than-U-Think campaign, a campaign against binge drinking.

PRSSA has also named Capstone Agency as their Agency of Record. Under this arrangement, PRSSA becomes a client of Capstone Agency, who will conduct ongoing communication needs for the association for a two-year period.

Also recognized at the PRSSA National Conference, The University of Alabama’s PRSSA student chapter won a national award for university service for their work with the Campus Veterans Association and Beat Auburn Beat Hunger.

Capstone Agency is a nationally affiliated, student-run, integrated communications firm comprised of top communication students at The University of Alabama. They have been a student organization in the College of Communication and Information Sciences since 2010.

Fox Sports U Airs C&IS Student Campaign Nationally

Advertising and public relations students Katie Bell, Willow Ennen and Arianna Straggas had their advertising campaign selected to air nationally by Fox Sports U.

Bell, of Memphis, Ennen, of San Francisco, and Straggas, of Waltham, Massachusetts, worked to develop copy, graphics and creative ideas for their campaign.

Their group won and was asked to help produce the ad, which will air through January and the end of the NFL season on three Fox networks.

The campaign, titled, “Fox Sports Supports PCA,” is a commercial created in conjunction with Fox Sports’ and the Positive Coaching Alliance’s national campaign to promote positive coaching and a relaxed atmosphere for youth sports. To view the ad, click here.

“The class was a great challenge because it allowed us to combine all of our collective strengths for a well-rounded, finished project,” said Bell. “In addition to the challenge, we had the twist of working with a nonprofit which pushed us to be even more effective.”

“It was such an awesome opportunity to work with a client as big as Fox Sports U,” said Straggas. “It was a bigger scale and the nonprofit aspect, made it a ‘do good, feel good’ project.”

The campaign was produced for the students’ advertising campaigns class, APR 424. This experiential learning course provides an opportunity for student collaboration and thinking “outside the box,” through planning, completing and executing a complete advertising campaign.

Course instructors Dr. Kenon Brown and Randall Huffaker work to make the course realistic with clients like Fox Sports U.

“This commercial was truly a culmination of the hard work and dedication that these students brought to the table the entire semester for a major, national client,” said Brown. “It is so encouraging for them to see that the final result of their efforts actually matters because they can always go back to this and say, ‘You know what, I’m actually good at this job.’ That confidence will stick with them long-term.”

The Positive Coaching Alliance is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to transform the youth sports culture into a “Development Zone” where all youth and high school athletes have a positive, character-building experience that results in better athletes and better people. Fox Sports U is a program developed to enhance the academic experiences of collegiate students while reinforcing Fox Sports Commitment to communities across the nation.

Dr. Dianne Bragg Named AJHA President

The American Journalism Historians Association (AJHA) has named University of Alabama Assistant Professor of Journalism and Creative Media Dr. Dianne Bragg as its 2017-2018 president. Bragg began her one-year term at the AJHA national convention, October 14, which was held in Little Rock, AR.

Bragg served three years on the AJHA’s Board of Directors before being nominated as the organization’s second vice president in 2015. She is the second UA professor to serve as AHJA president. Dr. David Sloan, who helped to found AJHA, was the first. Additionally, CIS faculty members Dr. Caryl Cooper, Dr. Ann Bourne, Dr. Meg Lamme, Dr. Karla Gower and Dr. Suzanne Horsley are members of AJHA.

“One of our primary focuses is making sure that journalism and media history remain a staple within colleges and universities throughout the country,” said Bragg. “Recent events are reinforcing the importance of historical insight.”

As goals for her presidential term, Bragg plans on continuing the agenda of AJHA’s emphasis on the importance of history in students’ civic education. She will also increase the visibility of the organization’s annual Southeast Symposium, a conference designed to promote graduate and undergraduate student research while providing a forum for student presentations and discussions.

“There is a strong emphasis within the social sciences and communication research for quantitative methods,” said Bragg. “When you think about journalism, it’s storytelling. We often offer an outlet for students who are pursuing a graduate degree but may want to do that narrative, qualitative kind of work.”

