Supporting Students Outside of Class


Most of us are aware that pubic speaking ranks as a top fear for many people, even scarier than death.  Given this, it no surprise that many incoming freshman experience some anxiety when signing up for the basic communication course.  In order to assist students outside of the classroom, the Department of Communication offers workshops to assist any student interested in the basic course, COMM 145.

These workshop sessions are geared toward specific areas in communication, such as preparing introductions, conclusions, citations, outlining, and research ideas. These workshops also offer assistance to students who are struggling with public speaking anxiety.  Typically, these sessions last about an hour, and are open to any student struggling in these particular areas.

Workshops are conducted by full-time and adjunct faculty members.  Dr. Gary Hughes, the Basic Course Director recently conducted a workshop on “Introductions and Conclusions.” According to Dr. Hughes, “Students appreciate these workshops and seem enthusiastic to receive extra assistance.”

Plans are in the works for the Fall 2016 workshops.  If any student is interested in this opportunity, or have any questions about these workshops please contact the Department of Communication.


Department of Communication’s Award Winners!

This spring, the Department of Communication recognized four individuals as our top undergraduate and graduate students. Tyler Rife, Karen Powell, Emily Gerard, and Paige Settles are among the students being recognized for their outstanding work within the Department of Communication over the past year.  These students have gone above and beyond to excel as successful communicators.

Tyler Rife

Graduate assistant, Tyler Rife, was presented with the Outstanding Graduate Student award. He delegated his time between teaching a section of COMM 145, assisting in research for the department, working on the Kentucky Journal of Communication, and coaching for the Forensics Team. Tyler also has authored conference papers including, “Public Reason and Perceptions of Terrorism.” His research was accepted at the National Communication Association conference in Las Vegas, NV, and received Top Student Paper recognition in the Peace and Conflict Division. Tyler also wrote a paper with Dr. Ishii entitled “Facilitating Communication with Power: Text Messaging Gratifications among College Students in the U.S. and Japan” which was accepted to the International Communication Association conference in Fukuoka, Japan.

Karen Powell

Outstanding Corporate and Organizational Communication Major Award recipient, Karen Powell, credits her award to “my performance in my Corporate & Organizational Communication classes, involvement in departmental organizations, and my involvement/leadership on campus.” Karen’s paper, “Relationships Later In Life and Online Dating” written for Dr. Thompson’s Interpersonal Communication course helped her gain this award.   Karen is also active in the department and across campus.  She is a member of the Communication Ambassadors, President of Lambda Pi Eta Communication Honor Society, an active member of the Kappa Delta Sorority, founder and co-chair of the Dance Big Red, and was the 2015 Homecoming Queen. Karen says “I credit my excellent collegiate experience here at WKU to the support of Department of Communication faculty and staff. They are truly the greatest and I have loved being a part of our department family for the past four years!”

Emily Gerard

Emily Gerard was recognized as the Outstanding Communication Studies Major. Emily’s academic success, work as a researcher, grade point average, and departmental citizenship and service have earned her this award.  Her presence in the department has stimulated the intellectual community.

Paige Settles

Paige Settles received Department’s Research Award for her paper written for , Dr. Kong’s Intercultural Communication class entitled, “Reaching, But Not Far Enough: Internationalization at Western Kentucky University.” Paige describes her paper as “a case study that examined internationalization efforts at WKU through the lens of academic literature on the topic of internationalization in higher education.  It was a great experience, and I really enjoyed writing a paper that allowed me to apply the academic concepts to something that is incredibly relevant to students in both communication and the broader field of higher education.”

Congratulations to all of the award winners this year!


Lambda Pi Eta Spring Update

This past November, Lambda Pi Eta members Maggie Shelton and Taylor Hillard were able to accompany other WKU professors, graduate, and undergraduate students to the 101st Annual NCA Convention in Las Vegas. At this conference, they were able to learn about current research that is being done in the field of communication, as well as make connections to other students and professionals in the communication field.

Lambda Pi Eta, the Department of Communication’s Honors Society, strives to recognize, foster and reward outstanding scholastic achievement in communication studies. Members of Lambda Pi Eta participate in and contribute to events within the Communication Department and the university, as well as events with the National Communication Association (NCA).

