WKU Alumna Serves the Healthcare Field for over 30 years


Doris Thomas never thought she would end up in the health care field.  “I am very squeamish just thinking about the word, ‘blood.’ However, I learned to look beyond the product and realize that there are organizational factors that must be present behind most products that are for public consumption,” she said.

Doris Thomas, WKU Alumna and Communication Advisory Council member, completed her B.A. in Corporate and Organizational Communication and M.A. in Communication. She served as a spokesperson for the Commonwealth Health Corporation for 32 years, and as of April 2017, she is Vice President of Development and Community Outreach.

Thomas has enjoyed her career and benefited tremendously from her communication degree. She said she uses knowledge and skills she learned in class daily. One of the skills that she uses frequently is listening.

“Listening more than talking, and I mean active listening, is a skill. It is not an easy skill to learn, but it is much needed,” she said.

Thomas feels the Department of Communication prepared her very well for her career. Overall, she believes most communication graduates are easy to communicate with, easy to work with, and are approachable.

Healthcare is one of the many fields where one can use a communication degree. With quite a few years of work experience under her belt, Thomas offers communication graduates some great advice:

“Look beyond the product and see where you might fit in with the bigger organizational picture. Keep learning, and form a good network of people you can trust. Be a truly engaged employee and representative of the company you work for. Remember, it takes everyone to make the organization what it is and what it will become.”

The Department of Communication loves to hear about alumni success.  We are always looking for stories to encourage and inspire our students. If you would like to share your story please contact the Communication Department Head, Dr. Sterk at helen.sterk@wku.edu.

~Tori Bowles, Student



Lambda Pi Eta (LPH) – Fall Update


The Fall semester of 2017 proved exciting for the WKU Rho Nu chapter of Lambda Pi Eta (LPH), the National Communication Association’s official honor society. Officers for the 2017-2018 academic year are: Emily Anne Pride (President), Hayley Armstrong (Vice-President), Nicole DiMatties (Scholarship Officer), Elizabeth Settle (Co-Secretary), Sarah Harrington (Co-Secretary), Mary Madison Lyons (Treasurer) and Allison Waggoner (Public Relations). The officers work within the organization towards six goals, which include promoting and encouraging professional development among communication majors and stimulating interest in the field of communication.

In November, the chapter President, Emily Anne Pride, and the chapter Secretary, Elizabeth Settle, were able to attend the National Communication Association (NCA) annual conference in Dallas, Texas.

LPH members participated in the Confucius Institute Tree Decorating Contest. The LPH tree, along with fifteen other trees from varying WKU groups, was displayed throughout the holiday season in the Chinese Exhibition Center in Helm Library.


LPH welcomed five new members who joined the organization during the semester: Colleen Coomes, Sara Ferguson, Katie Fischer, Cole Funkhouser, and      Rachel Paris. These students will attend an induction ceremony in the middle of the Spring semester.

To be eligible to join this organization, one must complete 60 credit hours (at least 12 credit hours in Communication), have a minimum overall cumulative GPA of 3.0 (GPA of 3.25 in Communication courses), and rank within the highest 35% of one’s class. The Rho Nu chapter of LPH currently has sixteen inducted members, and the chapter is excited to welcome many more!

  ~ Emily Anne Pride, LPH President


Communication Organization for Graduate Students


When reflecting upon the preceding months, one cannot help but to be caught up in a swell of firsts. For the WKU COGS, this semester has been full of them—from first classes taken to first classes taught, to first papers written to first chapters of theses completed, the first experiences with a significantly grown and expanded department, and even to first conferences attended and first papers presented—this has certainly been a semester of firsts.

As a group, there wasn’t much that occurred in the way of COGS events. However, the comradery fostered through class meetings, office visits, departmental events, and conference travels have certainly helped to grow the cohesiveness of our small cohort of graduate students and assistants.

And while we have seen the graduation of one of our beloved friends and colleagues, I am filled with joy and excitement for all the bright possibilities that lay ahead of our proud department in the spring of 2018.

 ~ Marshall Covert, COGS President


Graduate Student Spotlight: Tom Kenley

tom kenley

When asked about the skills he is developing in the M.A. program in Communication, Tom Kenley explained, “The key to being successful in communication is not catchy writing, although, that helps.  Rather, it is the ability to unearth relevant data, analyze it, and use it to create an actionable strategy.”
Tom Kenley, Communications Specialist at Rogers Group Inc. and current President of the Nashville Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), is pursuing a master’s degree in Organizational Communication.

