Professor Allison Visits China

The experience that longtime Communication instructor Gayle Allison, M.A. enjoyed most was when she travelled to China and explored a new place.  A cultural exchange from the church that she attends gave Ms. Allison the opportunity to travel with 15 other church partners to teach Chinese students about American  culture, including dance, music, and interviewing.


Language was one difference that Ms. Allison faced during her visit. According to Ms. Allison, whenever you visit other countries, you notice many differences. For example, Ms. Allison noticed that going to a park and having a picnic made college students happy. She believes it takes more than simple activities to make American college students happy. Furthermore, she noticed that most Chinese have respect for other religions, which is an important part of the Chinese culture. Also, she mentioned the food in China tastes better than the Chinese food in the United States, and people in China were very friendly to talk to.


Everyone wonders how they will be treated if they leave the country, but Ms. Allison found that they knew many things about American culture and they could tell she is from the South by her accent.  She recommends that students should visit other countries such as China to learn and enjoy new experiences. It is a great opportunity to travel and explore new things in your life, to learn more about others, and to let them learn about your culture as well.

~Hussain Alsaleh, Student

It Really is a Small World By: Donna Zelenika

About twenty years ago, my parents decided to come to America in order to avoid war. They were living in Croatia, and in 1997, they departed the beautiful city of Zagreb. My mom was seven and a half months pregnant with me when they arrived, and shortly after, I was born in March. During their transition to America, they encountered wonderful people who tried to assist them and make them feel welcome. 

           Someone who made a wonderful impact on our family is Dr. Donna Schiess, a Communication Instructor at WKU. Dr. Schiess was incredibly welcoming and generous to my family. She even helped to throw my mom a baby shower, because my parents weren’t allowed to travel with a lot of stuff. Dr. Schiess really went out of her way to make sure my parents had everything they needed for a fresh start in a new country and with a baby on the way. 

Donna Zelenika & Dr. Donna Schiess

            Dr. Donna Schiessextraordinary kindness was not forgotten by my parents.  They are extremely grateful for her friendship; so grateful, in fact, that they decided to show their appreciation by naming me Donna after her first name. As fate would have it, I took Dr. Schiess’ COMM 240: Critical Listening online course this spring semester, unaware of the fact that she is the woman I am named after. One day, Dr. Schiess checked her roster, and thought my name was familiar. Dr. Donna decided to reach out to me, and ask if I was related to Mr. and Mrs. Zelenika. Sure enough, we each realized who the other was, and decided to meet each other again after twenty years. 

Dr. Sterk Visits South Korea

The Department of Communication takes pride in strongly contributing to WKU’s international reach. In May 2016, Department Head, Helen Sterk, Ph.D., took the opportunity to travel to South Korea to scout out Study Abroad sites, as well as to conduct research interviews as part of the International Year of South Korea. Dr. Sterk is currently working on a research project about how ambition, professionalism, and family are all integrated into women’s lives. She interviewed a number of women professors from universities in Seoul to add to her research. From her interviews, she gathered that Korean women face even more extreme problems than  women from the United States. Dr. Sterk also visited South Korea looking for a potential partner for exchange programs.

Dr. Sterk in South Korea with students from Seoul University

WKU’s Office of International Programs is busy developing Study Abroad programs to further engage students. One of WKU’s partner  universities, Hanyang University in Seoul, has a one-month summer   program where students are taught in English from professors across the globe. There are a wide variety of Communication classes that are     offered, including International Advertising, Communication and Documentary Research, and Production in South Korea. “Communication has a different meaning in South Korea than it does here,” Dr. Sterk stated. “When they study communication, it is broadcasting and mass media.” Dr. Sterk believes this would be a great opportunity for Communication students to broaden their horizons. Some of the Communication professors are looking into teaching at this partner university in the coming summers. For more information, contact Dr. Sterk at or see


Exciting Study Abroad Opportunities for Summer

                Students in Argentina, summer 2015               Allison Hoey, Zena Gavin, Juan Pinilla, Rita Meredith, Larosa Shelton

Studying abroad can be one of the highlights of a student’s career at WKU.   For the last three years, Rita Meredith (part-time instructor in the department) has lead Study Abroad programs to   Argentina. According to Ms. Meredith, “Traveling abroad changes you, expands horizons, makes you appreciate other cultures, and helps you adapt in an increasingly global world.”  This year Ms.    Meredith, along with the Department   of Communication, is excited to expand the Study Abroad opportunities with two unique programs. During the summer of 2017, she will be leading Study Abroad programs in Argentina and Spain.

Students participating in the Argentina trip will have the opportunity to develop intercultural communication skills and learn about the culture of one of the most fascinating cities in South America, while earning credit for COMM 263, Fundamentals of Communication & Culture.

Those traveling to Spain will be able to develop public speaking and intercultural communication skills while experiencing study abroad with a Spanish focus, and learn about culture in Granada, one of the most ancient and diverse cities in Spain. They may earn credit for COMM 145, Fundamentals of Public Speaking and Communication, or COMM 263, Fundamentals of Communication & Culture.

Both courses will fulfill Colonnade (general education) credit and offer a variety of cultural activities and excursions. Courses for both programs will be taught in English and students will have the opportunity to stay with families from the region.

