Communication Organization for Graduate Students

As we end another semester, the Communication Organization for Graduate Students (COGS) would like to recognize our graduates for the 2016-2017 school year. Our graduating graduate students include Brian Becker, Mizuho Tatebayashi, Scott Branton, and myself! These last two years have brought amazing experiences that will serve each graduate well in either industry or academia.

Looking forward I am proud to announce that Marshall Covert and Cathryn Ellis will be our co-Presidents for the 2017-2018 school year. I am so excited to see the great events, workshops, and gatherings they plan for next year’s cohort. Marshall and Cathryn both are exemplary students and do a great job supporting and encouraging their peers. I especially want to commend Marshall and Cathryn for setting an example of egalitarian based leadership by sharing the title of COGS President!

Lastly, I just want to thank everyone in the Communication department for such a great experience these last two years. Moving here from the West Coast without knowing anyone in KY was hard, but each one of you welcomed me like a family. It has been an honor to serve as COGS President this year. Thank you!

~Gavin Kirkwood, COGS President



Graduate Program Undergoes 10 Year Assessment

Our graduate program in Organizational Communication recently underwent a ten year assessment. Written by Dr Angie Jerome, the assessment highlights the fantastic work of both professors and students and their achievements over the past ten years.

The WKU Department of Communication hosts a great group of faculty who teach in this well respected program. They have racked up many accomplishments, including an academic book, two scholarly edited books, thirty-three academic journal articles, along with book chapters and encyclopaedia entries. Six of these faculty members also created an App, which now serves as a text book for students in COMM 200. Five of these faculty also hold or have held leadership positions in state, regional or in national associations. This shows the high calibre of faculty that we have in our department.

However, it is not only our faculty that create such impressive honors, our students do, too. In the past five years, ten of the faculty publications were co-written by students. One student published an article they had written themselves. We have also had fifty-six students present papers at state, regional, national and international conferences. With both faculty and students combined, there have been 15 top paper awards received along with 23 top paper panel honors and top panel honors in peer-reviewed competitions. All of these accomplishments have helped to put the WKU graduate program on the map. According to Dr. Jerome, “This program is strong on research production and collaboration. All faculty and most students are actively engaged in presenting their research beyond the classroom.”

graduate students.png
Marshall Covert, Katie Lever, Gavin Kirkwood, Mizuho  Tatebayashi

Being part of the Organizational Communication graduate program opens opportunities. Since 2011, seven students become part of doctoral programs including Texas A&M University and Purdue University. In spring 2017, several WKU students received fully funded offers to enter Ph.D. programs at Arizona State University, Kansas University, University of Missouri, University of California Santa Barbara and University of Colorado-Boulder. Not only has there been success in graduate school admission, but our program also helps graduate students prepare for work in  education, sales, consulting, media production and business management.

This graduate program has so much to offer and has achieved so much. If you are interested in becoming a part of this program please contact our new Graduate Program Director, Blair Thompson, Ph.D.,

~Georgina Blackman, Student


Communication Graduate Students Well Represented at Top Doctoral Programs

The Department of Communication at WKU is not the end of the road in terms of education for many graduate students.  In fact, the program is building a strong reputation for preparing students to move on to doctoral programs across the country including Purdue University, University of Missouri, Texas A&M, Arizona State, and the University of California, Santa Barbara.  This year alone, the department has five recent M.A. grads enrolling in doctoral programs in the fall.  Mizuho Tatebayashi, Tyler Rife, Daniel Chick, Gavin Kirkwood, and Scott Branton have all received full graduate assistantships to support their studies.  Among the five of them, they received 10 offers from top institutions. According to WKU Communication Graduate Director, Dr. Angie Jerome, the program has had seven students admitted into communication doctoral programs since 2011.

kca gaven.png

To prepare students for advanced graduate work a number of classes must be completed including quantitative and qualitative research methods, communication theory, human communication electives, and thesis research and writing.  If you have any questions regarding the Masters in Organizational Communication program at WKU or the potential for advancing to a doctoral program after receiving your M.A., feel free to contact the new Graduate Director, Dr. Blair Thompson.

~Sarah Warner, Student


Students Recognized at Award Dinner

The fourth annual Student Recognition Dinner was held on April 25, 2017; where several awards were given to deserving students.