When asked about his passion for communication, Kenley shared, “The value of a thought, an idea, or a strategy is always limited by the ability to express it. When properly communicated, the source of the idea is validated and the intended audience members – the colleagues, the congregation, the team members, and the students – are enlightened, and the organization is more connected. It’s the ultimate win-win.”

Kenley’s career path took him through many doors in the communication world: teaching, writing, editing, public relations, and corporate communications. With his experience and passion for communication, Kenley knew he had the ability to take the communications department of Rogers Group Inc. to the next level, so he began to pursue a graduate degree from WKU. Kenley knew entering the graduate communication program at WKU would expose him to communication research and knowledge that easily translates into his position at Rogers Group, Inc. He is especially grateful for the company’s tuition reimbursement program and encourages other potential students to seek out opportunities such as these.

Kenley is also working closely with the WKU chapter of IABC, sharing his real-world knowledge and experiences. Currently, he is organizing a panel of communication professionals to speak with students on campus.

Tom Kenley is one of many outstanding students in the graduate program. His professional experience is invaluable in the classroom. If you are interested in more information about the master’s program in Organizational Communication, contact Blair Thompson at blair.thompson@wku

~Lauren Cline, Student



Imagewest Promotes Professional Success


WKU prides itself on the ability to provide students with real world experiences. These opportunities provide students with an outlet to apply knowledge they gain inside the classroom to the outside world. One program that takes this notion to the next level is Imagewest.

To gain insight on the opportunities Imagewest provides their staff on a day-to-day basis, I interviewed Dominique Warfield who currently works at Imagewest as the Lead Account Executive.

Imagewest is a full-scale advertising and public relations firm staffed by WKU students majoring in Advertising or Public Relations. They offer six core services (per their website) including, “Branding, Research & Strategy, Web Design, Public Relations, and Advertising.” Imagewest opened its doors back in 2004, and over the past thirteen years the agency has grown by leaps and bounds.

Visiting their on-campus office located in Jody Richards Hall, you will find a space dedicated to forward thinking and professionalism. In this space countless advertising and public relation plans have come together for their clients not only here at WKU, but across the globe as well.

Question one: What has been your favorite project to date?

     My favorite project would have to be one that I am currently working on now for a client. This account requires that I create and maintain a Google Ad for their company.

Question two: What is the most unique component of Imagewest?

     The most unique thing about Imagewest is even though we are on located on campus and we are all student interns, we are a real advertising agency. We operate just like a real agency.

Question three: How has this position prepared you for your future?

     Imagewest has prepared me to take on a career after college by showing me the importance of networking. I started at Imagewest in the Summer of 2017, and as an agency we took a business trip to St. Louis, and networked with a lot of industry professionals. When I returned, I joined PMA which is the Professional Marketing Association which further expanded my network. Over fall break, I set up a job shadow at an agency in Atlanta. I have also connected with several industry professionals from other agencies across the U.S. and sent my resumes to their HR departments. Without Imagewest I would have never done any of that or had any idea what other options were out there.

Question four: Explain one thing you feel everyone should know about Imagewest.

     Imagewest is where you are going to build ever-lasting friendships. Working here brings you closer to your peers, and sets you apart from other students, not just here in Kentucky, but anywhere! Not a lot of universities have something like Imagewest so when you graduate already having some real-world agency experience puts you in a league of your own.

As one of the few PR and Ad agencies in the nation fully staffed by students, the future for Imagewest is bright. In providing this opportunity, prepares students for professional success.

~McKenzie Wilson, Student


World Traveler, Ad Guru, Designer, and Teacher

world traveler

Described as “relatable, brilliantly creative, and just an all-around fun teacher to have,” Professional-in-Residence Kelley Coppinger is now in her sixteenth year of teaching at WKU, following a successful career in advertising.

Kelley, as she insists students call her, was born in Iran, and has lived in many different countries such as Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Scotland,  and Belgium throughout her life, due to her father’s work in the oil industry. She also traveled extensively to India, Japan, Egypt, Europe and beyond.

Kelley moved to the U.S. at 18, and attended the University of North Texas, where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts and met the love of her life, Chuck Coppinger. While in Texas, Kelley worked with many companies such as Positive Images, Texas Monthly, Southwest Airlines and more.

She later moved to Bowling Green, to follow her husband when he accepted a job offer. Quickly, Kelley began to establish her career experiences in Bowling Green as well. Her professional involvements here included political advertising. She also worked with American Bank & Trust, Eagle Industries, Kentucky State Arson Task Force, Farmers National Bank, Houchens Industries and more.