New members are invited to join each year. This spring, Lambda Pi Eta invitations were sent out to eligible students. To be eligible to join Lambda Pi Eta, students must have completed 60 hours of college credit, 12 of which must be in the communication discipline. These students must have a 3.0 GPA overall and a 3.25 GPA within in the Communication discipline. Thirteen students accepted the invitation to join Lambda Pi Eta, and these students were inducted into the honors society on March 22nd. Congratulations to the following new members of Lambda Pi Eta: Hayley Armstrong, Sydney Bickett, Rachel Cato, Torrey Cazeault, Megan Cole, Cathryn Ellis, Haywood Hogan, Abigail O’Bryan, Emily Pride, Jessica Powell, Cody Pruitt, Courtney Tucker, and Rebecca Whaley.

Lambda Pi Eta students attend the Department of Communication Student Recognition Dinner

On April 19th, several Lambda Pi Eta officers and members attended the Communication Department Student Recognition Dinner. Lambda Pi Eta presented new members with their pins and certificates and recognized senior members with Lambda Pi Eta graduation stoles. The officers also had the pleasure of honoring Ms. Laura Wagoner with the Outstanding Faculty Member Award for her contributions to the chapter and its activities here at WKU.

Lambda Pi Eta officer elections took place late this spring. The newly elected officers are Taylor Hillard, President; Rachel Cato, Vice President; Courtney Tucker, Treasurer; Hayley Armstrong, Secretary; Emily Pride, Scholarship Officer. These outstanding new officers are going to do great things for the Department of Communication over the next year!


Dr. Mize Smith Appointed to IRB Chair


The Department of Communication congratulates Dr. Jennifer Mize Smith on her appointment as 2015-16 Co-Chair of the Internal Review Board (IRB) and as Chair in 2016-17. The IRB is responsible for approving all research conducted with human subjects at Western Kentucky University. Those interested in performing research (student or faculty) must submit their research materials for approval before they begin gathering information. According to Dr. Mize Smith, most research requests are evaluated by herself and Co-Chair Dr. Scott Lasley (Political Science). “We will review over 500 research applications this academic year.” In the event there is a research proposal that poses moderate risk, or involves a protected group like minors, the full Board led by Dr. Mize Smith decides the validity of the research request. “I especially like to see the student applications and the ways in which they are learning to conduct research to better understand the problems and phenomena of interest to them.”
Given her background in Organizational Communication research and nearly six years of experience with the Internal Review Board, Dr. Mize Smith is well positioned for this new role.  In her classes, students learn that she has a thorough and deliberate approach to teaching and research, qualities that will enhance her work on the committee. For her small group communication course students must obtain IRB approval for the major project. In leading students through the process she does not trivialize the necessity of protection for human subjects, but instead emphasizes why it is vital.   She is genuinely enthusiastic about making sure her student’s research submissions are of the highest quality.
Dr. Mize Smith is a great example of how the Department of Communication is actively involved in the research process.  For more information on the protection of human subjects and the internal review board visit the website for the Office of Research Integrity at


Jeffries Award for Excellence in Diversity-Enhancing Communication

In Dr. Jeffries’ honor, as a department, we are inaugurating an award, the Jeffries Award for Excellence in Diversity-Enhancing Communication. It is open to any graduate or undergraduate students who are champions of diversity-enhancing communication, promoting understanding across cultural divides, fostering dialogue to promote equality and care for others, whether on campus or the broader community. It will be awarded the first time in December, 2016.

If you would like to donate toward this award, please go to and in the “please provide any additional information regarding your gift,” indicate your intention.


Tribute to Dr. Tammy Jeffries


The Department of Communication suffered a great loss at the beginning of this year. Dr. Tammy Jeffries passed away on Friday, January 17th of natural causes. Dr. Jeffries was only with the department for a short time, but during that time, she was able to influence the lives of so many of her students. Her time in the Department of Communication was spent as an Assistant Professor and Minority Post-doctoral Fellow. She was able to bring a new style and light into the courses she taught for the department.  The passing of Dr. Jeffries has influenced the department and students but her time in the department was valued greatly by all.