As the organization’s leader, Bragg will preside over the Board of Directors meeting, gather comprehensive reports from the organization’s committees, oversee the affairs of the organization and serve as its spokesperson for scholarly and mainstream outlets.

Bragg is one of eight current faculty members in the C&IS to occupy a position of executive leadership in leading national and international communication organizations.


ASPA Hosts Annual Workshops, Celebrates 80 Years

Dr. Cory Armstrong, Chair, Journalism and Creative Media, kicks of the Tuscaloosa ASPA Workshop

The Alabama Scholastic Press Association hosted the Tuscaloosa Fall Regional Workshop program on September 27th. This workshop featured three sessions with topics covering broadcast, radio, photography, journalism and design for Alabama high school students.

The workshop prepared the student participants to think critically about the journalism industry. It gave them ways to improve their skills while teaching them about writing outside of the box, design, the “Rule of Eight” and other writing techniques

“ASPA is valuable to students because it gives them the training that they need to be successful, ethical journalists and communicators,” said Meredith Cummings, director of ASPA.

The Regional Workshop capped off the 80th year of ASPA’s pursuit of journalistic excellence and facilitation of students to reach further through mentorship, workshops and programs. Similar workshops were also held in Huntsville and Mobile.

ASPA honors journalism giants from across the state in order to highlight journalistic success to its students. ASPA tributes include Rick Bragg, Ed Mullins, Felicia Mason and more major players in the national journalism scene.  These tributes work with students and encourage them on their path toward their careers.

Cummings has a letter hanging in her office from 1942. It was written to Alabama principals to notify that ASPA would stop operation due to World War II, the only time ASPA has paused its work of empowering teachers and students across the state. The letter is a testament to the dedication of ASPA and the people who continue to carry its legacy.


Each year, ASPA hosts the Long Weekend, a summer journalism camp, and a State Convention each spring. ASPA also produces the Multicultural Journalism Program, which seeks to increase diversity in American newsrooms, through summer camps, workshops, and providing mentoring for its students. Additionally, ASPA sponsors student writing workshops, awards scholarships and honors student journalists each year.

ASPA’s mission is to stimulate and develop newspaper and journalistic talent among high school students. They develop and empower members to gain greater success year after year.

C&IS Leads the Way with 27 Diversity Advocates

This fall, C&IS certified 27 faculty and staff members as diversity advocates, through a diversity training program developed by Dr. George Daniels in consultation with C&IS administrators. This training equips them to serve on hiring committees to ensure that the committee is attentive to the College’s desire to attract an applicant pool consistent with its educational mission.

“This is a great first class of diversity advocates,” said Dr. George Daniels, Assistant Dean for Administration. “The idea is to get more and more faculty members exposed to thinking about diversity in intentional ways, as those who actually are advocating for diversity not just thinking about it as a check-box to meet a university requirement.”

C&IS approved its diversity plan in 2008, stating that it “Supports and embraces a student, staff, faculty and administrative community enriched by members of diverse genders, national origins, races, ethnicities, cultures, religions, socioeconomic conditions, geographic backgrounds, sexualities, ages, religious beliefs and spiritualties, abilities and political views.”

C&IS Student Founds New Student Org: Music and Memory

C&IS senior, Sarah Loper, (communication studies) is bringing Music and Memory to The University of Alabama. Music and Memory is a nonprofit that provides nursing home residents with therapeutic, personalized music.

She founded a campus chapter of Music and Memory with 26 other students in hopes of spreading awareness about the power of music and connectivity. Loper will lead the group in collecting iPods and donations throughout the fall semester to bring the donations to nursing homes in Tuscaloosa in time for the holidays.

Loper, whose great-grandparents suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s, discussed the importance of talking about this issue and shared her passion for those affected debilitating diseases affecting the memory.

“These are people’s family members, mothers and fathers,” said Loper. “I want Music and Memory Tuscaloosa to spread its impact all throughout Tuscaloosa county and beyond.”

New Student Lounge

C&IS strives to give its students every opportunity to succeed and excel inside and outside of the classroom. To make the C&IS student experience even better, the old student lounge space was renovated to offer a transformed, comfortable area for students to study, gather together and recharge in between classes.

