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Study Abroad Trip to U.K. Falls Through, Professor Unfazed

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Dr. Cecile Garmon planned to visit the United Kingdom this May with Department of Communication students, yet her study abroad program has since been canceled.  The aforementioned trip would have run from May 18th through May 31st.  The trip promised to be valuable as students would have had the opportunity to choose specific areas in politics, art, social structure, religion, and history in an effort to examine the aspects of British leadership communication reflected in those fields.  “We had some unique experiences planned,” Dr. Garmon explained, “such as a private tour of Parliament with an interview with a sitting member of Parliament.”   The cancellation comes as a disappointment to Dr. Garmon who is no stranger to study abroad programs. “I have taken students to study abroad for nearly 40 years,” she said, recalling trips to Spain, Mexico, England, France and Scotland.

Though the trip offered a shorter stay compared to Study Abroad programs like Harlaxton and Semester at Sea, Dr. Garmon recognizes the value of shorter trips overseas.  “The shorter visits are easier to schedule. Students and faculty are all very busy and a shorter trip can provide a great variety of experiences.” Dr. Garmon also admits that shorter stays allow less time to become acclimated to the culture, which creates a need for strong programs.  Though shorter trips abroad are cheaper, she does speculate that financial burdens led to the lack of participation in the program. On a positive note, Dr. Garmon thinks that in the spirit of becoming a university with international reach, the array of Study Abroad programs that WKU offers has increased competition between the programs themselves as they seek to recruit students.

Dr. Garmon has not relented on stressing the importance of study abroad programs, despite the cancellation.  She believes that Communication majors specifically have more room to send their talents abroad than other disciplines and while the lessons they learn in the U.S. are valuable, actual cross cultural adventures abroad are vital.  Dr. Garmon commented, “We can talk about it extensively in class, but there is no substitute for the actual experience.”  The setback has not put any damper on Dr. Garmon’s yearning to travel, and while there are no Study Abroad programs on her agenda in the near future, she plans to go overseas very soon.

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Visiting Minority Scholar: Mittie Carey

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Dr. Mittie K. Carey, the WKU Department of Communication Visiting Minority Scholar, leaves a legacy of care, insight, and inclusion as she finishes her two year term on our faculty. The department celebrated Dr. Carey with a farewell luncheon on May 7, 2014.

Dr. Carey earned her Ph.D. in Communication at the University of Memphis in the spring of 2012. Her dissertation, “The Freedom Faith Speeches of Prathia Hall: Uncovering a Hybrid Rhetoric of Protest,” formed the basis of special topics classes at WKU.

Dr. Carey focused departmental attention on civil rights, women, and rhetoric through the graduate and undergraduate courses she taught. Field trips to Memphis’ Civil Rights Museum, world café conversations on race, and a course on Interracial Communication found expression here because of Dr. Carey. Further, Dr. Carey served on a university level committee devoted to diversity and inclusion across the campus.

Dr. Carey returns to Memphis at the end of her appointment to rejoin her husband and family. We wish her well in all she does, knowing her talent will take her far.

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Special Topics: Cyber Culture

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This semester, we welcomed a new course in the Department of Communication, offered to students in the spring 2014 semester only. Dr. Riverson Rios, a visiting professor from Universidade Federal de Ceará in Brazil, taught the course. With a Ph.D. in Computer Science, Dr. Rios was delighted to teach students about cyber culture and help them to understand how the digital world is changing the way we communicate.  Dr. Rios has abundant experience through his research and teaching this course at universities in Canada and Brazil.  Through his years of experience, he has acquired a variety of literature to share with students.

The special topics course allowed the students to focus on several pieces of literature centering around a variety of topics related to the World Wide Web. Each student created his or her own blogs. They were encouraged to post their own ideas and thoughts about specific topics that can be accessed by anyone.  Since technology has become a necessity in our personal and professional lives, Dr. Rios, encourages students to study topics that can be applied to all careers.  Students also had the opportunity to create a presentation and write a research paper on any topic they chose.

Dr. Rios hoped students would further their knowledge about a specific aspect of the cyber culture, be able to apply that to their fields of interest and create new knowledge about it.  The students were very enthusiastic about their one-time opportunity to take this course because of its relevance.

Elyse Madigan, a student enrolled in the course pointed out, “This course has really opened my eyes about the underlying aspects of the internet and how our communication is connected.”  Dr. Rios stated, “Technology is a part of everyone’s life.  That’s why it is important to know more about what is going on, how the web is changing our lives, our culture, our society, our educational system, our government, our relationships with people, our brains.”  Dr. Rios brought a unique perspective of the cyber world to our university, and we have welcomed this idea of technology in the Department of Communication.

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Communication Students Study Abroad Down Under


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Studying abroad is an important and constantly evolving component of a WKU education. In fact, it has become such an anticipated part of students’ college experiences that individual departments have begun creating specialized Study Abroad programs so their students can study abroad within their major.

Dr. Donna Schiess led the most recent  Department of Communication study abroad trip to Australia, particularly Melbourne, Warrnambool, and Fiji Island. Sites visited on the trip included the Twelve Apostles, London Bridge, Lady Bay Beach, and the Wildlife Park exhibit, where students were given the opportunity to interact with wild kangaroos, wallabies, and koala bears. This trip was Dr. Schiess’ first opportunity to teach abroad, and she said, “I really enjoyed it.”  When asked what she felt was the biggest benefit for Communication students of the trip, she stated, “I feel the interactions with some of the Australian students and teachers were great for them because they were able to see the differences in educational practices in communication. Not everything can be learned out of a book, so it was a lot more experiential for them in regards to learning and observing intercultural communication practices.”