Ms. Meredith encourages all who are interested to contact her with any questions at

~Jessica Powell, Student


Kentucky Communication Association (KCA) Leadership

The Western Kentucky University Department of Communication professors are rocking the house with the Kentucky Communication Association (KCA). Gary Hughes, Ph.D., Helen Sterk, Ph.D., and Holly Payne, Ph.D. all serve on the Executive Council for the 2016-2017 year.

KCA Journal Editor, Dr. Holly Payne and KCA President, Kathy Previs

Department Head, Dr. Helen Sterk believes that KCA is a great place for teachers to learn new ideas in teaching and is a great way for faculty to take leadership. As Dr. Sterk stated, “It is a solid place of support for our discipline. This association keeps faculty involved in new ideas that are coming from research and teaching.”
Dr. Payne believes that getting involved with KCA offers many benefits, such as pursuing a leadership position and receiving great experience that can be a springboard for other professional organizations. She has served KCA for many years and seen the ups-and-downs of the organization. She has tried to look at how she can leave the association more structured and a better place for the next set of leaders who come in, as well as, how she can create an organization that is built to last where information is free flowing and where people can get what they need. Her many years of hard work was recently recognized with the KCA Service Award.

Left to right: (Back) Dr. Helen Sterk, Dr. Angela Jerome, Mr. Gavin Kirkwood, Ms. Kinda Yin, Dr. Gary Hughes (Front) Dr. Larry Snyder, Ms. Mizuho Tatehayashi, Ms. Gayle Allison, Dr. Holly Payne and Ms. Taylor Hillard

Dr. Sterk said, “Dr. Holly Payne has been an inspiration to me and has been the back bone of the organization.” Dr. Payne has been involved with KCA since graduate school, and every year she served a different role. Currently, she is the Editor of the Kentucky Journal of Communication and appreciates that she is able to promote scholars in the state and publish    Kentucky authors.
Dr. Sterk became the KCA Executive Director this year. Her responsibilities include  determining conference locations, overseeing contracts, retaining association records, and working with the newly elected  KCA Treasurer, Dr. Hughes.
For more information about KCA, contact Dr. Helen Sterk at or visit

~Sharika Hollingsworth, Student


Gavin Kirkwood: Communication Graduate Student Gets Involved in Professional Conferences

Gavin Kirkwood, a graduate student in the Department of Communication, has attended multiple Communication conferences, including the Kentucky Communication Association (KCA) conference, the Organizational for the Study of Communication, Language, and Gender (OSCLG) conference, and most recently, the National Communication Association (NCA) convention. Of all these, Mr. Kirkwood said that NCA was the best, describing it as the “land of opportunity” and even comparing it to the Walt Disney World of Communication conferences.

Gavin Kirkwood speaking during panel discussion

Mr. Kirkwood is a strong believer in mentorship. In fact, his advice to undergraduate students is to create a vision and then find someone in the faculty or someone you look up to who can help you achieve that vision. His mentor, Dr. Holly Payne, helped him get involved with conferences, starting with KCA.
Mr. Kirkwood presented a qualitative study on an anarchist LGBTQ commune at both KCA and OSCLG. He conducted his research using several data collection methods, including interviews, field observation, and artifact analysis. Throughout his research, he looked at the benefits and challenges of not only living in a commune, but in an anarchist one, which has no real leadership and requires a consensus when the community votes.  When asked why he enjoyed researching this topic, Mr. Kirkwood said, “There is a new frontier in communication theory research; it’s thrilling to find a research gap.”
Mr. Kirkwood enjoys going to these conferences because they are a gateway to communicate with experts, as well as offering the exciting possibility of finding someone who is researching a similar topic. In addition to expanding professional skills, these conferences offer a plethora of networking opportunities.

If you want to learn more about Mr. Kirkwood and his qualitative research, you can view his 2016 OSCLG submission on his website at

~Evan Dosch, Student

2017 CSCA Conference will Create a Lasting Impact on Participants

Blair Thompson, Ph.D., Associate     Professor of Communication, serves as First Vice President of CSCA and has the responsibility of organizing and  overseeing the 2017 Annual Conference. He served as program planner for two interests groups (education and basic course education for communication) before running for his current position. Dr. Thompson says he became involved in CSCA in graduate school along with many of his friends several years ago. Every year he looks forward to seeing those friends and sharing ideas with them at the conference.


2017 CSCA Program Cover created by Communication Office Associate Laura Wagoner

The Central States Communication Association (CSCA) is a professional academic organization comprised  of primary and secondary school teachers, students,  college and university professors, and Communication professionals. The 2017 CSCA conference will take place March 16-18 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The conference consists of a series of presentations, including an awards ceremony and celebration of careers. Awards     presented at the conference include    undergraduate awards, graduate awards, interest group awards, and many more. When asked about the details of the conference, Dr. Thompson said, “The theme for this year’s conference is Create. This focuses on everything that is created through communication.”

         Dr. Blair Thompson,         First Vice President of CSCA

Cathryn Ellis, an undergraduate assistant to Dr. Thompson, is spending her second year assisting in the planning process, but will attend the conference for the first time in 2017. “It will be really exciting to go and just watch the flow of the events, which sounds a little crazy, but because we will be putting in a lot of hours specifically planning and scheduling every aspect of the conference, it will be incredibly rewarding to see the hard work we have done on paper being lived out successfully,” said Ellis.

Madison Loyd-Webster, graduate assistant, has been assigned fulltime to Dr. Thompson this year to support his work.
For more information about CSCA or the upcoming conference, contact Dr. Blair Thompson at or

~ Emily Mynatt, Student