K-pop Rocks the Hilltop!

Korean Pop Culture scholar, Sherri Ter Molen, sparked curiosity amongst WKU students March 22. The event, “K-poppers for Hilltoppers: A Korean Pop Culture Experience,” took place in Gary Ransdell Hall. This presentation was part of the Department of Communication’s ‘Above and Beyond’ lecture series.


Ter Molen educated attendees on the rising popularity of Korean influences on culture, drama, music known as Hallyu – “The Korean Wave” – all over the world.

This pop culture trend encompasses the modern rhythm found in America with unique and vibrant Korean performances. K-pop music videos, movies, and TV shows filled the room with upbeat vibes and growing appeal during the presentation.

Ter Molen shared the story of what inspired her interest to become a scholar and researcher in Korean culture. “What began as fascination, turned into a lifestyle,” Ter Molen said. Ter Molen’s aunt adopted a little girl from Korea when she was a child. Ter Molen began asking questions about the girl’s culture after noticing the difference in their appearance. These questions transformed her from a fan to a scholar.

Ter Molen’s research on Korean Pop Culture has appeared in “The Global Impact of South Korean Popular Culture: Hallyu Unbound” and The Korean Wave: Korean Popular Culture in Global Context.” With 35 million fans worldwide, K-pop is having a massive outbreak with K-con conventions spreading across the nation.

~ Ali Boyd, Student




Alumni Updates

Christina Abney—B.A. Corporate & Organizational Communication, 2014—Christina recently began working as the Community Marketing Specialist at Atria Senior Living in Louisville, Kentucky. 

Michaela Ash—M.A. Organizational Communication, 2016—Michaela is currently working as a Sales Contract Administrator at Comdata in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

 Sarah Steen Bessinger—B.A. Corporate & Organizational Communication, 2011— Sarah earned her Juris Doctorate in 2015 from Salmon P. Chase College of Law, and is currently the Assistant County Attorney for Warren County in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

 Ryan DeMuth—B.A. Communication Studies, 2014—Ryan has recently been promoted to Account Manager of Comm/Data Sales at Graybar in Lexington, Kentucky.

Mackenzie Lee Farris—B.A. Communication Studies, 2016—Mackenzie began working as a Marketing Assistant at Bluegrass Cellular, and was quickly promoted to her current position as Digital Marketing & E-commerce Coordinator.

 Porsha Johnson—B.A. Corporate & Organizational Communication, 2014—Porsha is a Human Resources Manager at Lowe’s Companies, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia.

 Brittanee Loftis—B.A. Corporate & Organizational Communication, 2014—Brittanee is an Assistant Director of Events at Holiday Inn University Plaza/Sloan Convention Center in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

 Chelsea Martin—B.A. Communication Studies, 2014—Chelsea received an M.A. in Communication Studies from the University of Alabama in 2016.  She is currently working as an academic advisor for WKU at the Owensboro campus.

Kasey Mathes—M.A. Organizational Communication, 2010—Kasey is an Associate Manager of Public Relations at KFC in Louisville, Kentucky.

Joanna ‘Peej’ Packer—B.A. Communication Studies, 2015—Peej is a Sales Representative at JB Distributors in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

 Felix Perrone—M.A. Organizational Communication, 2015—Felix was promoted to Information Systems Process Manager at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

 Skylar Phaup—B.A. Communication Studies, 2014—Skylar is the Director of Sales & Marketing at Studio Calico in Nashville, Tennessee.

 Sara Pitts—M.A. Organizational Communication, 2010—Sara was accepted into the doctorial program at West Virginia University.

 Clay Settles—B.A. Corporate & Organizational Communication, 2016—Clay is currently working as SMB Growth Strategist  for Gartner in Fort Myers, Florida.

 Alex Smith—B.A. Corporate & Organizational Communication, 2013—Alex is employed as a Sales Engineer at Keyence Corporation in Nashville, Tennessee.

 Katie Spears—B.A. Corporate & Organizational Communication, 2013—Katie is working as an Account Manager for Affiliate Merchandise Group in Nashville, Tennessee.

Let us know what you are doing. We would love to hear from you, too!
Send news to Laura Wagoner at laura.wagoner@wku.edu




Communication Organization for Graduate Students (COGS)

The mission of COGS is to support our graduate students as they navigate through the program and look towards opportunities after graduation. During the fall semester our students in COGS have had some great successes in cultivating academic and professional development!