The new student lounge is designed with students in mind. Located in Reese Phifer 103, this space is perfect for student organization meetings, class project collaboration or personal study. The conference room seats 10 and is equipped with Apple TV connectivity on the extra-large, high definition monitor. There is also a collaboration room furnished with white boards for groupthink sessions and brainstorming.

For the casual pit stop, the main room is outfitted with sofas and tables, perfect for catching a break before your next class. The Student Executive Council regularly offers refreshments in the student lounge—including a variety of snacks, coffee and energy drinks—as a fundraiser for the SEC’s Student Organization Fund. This fund helps C&IS student organizations secure resources for on-campus events, travel expenses and general organization needs.

Space in the collaboration room and the conference area is limited and should be reserved ahead of time to secure your spot. To reserve any of the spaces in the new student lounge, call Tisch Student Services at 205-348-8599 or send an email to

Documenting Hurricane Harvey

When Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Southeast Texas on Friday, August 25, C&IS professor, Dr. Chandra Clark received a call from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). She was asked to monitor the situation and consider going to Houston, Corpus Christi and Beaumont, Texas should the storm greatly impact these areas. Unfortunately, it did. The storm’s tempestuous winds and heavy rain destroyed much of what stood in its path, and Clark prepared to travel.

Clark spent the next week prepping—following reporters on social media, researching and mapping out stories and locations. Each day before the trip, she and her colleague, Scott Hodgson of the University of Oklahoma, would conference call with the NAB and Broadcast Education Association (BEA), planning out coverage and establishing contacts for stories. Their purpose was not to cover Hurricane Harvey so much as it was to cover those who covered Hurricane Harvey.

These stories also illustrate the role of communication from federal, state and city leaders to broadcasters, and how crucial radio and television are in the process of getting information to viewers and listeners in a real-time situation where lives are on the line. The team documented the 2011 EF4 tornado which affected Tuscaloosa, the 2012 hurricane known as “Superstorm Sandy,” and a 2013 EF5 tornado which struck Moore, Oklahoma.

C&IS Welcomes New Faculty

New Faculty Members:


The College of Communication and Information Sciences has an established record of distinguished faculty, whose fingerprints are visible in the excellence of each graduating class. This fall, C&IS introduces 17 new faculty members, which is one of the largest groups of new faculty in its history. C&IS welcomes the following new faculty members and celebrates all of the outstanding achievements that are sure to follow.


Tom Arenberg: Instructor, News Media, JCM

Matt Barnidge: Assistant Professor, Emerging Media, JCM

Jennifer Becker: Assistant Professor, Interpersonal Communication, COM

Nancy Brinson: Assistant Professor, Advertising, APR

Heather Carmack: Associate Professor, Health Communication, COM

Jim Elmborg: Director, Professor, SLIS

Teresa Gawrych: Instructor, Media Production, JCM

Jameson Hayes: Assistant Professor, Advertising, APR

Marquette Jones: Instructor, Media Production, JCM

David Lawson: Instructor, Electronic News, JCM

Leah LeFebvre: Assistant Professor, Interpersonal Communication, COM

Laura Lemon: Assistant Professor, Public Relations, APR

Coral Marshall: Instructor, Sports Communication, APR

Tiffany Mohr: Assistant Professor, Public Relations, APR

Jessy Ohl: Assistant Professor, Rhetoric & Public Discourse, COM

Ethan Stokes: Assistant Professor, Public Relations, APR

Alyxandra Vesey: Assistant Professor, Media Studies,  JCM


New Faculty Positions: 


In addition to our new faculty members, C&IS recognizes the achievements of our existing faculty who have moved into new roles this academic year.


John Burgess: Assistant Professor, Information Systems, SLIS

Nick Corrao: Assistant Professor, Media Production, JCM

Darrin Griffin: Assistant Professor, Interpersonal Communication, COM

Steven Yates: Assistant Professor, School Library Media, SLIS

Brett Sherrick: Assistant Professor, Media Management, JCM