Staying Connected — #WKUCOMM


Social media is taking the world by storm, and the WKU Department of Communication is keeping you in the loop. Taking advantage of nearly every social media platform available, the Department of Communication can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, WordPress, LinkedIn, Tumblr and YouTube. The variety of platforms allows for alumni, current students, and prospective students to stay connected with the department at their convenience.

The Twitter and Instagram pages are linked—meaning what is posted to Instagram is also shared on the department’s Twitter feed.  This allows for users to follow the department on the social media platform of their preference, and not miss out on any information. Arguably, the two most intriguing social media accounts for the department are the YouTube and Pinterest pages. There you will see our students in action, on and off campus, through various videos and photos. It is safe to say no matter which social media account you are following (all of them, we hope!) you are able to experience all that the department has to offer, right at your fingertips.

WKU senior and Corporate and Organizational Communication major, Allan Moreno, praised the Department of Communication’s twitter stating “[it] offers the opportunity for the department to shine light on special events, and most importantly helps myself and other students to feel a part of the community within the department.” Social media is not only a great tool for getting content to the alumni, students and staff whom are always on-the-go; but it also creates and maintains a community within the Department of Communication.
Be the first to know what’s happening in the Department of Communication by following along on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram @WKUDeptofComm. Follow, like, or hashtag #WKUComm to help spread the word about the great things going on in the Department of Communication!


Catching up with Communication Alumnus, Ryan Cummings

The M.A. Program in Organizational Communication boasts an accomplished record of Alumni  accomplishments, professionally and academically.  We caught up recently with Ryan Cummings who is currently wrapping up his graduate school career at Purdue University and finishing up his dissertation  focusing on interpersonal communication, specifically analyzing how smartphones play a role in today’s face-to-face interactions. While at Purdue, Ryan has also taught various courses, researched with teams, and successfully completed coursework within the field.

Ryan Cummings

Combined with the hard work on his end, Ryan gives credit for his success to the great faculty here on the hill! Ryan gives a lot of credit to Dr. Thompson in thoroughly prepping him for instructing Communication courses. “I found myself better prepared than most other graduate students because of this training,” claimed Ryan. He also stated that Dr. Mize-Smith and Dr. Ishii helped tremendously by instilling solid theoretical and research related skills. And even to this day, Ryan said he “still cannot use ‘to be’ without cringing a little thanks to Dr. Garmon.”

Looking back at his career here  at WKU, Ryan did mention a few facets of our campus that he dearly misses. Most importantly, he misses the people, the size, and the overall atmosphere of life here at WKU. Due to the smaller population here on the hill, he pointed out how it was nice to have the opportunity to form closer connections with the faculty and students. In contrast, Ryan noted “Purdue is so much  bigger than WKU that I go months without seeing certain faculty and graduate students, often making it difficult to establish relationships.” And surprisingly enough, Ryan stated “Purdue is so flat that I often long for that tiresome walk up the hill at WKU!”

After this summer, Ryan will be ending his time at Purdue, and     beginning work at a congregation in Louisville, Kentucky. Although this path is a change from what he saw himself doing after getting his PhD, Ryan knows it is the right path for him to take in life. This line of work is not as directly related to academia as some of the work he has done in past years, but will still allow a great opportunity to put the communication research into greater practice.  Like Ryan has, we invite our alumni to get back in contact with us in the Department of Communication: send us an email, or simply stop by and come catch up!


Cool Internships

The Department of Communication here at Western Kentucky University prides themselves on giving students the tools to be successful upon graduation, one of those tools being the internship program. Two students decided to share their internship experience to encourage students and alumni to get involved.

Intern Spotlight

Name: Maggie Shelton

Internship Site: WKU Student
Activities Office


How has your internship shaped your career goals?

I coordinated many different leadership opportunities through the WKU Student Activities office. I am passionate about student development and making the college experience better for undergraduate students. Through my internship I was able to help coordinate IFC recruitment, the WKU Leadership Conference, Panhellenic recruitment and Greek Leadership Symposium. I was also able to plan and implement WKU’s week long leadership retreat for 60 of WKU’s top leaders, LeaderShape and the weekend freshman retreat, Weekend in the Woods.