Award Winners are…

The Jeffries Award for Excellence in Diversity-Enhancing Communication was awarded to Jonathan Sahlman.   This award honors Dr. Tammy Jeffries, a Communication faculty member who passed away on January 17, 2016. This tribute to her, the award for Excellence in Diversity-Enhancing Communication is available to any graduate or undergraduate student who is helping to promote understanding across cultural divides, enhancing equality and caring for others.  The award recognizes work done both on and off campus.

Dr. Tammie Jeffries

According to Mr. Sahlman, “Being the first recipient of the Jeffries award is an extreme honor. I never had the privilege of taking a class from her but her legacy is very much felt in the Communication department and on campus. Fighting for equality is something I find very important.  Dr. Jeffries made a strong effort to promote student engagement and equality for minority groups.”

laura and jonathan

Outstanding Communication Studies Student:  Cathryn Ellis

blair and cathryn

Cathryn serves as a Spirit Master and is a JUMP student, earning both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in five years.

Outstanding Graduate Student:  Gavin Kirkwood

holly and gavin

Gavin will start his doctoral program in the fall at University of California – Santa Barbara.

Outstanding Corporate and Organizational Students:  Ashley Hickman and Emily Anne Pride

charlotte and ashley

Ashley served on the executive board as Academic Chairwoman of Delta Zeta Sorority, as Communication Director and Vice President for Turning Point USA and belongs to Lambda Pi Eta Communication Honors Society.

emily and holly

Emily Anne serves as a Spirit Master, belongs to the Alpha Omicron Pi Sorority and Lambda Pi Eta our Communication Honors Society.

Outstanding Undergraduate Research – Case Study:  Ireland Hill


Ireland studied abroad in England in Spring, 2017 and is a member of the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority.

     According to Ireland, “Receiving the ‘Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award’ is an immense honor. I never imagined myself conducting research much less winning an award for it! The Communication Department truly has some of the most incredible professors that have helped embed in me the confidence and skills I need to do something like this.”

Outstanding Undergraduate Research – Databased:   Taylor Hillard

taylor and jieyoung

Taylor won the data-based award for undergraduate research.  She is a member of Lambda Pi Eta where she served as president.

~Jennifer Garner, Student





The Search for a New Digital Communication Professor

The Department of Communication is looking to hire a Digital Communication Assistant Professor for fall 2018. With the upcoming merger of Communication, Advertising, and Public Relations, Dr. Blair Thompson noted that the department is “looking for someone who is able to relate each of these broad subject areas.”

The search committee will look for candidates who hold a Ph.D. in Communication, with a specialty in theory, criticism, and analysis of digital and/or visual communication. They should be able to teach undergraduate courses such as communication theory, visual communication analysis, persuasion, research methods, and they should also be able to develop a course on digital communication. Preferred candidates will also have knowledge of social media use in the corporate world. Candidates are expected to be involved in the department’s graduate program by teaching courses in Applied Organizational Communication, as well as mentoring graduate students and serving on thesis or capstone comm

Potential candidates first will be interviewed via Skype. The search committee will narrow down the results to approximately three candidates who will then visit campus for additional interviews. A decision will be reached sometime late in the 2017 fall semester.

The Department of Communication is hopeful that the new Digital Communication professor will be exactly who is needed to successfully bridge among Communication, Advertising, and Public Relations. Dr. Thompson said that “Social media and digital communication are things that everyone does, so we need someone who has expertise in research and practice with digital communication. This is an exciting process, and I think students will really like the new courses we will be able to offer with this position.” For more information about the search, contact Dr. Angela Jerome (Search Committee Chair), or Dr. Helen Sterk (Department Head).

~Sarah Harrington, Student


Message from Helen Sterk, Department Head

What a year!

Since the fall semester, Dr. Tim Caboni—an alumnus of our Master’s program–was named as the new President of WKU; the Department of Communication added Advertising, Popular Culture and Public Relations to its major programs; and Dr. Angie Jerome led a diverse team of faculty members in developing new major programs.

In addition, we did all the things we usually do—take and teach richly meaningful classes, host an Executive in Residence, and sponsor an Above and Beyond series lecturer. Oh yes, we also started a new alumni group made up of folks who’ve earned our Master’s degrees and work at WKU.