When the Department of Communication announced that Dr. Jeffries had passed, students immediately took to the department’s Facebook page to post their condolences and share how much they would miss Dr. Jeffries. Emily Green shared, “When I think of Dr. Jeffries I remember the way that she was able to light up a room with a simple, casual conversation. She had a gift that she could make an entire class of different backgrounds feel comfortable discussing any topic, which isn’t always the easiest to do.” Talking about Dr. Jeffries with other students and hearing stories about her made me realize that I was truly one of the lucky students who had the opportunity to take one of her classes. From the first day of class, it was clear she was unique. On day one, she made the effort to learn about every student and make sure the entire class felt comfortable. As the semester continued, she made the same effort day after day to connect to her students and create an open dialogue with the entire class. I can personally say her class was one of my favorite classes because it was so different and full of the optimism Dr. Jeffries brought to everything she did.
The impact Dr. Jeffries made on her students was clearly enormous, but she also was able to benefit the university as a whole by founding the interCULTURAL Club. The interCULTURAL club was created to promote equality among races, religions, ages and abilities. This concept of a club including individuals from a variety of cultures was new to WKU.   Dr. Jeffries always believed in true equality and believed that communication was the key to resolving many of those issues.


Dr. Jeffries was more to her students than just a professor, she was more to her colleagues than just a member of the department, and she was more to the university than just another employee; she was a friend, a special individual, and a light to everyone’s day. The people she was able to connect with while at WKU for such a short time will remember her impact for a long time to come. The faculty and students that knew her will miss her presence and unique spirit being part of our Department of Communication. The department is setting up an award for excellence in Interracial Communication in her name.

~Sydney Bickett, Student


Message from Helen Sterk, Department Head


Every year, good things happen in the Department of Communication. This past year, Dr. Laura Brown joined the department, increasing our reach in research methods and health communication. Dr. Jennifer Mize Smith began her term as the University’s Institutional Review Board Chair. Dr. Holly Payne edited and published the Kentucky Communication Journal. We featured Dr. Blair Thompson’s research this spring through a well-attended campus presentation. We sent many faculty members and students to regional and national conferences where they presented top-ranked papers. And last fall, with the able support of office associate Laura Wagoner and our student workers, we hosted the annual national conference of the Organization for the Study of Communication, Language and Gender. We also experienced losses and look forward to good new initiatives.

This school year, we marked the passing of two very important people, Dr. Regis O’Connor, long-time professor and also head of the Department of Communication, and Dr. Tammy Jeffries, our Minority Post-Doctoral Fellow. Dr. O’Connor passed away on August 21, 2015 and Dr. Jeffries on January 15, 2016. Both mattered to us.

Dr. O’Connor’s 29 year career at WKU featured many accomplishments, including “Debate Coach, Professor of Speech, supervisor of student teachers, as a member of the Graduate Studies Faculty, Department Head of Communication and Theatre (consisting of speech, speech pathology, broadcasting, theatre and dance) and Staff Assistant to the Dean of Potter College” ( Please read the obituary for some of the many other things he did, including parliamentarian for the WKU Academic Council from 1976 to 1996 and founding member of Bowling Green’s Habitat for Humanity . Drs. Kell, Winn and Sterk represented the department at his funeral and celebrated his life together. Dr. O’Connor helped to make the department what it is today. The wide range of his life interests befits the kind of broad engagement with life that Communication engenders.

Dr. Tammy Jeffries joined the Department in the fall of 2014. Even though she was with us for but a short time, three semesters, she left her mark. We held a Quaker style memorial service on January 26, honored to remember her in the presence of her mother and sister. At the service, attended by about 60 people—on a day that school was disrupted by a snowstorm—students, faculty, administrators and staff—testified to the impact she made on their lives. Here’s a link to a great story written by Communication major, Andrew Henderson, on Dr. Jeffries: Dr. Jeffries opened us all to significant conversations on race, gender, and class, particularly race.

Next year, we will begin the year with significant infrastructure improvements, thanks to successful proposals to the dean and provost and to monies earned through course fees and by faculty through online, summer and winter teaching credits channeled to the department by the Division for Extended Learning and Outreach (DELO).

The most noticeable improvement will be the addition of digital signage (aka a very large screen TV) located just outside the department’s office. On it, we’ll promote the department, our people, and events. Other improvements include new computers in every classroom, the Communication Success Center, and our conference room, plus new computers for our office staff. And we’ll have new projectors in several classrooms. Finally, three more faculty members will get new desks.

So, good things are going on in the department. We’re working hard to make our programs the best in the state!