Becoming a college professor, or entering the field of education, was nowhere in Kelley’s plan for her career path, but she was drawn to the curriculum, which she described as “brilliant,” and decided to apply for a job. She said the curriculum was very professional, and “a good combination of advertising theory and practical application.”

When Kelley was asked about her teaching technique she said… “We have a professional program, and the focus is all about getting the job, so I am going to stress critical thinking and the portfolio.”

She loves being in the classroom and believes “all students are creative, it has just been educated out of them. Students want to use a theory or a formula, instead of their own problem solving skills.”

For more information about Kelley Coppinger visit her website www.kelleycoppinger.com.

  ~Sidney Riney, Student


Witek Transforms Internship into a Full-time Position


Amanda Witek, a senior from Chicago, Illinois, is interning with Mellow Mushroom as the human resource representative and catering coordinator. Internships give students the opportunity  to apply skills learned in the classroom to real organizational situations. Through her internship, Witek was offered a full-time position with Mellow Mushroom upon graduation as the catering coordinator. She accepted the position and her manager started incorporating training for the position into her internship.

Witek studies Corporate and Organizational Communication and is required to complete an internship to get experience in her chosen field. Witek was formerly a waitress at Mellow Mushroom. At work one day, she mentioned she was searching for an internship. Her manager overheard her and asked if she would like to do an internship in the downtown office. Witek accepted the opportunity.

In a typical day at her internship, Witek completes approximately two hours of human resource practices, which consists of completing and filing hiring and firing paperwork, updating payroll and sitting in on performance appraisal meetings. In addition, she completes two hours of catering work such as reaching out to clients and creating catering menus.

She said the Department of Communication prepared her very well for this internship, drawing information from every corporate communication class she took.


“The knowledge and skills I gained while taking Interpersonal Communication helped me build organizational relationships, see from different perspectives, and diffuse situations. I didn’t realize how useful these skills were until I had to put them into practice,” she said.

Witek put her skills to the test when she was catering for the Humane Society. She listened to the needs of her clients and developed a menu to meet them. Witek created a vegan menu for the event and it was a hit. The Humane Society expressed the desire to come back because of the great service.

“I’m proud of this project because it was my first time catering. I did it and it worked. I gained a lot of confidence,” she said.

Witek is looking forward to her future with Mellow Mushroom as the catering coordinator. She loves organizing and building relationships with others; she feels like this position is a good fit for her.

~ Holly Case, Student


Opinion Piece: Liberal arts education is more than a first semester elective


In recent years there has been a shift in higher education away from liberal arts education.

Most of this shift appears to be reactionary in nature. Public officials often say how the students of today have to become more specialized in the sciences and other industries if we wish to competitive in a global marketplace, and focusing on liberal arts won’t land us on that competitive field.

“Every month, it seems, we hear about our children’s bad test scores in math and science — and about new initiatives from companies, universities or foundations to expand STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and math) and deemphasize the humanities,” Fareed Zakaria, author of “In Defense of a Liberal Education,” writes in The Washington Post.

But gutting liberal arts education is detrimental in a number of ways.

First, the problem with having to make a case for the liberal arts is that no one should have to do so. Making a case places it in competition with STEM fields, which it doesn’t need to be. There can, is and should be the coexistence of liberal arts and the sciences.

Too often a dichotomy emerges in which it is assumed liberal arts education is not necessary or needed in a contemporary workplace, or liberal arts could never work in conjunction with its scientific counterpart.

The concept of liberal arts education is nothing new. First emerging in classical times, having Greek and Roman roots, liberal education was based on grammar, dialectic and rhetoric—known as the Trivium or “three-fold way,” according to Biola University.

Even historically speaking there was a connection between liberal education and the sciences. The Trivium is coupled with the Quadrivium or “four-fold way”—arithmetic, music, geometry and astronomy.

So if it worked for the Greeks and Romans what’s changed? Apart from an increasing push on a federal and state level to deemphasize and villainize liberal arts as the bane of a university’s economic struggles, nothing.

A liberal arts education continues to provide a wide variety of practical and intellectual skills which are beneficial to students of all disciplines.

Former president of Berea College, Larry Shinn, lays out some of those skills in a 2014 article in Trusteeship magazine:

¨ Analytical thinking and communicating well in written and oral modes.

¨ Working independently and in team settings.

¨ Applying knowledge and skills in complex problem-solving in an ever more complex and  rapidly changing world.

