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2014 John Lyne Speech Contest


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


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


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



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


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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Graduate Student Bids Farewell

    felixIn the Fall of 2008 I started my undergraduate career here at WKU in which I took Stacey Gish’s COMM 161 class as a frightened, nervous, and awkward freshman. On the first day of class, she handed us this pencil telling us, “This item is only known as a pencil because someone in the past has named it a ‘pencil’ and everyone else followed suit. For the purposes of this class though, we will now refer to it as a ‘cow’. Items can have similar functions but it is up to our [class] culture to give them a name.” Obviously, this isn’t verbatim, but it was something to that effect.

I reflected on myself that entire semester and decided how I wanted this new culture, WKU, that I was a part of, to define me. Did I want to stay the same as high-school-Felix: quiet, unconfident, and nervous? Or did I want to redefine myself, much like we redefined the pencil?

That class forced me to talk in front of people which I hated; that class forced me to work in groups which I hated. I did not want to be in that class, at all. But more than that, I did not want to be known as the same as I was in the past. I wanted to be more, I wanted people to notice me, I wanted to be heard. I made a deal with myself that once a week I had to strike up a conversation with some random passer-by to become that new person and escape from my shell. I didn’t want to be the “pencil” as everyone else saw me before, I wanted to be the “cow” as WKU would come to see me.

Twelve semesters later, I will be walking in the graduate commencement ceremony Friday with only my thesis standing in the way of finishing my Masters degree. As I was packing up my house this morning to make the move to Columbus, Ohio I came across this “cow” in the bottom of my pencil bag from undergrad and realized everything is coming full circle. It was because of this analogical “cow”, this department, and this university that I was able to be redefined. I was finally known as something different to those who now knew me. My thanks are endless, my heart is full, and my brain is fried (only kidding…maybe). I will miss WKU and everyone in the department, but I will also take with me all the lessons I learned, both academic and social, to help drive my future in the direction that allows me to be happiest.

Thanks everyone!

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Recognition Dinner Honors Students

Recognition dinner


Students, alumni, faculty members and staff gathered together on May 1, 2014 at Cason’s Cove for the first annual Student Recognition Dinner. Student members of Lambda Pi Eta, Communication Ambassadors, and the International Association of Business Communicators, graduate students, and department award winners enjoyed an evening of recognition and conversation.

Two new departmental awards for outstanding undergraduate research were given. Chelsea Martin won the first annual Undergraduate Research Award—Case Study for a paper developed in Helen Sterk’s

Gender and Communication class. Marshall Covert won the first annual Undergraduate Research Award—Data-Based Study for a paper written for Blair Thompson’s class.

Doris Moody, President of the Communication Advisory Board, accepted the department’s Alumna of the Year award with a gracious speech on the value of her Communication education.

Each student received a red or white key with an attached motto as a memento of the value of their service and contributions to the department.

Special thanks go to Jennifer Mize Smith for her organization of this event. The venue, the food, and the decorations all made the evening memorable.



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