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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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NCA: Making Connections in Washington, DC

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The National Communication Association’s (NCA) 99th annual convention was held in Washington, DC this past -November. The convention’s theme, “DC Connections,” centered around the issues and sites of our nation’s capital.
Department Head, Dr. Helen Sterk, said that “every convention takes on its own flavor of the city. Starting the opening night with a political satire group, The Capitol Steps, made the convention feel very true to the city. The theme of Connections helped highlight communication from the personal up to the political.”

Politics were a common theme of this convention. One panel highlighted the media’s portrayal of the  assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the communication breakdowns that occurred. Many research panels centered around JFK as the convention took place on the weekend of the 50th anniversary of his assassination. Attending WKU student, Haley Henderson, a senior from Lexington, Kentucky said, “It was truly incredible to be a part of that historical anniversary.”

NCA provides a way for both students and faculty to become more immersed in the discipline and to gain knowledge and perspective from some of the top scholars. Dr.  Angie Jerome said, “The thing I enjoy the most about academic conferences is the social interaction I get to engage in with other scholars in the discipline. It is always cool to interact with people who write the articles my students read for class assignments.”

Dr. Jerome has presented at NCA numerous times. This past convention, she presented on a panel with Dr. Blair Thompson, Dr. Holly Payne, and graduate student, Daniella Fuentes about school crisis communication. Dr. Jerome says each time she presents “provides a new learning experience and opportunity to share my work with my peers and mentors across the discipline, discuss scholarly trends in my field, and receive valuable feedback from other scholars on my research.” Dr. Sterk recognized faculty for their participation in NCA, saying, “I am very pleased with our department’s level of involvement. Not only do faculty members present papers, they also chair, plan programs, and help run their sub-areas. Because of that, they are making a difference in the organization, helping it to serve scholars in years to come. Our students, from Lambda Pi Eta to graduate students, attend and present papers, learning firsthand from the authors they read.”

There are major benefits for students to attend the NCA convention. Dr. Jerome mentioned, “It is also extremely intriguing to watch my students experience their first conference. I am so proud watching them present their work, receiving awards, and having them realize that they are among the top scholars in the discipline.” Ivan Gan, a second-year graduate student from Singapore, presented his paper and received a top student paper honor.

Everyone in attendance at this year’s convention was able to create meaningful connections to their discipline and come home energized. Next year, the NCA convention will be held in Chicago at the Palmer House Hilton hotel

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Halfway Around the World… Just Down the Hill: Internships in the Department of Communication—COMM 489

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Since 1984 and the launch of the Corporate and Organizational Communication major, the internship program has become a vital part of the Department’s academic and professional obligations to its majors. COMM 489, our internship class, is a requirement for Corporate and Organizational majors and an option for the Communication Studies major.

In the summer session of 2014, three interns are working internationally. One student is assigned to the U.S. Army in Seoul, South Korea. Another, Tingting Zhao interns at New Field International in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, coordinating college entrance initiatives for American universities with five are high schools’ Chinese students. Emma Collins interns with The Junction, a nonprofit, peacebuilding organization in Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Ms. Collins’ internship calls on her to help influence citizens of Derry/Londonderry toward safety and non-violence.  See news article  at http://www.bgdailynews.com/news/student-on-peace-mission-to-northern-ireland/.

Other worksites for summer internships include the American Cancer Society, the WKU Sisterhood, Congressman Brett Guthrie’s office, and others in Bowling Green; Dell Computers and McNeeley, Piggot and Fox (PR) in Nashville; and others in Louisville and Boston.

From 1984 down to now, the faculty of the Department of Communication and the Directors of the Internship program, have focused their classroom and advisory work with the majors in the Department to develop a job/career path for our majors that can be connected to an appropriate internship.  Over the years, the success of COMM 489 for our majors has been an alignment of a student’s dreams and goals with an “entrance” internship.

In the past ten years – 2004-2014, approximately 100 for-profit, non-profit, educational, and foreign business organizations have served as work sites for interns in the Department.  In nearly every case, student interns have had full access to their organizations corporate culture, their employee communication, and customer service and sales – a significant learning advantage for our majors and for the department.

The success or failure of COMM 489 depends on students’ goal-oriented movement toward a career that will maximize their Communication degrees.  When students know what path they want to take, when they have the encouragement and full support of their faculty, more times than not, students and the Director of Internships can find worksites that meet the needs.

To be sure, at the conclusion of their major, many students don’t know what they want to do in life.  For them, an internship is a “fishing expedition.”  However, in today’s business world, an internship is the way to learn to “swim with the sharks.” Many organizations won’t even interview someone who hasn’t completed an internship.

At the end of the day, the business community is increasingly demanding of an internship on a resume to set a person apart from others looking for the same job. The COMM 489 Internship program in the Department of Communication can be a ticket to an exciting career.

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