If you ignore the inherent benefits these skills give you from a humanities perspective then perhaps you can place it in the context of professional skills.

A 2013 survey conducted by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, found 93 percent of respondents sought a “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidate’s] undergraduate major.”

And more than 75 percent of respondents wanted potential employees to have emphasis on five key areas including: “critical thinking, complex problem-solving, written and oral communication, and applied knowledge in real-world settings.”

Examining the reasons for the shift away from liberal arts is multi-layered in nature, but I want to focus on a specific part. The shift, in part, has to do with how public sentiment has taken to the term “liberal arts,” not necessarily the content of the education, but the term itself. A recent op-ed in Gallup by Brandon Busteed, Executive Director of Education and Workforce Development at Gallup, claims putting “liberal and arts together is a branding disaster.”

“It’s time to disconnect the strong value undergirding the liberal arts from the weak words that define them,” he says.

Busteed goes on to argue that the words “liberal” and “arts” fail to resonate in the minds of many Americans and in order to defend the benefits offered by such education we either have to describe “their attributes and arguably essential — and practical — benefits,” give it a new name or no name at all.

So let’s brainstorm some new names: “you’ll need this if you’re not a robot” education, “skills taught are applicable to every job imaginable” education, “no, it’s not all fine arts and opera” education, “you can actually get a job with this easier than you would think” education and the possibilities are endless.

Having to place the benefits of a liberal arts education in the context of job potential and economic benefits is nauseating, no one should have to. Areas such as history, arts, communication, political science and gender studies deserve a place at the table without having to be thought of in terms of a salary.

Besides, even if people aren’t clamoring to hire the interpretive dance majors, employers are clearly hiring not based on a major but based on skills; skills overwhelmingly developed as part of a liberal arts education.

A liberal arts education is not only becoming the way for the future, but it has been the way and can continue to be so.

~ Andrew Henderson, Student


Executive-in-Residence Shares Wisdom with Students


On Tuesday, September 5, Craig Dezern, a WKU alumnus, spoke with Communication students about his career and offered advice for future communication professionals. After a career in journalism, Dezern worked his way up to Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

Dezern shared two key messages with the students. He said that it’s okay to change your career path multiple times. Keep your doors open and be willing to explore new opportunities when they come your way. Dezern also expressed the importance of being a lifelong learner who is willing to adapt to various situations and learn from them. Students were very receptive to his advice.

Eli Hurt, a Corporate and Organizational Communication major conveyed, “It was an awesome opportunity being able to spend time with a professional who has spent time at the top of his field. His presentation touched on everything we were learning in our Advanced Organizational Communication class.”


Dezern also discussed some of the projects he completed for Disney. One of his most challenging and exciting assignments was the startup of the Shanghai Disney Park. He learned the centrality of culture, while translating an American theme park for Chinese customers.

Dezern recently accepted a new position with Hilton as the Vice President of Brand Communications in Washington, D.

The Communication Department’s Executive-in-Residence program takes place every fall. For more information and a schedule of events visit the department website at https://www.wku.edu/communication/.

~  Colleen Coomes, Student

Special Topics Course Focuses on the Future of Work in Kentucky


In the Spring of 2018, a new class, Futures of Communication (COMM 400), will be available to students within the Department of Communication. Students from the department are being recruited for the course based on their personal academic achievement, innovative orientation, and creativity.

According to Ken Payne, Public Relations professor, “Futures of Communication will be the first chance for students from our five different disciplines to come together to bring their expertise to the table.”

Payne and Sam Ford, alumnus of the department, will team teach the course where students will explore the history of work and economic development in Kentucky, the current state of the economy, and potential visions for the future. Students will work in interdisciplinary groups to create communication campaigns promoting a positive image of the future of work, such as coal miners who code, in Kentucky in 2040.

The course will address these key questions:

¨ How are we thinking about the future of the economy in our state?

¨ To what degree does communication play a role in helping shape what that future could be, and becomes?

¨ How do we think about what each of the areas of the Department of Communication has to offer in addressing that question?

Ford stated, “I’m excited to work with a few students from each of the majors of this department in a collaborative space, where we learn from each other, imagine the future of these fields, and think about what happens when the expertise of these various programs are combined. I think it will provide a unique learning opportunity for students and the sort of project that will be a great portfolio-builder for them as they pursue what comes next in their career after graduating.”

If you would like more information on the course please contact Ken Payne at ken.payne@wku.edu or Sam Ford at samford@mit.edu.

~ Eli Hurt, Student