What did you gain?

This position provided me with a realistic preview of what a job in Student Affairs can offer.  My internship experience has helped me to land another internship at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island during the summer of 2016.  These experiences will help make me more marketable in the field of Higher Education.

What’s next for Maggie?

Next year I will be working for Phi Mu Fraternity as a National Leadership Consultant; I will travel across the country visiting different Phi Mu chapters assisting with recruitment and retention efforts and leadership development.

Intern Spotlight

Name: Sydney Bickett

Internship Site: WKU Human Resources Office


What do you do as intern for WKU Human Resources?

I create and run the Top Life Wellness program’s social media sites i.e. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. I have also assisted with the planning of WKU’s Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day which is in April. Those are the two main projects I spent my time on, but I also do tasks like making new employee packets or formatting the employee exit interviews.


What are you liking so far about the internship?


The HR department has been an amazing location to do my internship.  The staff are great and very welcoming; working here has really allowed me to put the communication skills I’ve spent years learning to the test. I also enjoy having the freedom determine the best way to complete projects.  Also being on campus is a big perk. It has truly been a great experience.


Benefits to Offering an Internship Program 


  1. Find future employees
  2. Test-drive the talent
  3. Increase productivity
  4. Increase employee-retention rate
  5. Enhance perspective
  6. Take advantage of low-cost labor
  7. Find free-of-charge
  8. Give back to the community
  9. Support students
  10. Benefit your organization


How can alumni get involved with the Department of
Communication Internship program?


We are always looking for internship opportunities for our Communication majors.  If you would like to work with us in placing students, please contact Dr. Mize-Smith, Department of Communication Internship Coordinator at Jennifer..mize.


Dr. Sterk Gets an Insider’s Look at the 2016 Iowa Caucus

In February, Dr. Helen Sterk was given the opportunity to attend the historic Iowa Caucus with her good friend and highly regarded pollster, Dr. J. Ann Selzer. Dr. Selzer received national attention in 2008 when she accurately predicted that an increase in first-time caucus goers would drive President Barack Obama to a victory. After her accurate prediction, Bloomberg News hired her as their head pollster.


While attending the Iowa Caucus, Dr. Sterk experienced many behind the scenes moments with the media personalities who interviewed Selzer, including ones Fox News and MSNBC and well-known public figures. Dr. Sterk got a glimpse from behind the camera of shows like “On the Record” with Greta Van Susteren and “Morning Joe” with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. She was also able to come into close proximity with journalism celebrities Tom Brokaw and “Hardball” host, Chris Matthews.

Bloomberg News set up a temporary news set in the Des Moines Marriott that could have been mistaken for their real set. Dr. Sterk went on to explain that, “to the media, Iowa Caucus is like the intense eye of a hurricane and then they all leave.”

As for the caucus process, according to Dr. Selzer, Republicans are easy because their votes are written on pieces of paper and counted. However, the Democratic Party has a bit of a more complex process. Voters will stand on certain sides of the room, which represent who they want to vote for. Then, the total number of people in each corner will be counted. These rooms can have up to 500 or more people at a time. Then, if a candidate has too few supporters, designated persuaders from each opposing party will go to the other corner and try to persuade them to join their favored candidate’s corner.


Drs. Sterk and  Selzer became friends while sharing an office in graduate school at the University of Iowa and they’ve held a lifelong connection.  Dr. Sterk emphasized that students and alumni should make the most of the relationships they form at WKU.  Even though life pulls people in different directions, the foundational experiences and friendships live on.


Department of Communication Faculty and Students Participate in Regional Conferences


Western Kentucky University faculty and students participated in the Central States Communication Association (CSCA) in Grand Rapids, Michigan on April 13-17, 2016. Dr. Blair Thompson is serving as the second Vice President of the organization and is hosted the pre-conference which consists of two sessions centering on the conference theme for next year, “Create.” This theme focuses on how identities, relationships, culture, and organizations are created through communication. Additionally, Dr. Angela Jerome, Dr. Jieyoung Kong, and Mr. Clint Haynes made presentations.   The Department was pleased to support students presenting at the conference including:  Jessica Cherry, Daniel Chick, Natalie Webb, Charlotte Briggs, Peter Vawyk, Adam Wilkins, and Olivia Scheper.