Helen Sterk
Dr. Helen Sterk

Dr. Caboni graduated from our MA program in 1994. At his interview with faculty members early this spring, he credited Dr. Larry Winn with inspiring him in the Crisis Communication class. Dr. Caboni joined the new alumni group at its first meeting for a few moments, connecting with classmates and greeting us all. Take a look at his LinkedIn profile to learn more about him. Starting July 1, Dr. Caboni will lead the university as our president.

As our fall newsletter told, Communication will grow to twice its current size when Advertising, Popular Culture, and Public Relations join Communication Studies and Corporate and Organizational Communication officially to merge on July 1, 2017. This merger benefits WKU students through bringing together broad understanding of how communication functions to connect human beings in person and across various media with deep practice in crafting professional messages specifically for community, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations.

alums and caboni
Department of Communication alums meet Dr. Caboni

Dr. Angie Jerome led a team made up of Communication, Advertising, Public Relations, and Popular Culture faculty members to review and revise the major programs. What a task to complete in one semester! This hard-working and diverse team developed major programs that can be completed in 36-39 hours (down significantly from 45+ hours for some). Students can double major across the department (with the exception of Communication Studies with Corporate and Organizational Communication). So, someone could double major in Communication Studies and Public Relations, for example! These slim majors include courses that cross programs, allowing for up to six hours to double count.

In the 2017-18 academic year, these new programs will make their way through all the approval processes, becoming implemented in 2018-19. Anyone currently majoring in any of the five programs may choose the old or new programs, able to complete under the requirements in the calendar year under which they began at WKU.

I’m enthusiastic about the new opportunities for WKU students! Combining theory with practice, the new Department of Communication will open doors for graduates!

~ Dr. Helen Sterk, Dept. Head




Communication Major Takes Leadership of the WKU Herald

Andrew Henderson, a WKU Junior from Olive Hill, Kentucky will take over as Editor-in-Chief of the College Heights Herald. The Herald is run by students for students. The organization is advised by two WKU staff members, a team of editors, journalists, cartoonists, and photographers.

Henderson – a Communication Studies major with a Political Science minor – started working for the Herald in the Fall of 2014 his freshman year.  He says that his participation in his high school publication influenced him to join the Herald once he came to WKU. When I asked Henderson about his first semester at the Herald, he said, “My first story was about Candle Makers on the Square. They had recently opened a bed and breakfast on the second floor. The way I wrote it was entirely wrong. Nothing in high school prepared me for the work I was doing at the Herald. I had to learn the ropes and there were plenty of people there to help me. It was ultimately because of them helping me that I was able to transition into something more serious.” Since that time, Henderson has completed an internship at the Lexington Herald-Leader, and will soon begin his summer internship at the Courier Journal, in Louisville, Kentucky.

Henderson has been the opinion editor for the past two semesters. He manages the columns, editorials, and cartoons that fall under the opinion section. He says, “A lot of what I do is writing for the editorial board on specific issues.  We have three different areas: editorials, columnists, and letters to the editor.” Students and faculty alike can submit letters to the editor online through the website.

Andrew Henderson

When asked about what he plans to do when he takes on his new role as Head Editor, Henderson spoke about how he wants the Herald to connect more with WKU and the campus. He says, “It’s their paper created by their peers. I want people to know we serve as an outlet for them. We have news and we are keeping them up-to-date on what’s going on, on campus, but they should have a stake in it as well.” I asked Henderson how he planned to tackle this and he told me about how students don’t really understand their involvement with the paper. He says, “We want to establish an ongoing conversation with campus leaders so that we know when events are happening and we can cover more stories for students. I want students to know that we are here for them, and that we really strive to be another outlet students view as a way to express themselves. We want to keep them informed about important things that are happening on campus including decisions being made from the top that affects their future. We want to be a newspaper students can come to for true news, great cartoons, great stories, and a place where their opinions can be heard.”

Henderson demonstrates a love for journalism. Above all else, he cares about the organization and its connection to WKU and the student body. For more information on the College Heights Herald visit website at, or contact Andrew Henderson via email at

~ Jackson Peach, Student