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!



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