In September, COGS members Scott Branton, Mizuho Tatebayashi, and Gavin Kirkwood presented pieces from our COMM 552: Democracy, Power and Voice class at the Kentucky Communication Association conference right here in Bowling Green! In November, Scott Branton and Gavin Kirkwood also presented at the National Communication Association in Philadelphia. It is clear that our students are creating some outstanding research pieces in class and it is so great when we can go out and represent WKU’s Communication Department at larger events in our discipline.

Graduate Studnets during departmental Christmas Luncheon: Marshall Covert, Cathryn Ellis (JUMP Student), Gavin Kirkwood, and Haley Miller 

Another highlight of COGS was our Ph.D. information night this past October. This was a great time to hear past experiences from Dr. Kong, Dr. Brown, Dr. Payne, and Dr. Jerome about their time in Ph.D. programs. Having an informal Q &A helped our students get the information they needed as they prepare for their own professional development in higher education or possibly outside academia.

We wish all our graduate students the best during the upcoming spring semester.  Keep up the great work!

~Gavin Kirkwood, COGS President


Lambda Pi Eta (LPH) Fall Update

The fall semester of 2016 proved exciting for the WKU Rho Nu chapter of Lambda Pi Eta (LPH), the National Communication Association’s official honor society. Officers for the 2016-2017 academic year were elected: Taylor Hillard (President), Rachel Cato (Vice-President), Emily Anne Pride (Scholarship Officer), Hayley Armstrong (Secretary), and Courtney Tucker (Treasurer).


The officers work within the organization towards six goals, which includes promoting and encouraging professional development among communication majors and stimulating interest in the field of communication. Also, the cabinet of LPH officers enjoyed the privilege of working with other outstanding students in the Department of Communication.

Toward the beginning of the fall semester, LPH officers provided opportunities for students to make “get well” cards for Mr. Bruce Crawley, the department advisor, as he recovered from surgery. Members provided art supplies for students to design a card for Mr. Crawley, and afterwards, mailed the “get well” wishes to his home address.


(Back Row): Will Brandon, Lauren Risinger, Emily Anne Pride, Alison Wagoner, Sarah Harrington, Jon Sahlman, Jieyoung Kong  (Front Row): Courtney Tucker, Torrey Cazeault, Taylor Hillard, Nicole DiMatties, Rachel Cato, Erin Wilkerson

In November, the chapter Vice-President, Rachel Cato, and the chapter Scholarship Officer, Emily Anne Pride, were able to attend the National Communication Association (NCA) annual conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Department of Communication was generous enough to sponsor two of our officers to accompany Dr. Jieyoung Kong (LPH Advisor) and Dr. Jennifer Mize Smith (Associate Professor).

LPH welcomed nine new members that joined the organization during the semester. Also, officers (Rachel Cato and Emily Anne Pride) discussed their experience at NCA and possible community service activities for the chapter. Active members not only work together towards success and learning, but are also required to perform community service. LPH’s goal is to have a community service event that includes all members, which would further extend the impact they have on Western Kentucky University’s surrounding area.

In early spring, recruitment letters for new members will be delivered. Students who are eligible for membership will be invited to become members of LPH and to attend an induction ceremony to be conducted in late March, where new members from the previous semester will also be inducted.

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 twenty-one members, and the chapter is excited to welcome many more!

~ Taylor Hillard, LPH President
& Rachel Cato, LPH Vice President



Communication Says ‘Farewell’ to Linda Yin

Chinese intercultural communication scholar, Linda Yin (Yin Zharong) bid farewell to Communication Nation on January 3, 2017.


Ms. Yin visited the WKU Department of Communication, which hosted her sabbatical year in 2017. While associated with the department, Ms. Yin attended Dr. Sterk’s COMM 200 and Dr. Kong’s 263 classes. In each, she contributed stories and examples of how communication works and is taught in China.

Ms. Yin also helped Dr. Sterk with her research project on Asian women professors’ balancing of work and home life by connecting her with a number of other Chinese scholars visiting at WKU.

The annual bonfire at Prof. Elder’s house was a highlight of the year for Ms. Yin. Her son, Sunny, joined her for a follow-up visit to Prof. Elder’s house, where Ms. Yin reveled in learning how to drive the lawn mowing tractor.

Through initiatives such as these, the Department of Communication builds relationships around the world. Ms. Yin enthusiastically invites both students and faculty members to visit her in Shanghai. If you’d like to know more, please contact Dr. Sterk at helen.sterk@wku.edu and she’ll connect you.

~Helen Sterk, Dept. Head

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 the beautiful city of Zadar, Croatia in 1997. 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.