Students and faculty also participated in the Southern States Communication  Association (SSCA) on April 6, 2016 in Austin, Texas. WKU’s own Dr. Jennifer Mize Smith, Dr. Laura Brown, and Ms. Heather Strode were in attendance this year. Dr. Mize Smith is the Marketing Director for SSCA. As marketing director she is responsible for 1) securing advertising for the conference program, 2) recruiting exhibitors, such as journal and book publishers to participate in the conference, 3) recruiting sponsors for the Undergraduate Honors Breakfast and other events, and 4) recruiting Institutional members. During the conference, Dr. Mize Smith promotes social media initiatives and encourages attendees to post about the conference via Facebook and Twitter. She also has contests and prize drawings to raise awareness to get others interested in connecting SSCA online. Dr. Mize Smith said that “Securing the program advertising is perhaps my most important task because that revenue makes it possible for the association to print a nice conference program.” Dr. Mize Smith is a great asset to the SSCA. In her five years’ tenure, she has generated more than $50,000 for the Association. For more information on the regional communication associations, visit and


Fifth Annual John Lyne Speech Contest Winners

On Saturday, May 7, 2016, twenty students competed in the fifth annual John Lyne Public Speaking Contest. Instructors in COMM 145 select competitors to represent the class in the competition based upon their presentation of the persuasive speech assignment. The competition is divided into two divisions, one from sections with a business and professional emphasis and the other from general sections. The top three students in each division, their instructors, and their topics are as follows:

COMM 145 ‘Business’ Division

  1. Ben Carroll (Bruce Crawley), business proposal for “The Guitar Shop”
  2. Brent Beard (Gayle Allison), “Military Suicide Prevention”
  3. Jackson Bennett (Jessica McClanahan), sales pitch for “Tesla Model 3”


Regular COMM 145 Division

  1. Victoria Taylor (Donna Schiess), “From My Hear to Yours: Donate Blood”
  2. Colby Clark (Tyler Rife), “Funding for the Arts”
  3. Paul “Francis” Wilson (Donna Schiess), “A ‘Year On’”

The top three contestants win cash awards of $200, $100 and $50. The two preliminary rounds are judged by W.K.U. Department of Forensics coaches, including this year Ganer Newman (Director of Forensics), Scott Branton, Jessica Furgerson, Chad Meadows, Benjamin Pyle, and Ben Robin. The top three contestants based upon rankings and ratings are judged in the final round by WKU. “Celebrity” judges. This year, those included Dr. John Lyne (Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and benefactor of the contest), Dr. Barbara Burch (Provost Emeritus and Faculty Regent at WKU), Dr. Lawrence Synder (Dean of Potter College of Arts and Letters), Dr. Helen Sterk (Head of the Department of Communication), and Dr. Blair Thompson (Associate Professor and former Basic Course Director, Department of Communication).  Dr. Gary K. Hughes (Instructor and Basic Course Director, Department of Communication, W.K.U.) coordinated and ran this year’s competition.

The Department of Communication expresses its appreciation to all the instructors, judges, staff, and students who made the competition possible, but a special thank you goes to Dr. John Lyne as benefactor. Dr. Lyne graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from WKU in 1971 with a double major in Speech and Philosophy. As a student, he was a debater on the forensics team, President of the Student Government Association, and a writer for the campus newspaper, the College Heights Herald. Since his days at WKU, he earned an M.A. at the University of Texas-Austin, a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin, taught and served as the department chair at the University of Iowa, and teaches and serves as department chair and department director of graduate students at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Lyne also serves on the faculty of the Center for Bioethics and Health Law of the University of Pittsburgh.


The Changing Face of America

Come out to Centennial Mall today from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. to this exciting interactive exhibit. You might even win a Macbook Pro!