Paige Freeman, a senior from Louisville, Kentucky, enjoyed her time on the trip, describing it as “life-changing, peaceful, and fun.” She said her favorite part of the trip was “interacting with the Fijians and observing their style of communication and love for celebration through music” because she felt that part of her communication background was also a “reflection of music.”  Further, she described the most challenging part of her trip was also an interaction with the Fijians as she tried to learn parts of their language and found that “it was very different and consisted of different forms of communication but shared the same meaning.”  While abroad, Freeman completed courses in Intercultural Communication and Special Topics in Communication.  She suggested other potential courses that could benefit from being taught abroad would include Leadership Communication and Small Group Communication.

All students and faculty, both from WKU and Australia’s Deakin University, benefitted greatly from the cultural interactions inspired by this Study Abroad trip.  To see future study abroad opportunities at WKU and in the Department of Communication, visit https://www.wku.edu/studyabroad/.

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2014 John Lyne Speech Contest

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Close to thirty competitors met on May 9, 2104, presenting persuasive speeches prepared in COMM 145 and 161. A first rate set of judges, including coaches from the world and national champion WKU Forensic team, evaluated and ranked the first and second round of speeches. Celebrity judges John Lyne (Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, department alumnus and award donor), Larry Winn (Emeritus Professor of the WKU Department of Communication), Dean David Lee (Dean of Potter College of Arts and Letters), Blair Thompson (Co-director of COMM 145 and 161) and Helen Sterk (Head of the Department of Communication) chose the top winners.

Representing the best speeches in COMM 145 were

¨ First place: Tabitha Heller.    Instructor: Patricia Witcher. Glasgow campus.

¨ Second place: Brittany Murphy. Instructor: Donna Schiess. Main campus.

¨ Third place: Sydney Moad. Instructor: Gina Lyon. Dual credit student.

Representing the best speeches in COMM 161 were

¨ First place: Erica Plummer.         Instructor: Jessica McClanahan. Main campus.

¨ Second place: Elvis Meskovic.    Instructor: Gayle Allison. Main  campus.

¨ Third place: McKinze Vowels.    Instructor: Stacey Gish. Main     campus.

Congratulations are due to everyone who competed. Being nominated as the best speaker from a class is an honor. Competing creates new skills.

And it is an honor to win. Congratulations go to all of the students who took first, second or third place.

 

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Message from Helen Sterk, Department Head

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The spring semester of 2014 saw two momentous events in the department. We hosted our first ever Executive in Residence, Kari Warberg Block, and we held a Student Recognition Dinner to honor our Lambda Pi Eta, Communication Ambassadors, and International Association of Business Communicators members, as well as our outstanding research award winners, graduate teaching assistants, and outstanding alumna of the year (see these full stories elsewhere in the newsletter). Both the Executive in Residence and the recognition dinner will become yearly standards within the department.

Events such as these build the culture of the department. Over the past several years, we have developed the theme that ‘Communication is key to a better self, better life, and better future.’ Two years ago, alumnus John Rowley, political campaign consultant and partner at Fletcher/Rowley in Nashville, led two savvy grad students, Ryan Dearbone and Ian Brandon, and me through a brain-storming process that led us to our focus on keys as our department’s ‘condensation symbols.’ A condensation symbol crystallizes meanings. For us, ‘key’ has provided a visual and metaphoric point of focus for what we in the department do, why we do it and how it works.

So, when we choose events, we look for those which support the idea of keying into the future through learning how communication theories and skills open the locks of jobs and the whole range of challenges our students will encounter. In the fall, we bring in a disciplinary superstar researcher and teacher and in the spring, a charismatic and successful professional person. Together, they show students how learning unlocks achievement. And then, we will gather together to celebrate our students’ successes and service. That’s a great way to end the year!

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Kari Warberg Block—Executive in Residence

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On February 12-13, the WKU Department of Communication kicked off its first annual “Executive in Residence” program with entrepreneur Kari Warberg Block. Ms. Warberg Block is a prominent business professional who highly values communication’s role in building strong businesses. See the press release here: news.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/communication-earthkind.

An entrepreneur who started an $8 million company from a 99 cent package of seeds, Ms. Warberg Block invented a product called Fresh Cab that repels rodents through natural means—a sachet made from ground up corn cobs that gives off the odor of balsam fir. Turns out mice and rats hate the smell and run away from it, making removal of little dead bodies unnecessary.

In developing capacity for mass production, marketing and distributing this ingenious product, Ms. Warberg Block learned to lead, to delegate, to motivate, and to activate employees and community partners.

Interest in Ms. Warberg Block spanned three colleges—she spoke to a Farm Management class in Agriculture; to an Entrepreneurship class in Business; and to Small Group Communication, the Senior Capstone, and Advanced Organizational Communication classes in Communication. Plus, Ms. Warberg Block met with Deans and representatives from the three colleges to bring home the importance of communication in building a farm-related business.

Ms. Warberg Block shared her expertise with the community in an evening question and answer session with alumnus Sam Ford.  See the Bowling Green Daily News story here: http://www.bgdailynews.com/news/entrepreneur-invents-natural-rodent-repellent/article_cc339588-e91c-55a5-8b04-1f53fead344a.html .

Engaging and filled with good humor, as well as good sense, Ms. Warberg Block proved herself the perfect person to launch the “Executive in Residence” program.

 

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