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.

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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


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