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 rita.meredith@wku.edu.

~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 helen.sterk@wku.edu or visit www.kycommunication.com.

~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 www.gavinkirkwood.com.

~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 blair.thompson@wku.edu or http://www.csca-net.org/aws/CSCA/pt/sp/home_page.

~ Emily Mynatt, Student



Undergraduate Students Taking Advantage of the JUMP Program

The Department of Communication currently has three students in the Joint Undergraduate and Graduate Program (JUMP); two earning an M.A. in Organizational Communication and one in Religious Studies, with one more joining them this spring. The JUMP program enables students to earn a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree simultaneously.


Kristen Evans from Paducah, Kentucky will complete her undergraduate degree in Corporate and Organizational Communication in spring of 2018 and graduate with her Master’s degree in Organizational Communication in spring of 2019. Ms. Evans is an active member of Alpha Delta Pi, a member of Young Americans for Freedom club, and will be studying abroad at Harlaxton College in England in spring of 2017. Ms. Evans states, “I am undecided at this point about my future career path, but as the years come with new experiences, I plan to follow God’s direction for my life and end up in the career best suited for me.”

kristen evans
Kristen Evans

Cathryn Ellis will be completing her JUMP program in 2018.  This year, she is taking a mix of undergraduate and graduate courses, including Dr. Sterk’s seminar in Human Communication: Gender & Communication and is supporting Dr. Thompson’s work as CSCA conference planner.


Rachel Cato from Woodburn, Kentucky is currently enrolled in the JUMP program to complete her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies and Religious Studies and a Master of Arts in Religious Studies in May 2018. She is involved in a variety of activities at Western Kentucky University such as:

¨ Communication Ambassadors
¨ Lambda Pi Eta, a Communication Honors Society (Vice President)
¨ Theta Alpha Kappa Honors Society for Theology and Religion (Vice President)
¨ Potter College of Arts and Letters (PCAL) Magazine Advisory Board
¨ PCAL Student Complaint Committee
¨ interCULTURAL Club
¨ Communication Success Center (tutor)
¨ student worker in the Department of Communication office

Ms. Cato states, “My career path is to become a professor of Religious Studies.” Ms. Cato believes that pursuing her education is the most important thing in preparing for her career and is confident that the JUMP program is perfect to help her reach her goal.


Cato and Evans both love that the Department of Communication has this opportunity because it is allowing them to complete their Master’s degree faster, while saving money.

Emily Mynatt is from Nashville, Tennessee. Her undergraduate major is Corporate and Organizational Communication, and her graduate program of study is Organizational Communication. Her favorite undergraduate classes were COMM 362 and COMM 462 (Organizational Communication and Advanced Organizational Communication). Currently, she is enrolled in COMM 520 (Communication in the Nonprofit Sector) and COMM 566 (Corporate and Organizational Advocacy), and she is enjoying both of them. Emily decided to enter the JUMP program because she finished the required classes for her major in the fall semester of her junior year, but did not have 120 hours to graduate. This way, Emily can work towards a master’s degree while still fulfilling the requirements of her undergraduate degree.  Last semester Emily interned for the WKU HR department, and continues as their student worker this semester. Upon graduation, Emily wants to pursue a career in Human Resources.


For more information about the JUMP program, contact Dr. Angela Jerome, the Communication Graduate Director, at angela.jerome@wku.edu, or see the departmental JUMP webpage at www.wku.edu/communication/jump_program/jump_program.php.

~Nicholas Meadows, Student


Conferences Bring Students, Faculty Together in Partnership (9/2016)

This year, there were many opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students in the department to present their research. Working together on    research and presentations, students and faculty are able to stretch their horizons and learn new things from each other. Professor Holly Payne, Ph.D., described the working process as beneficial for both parties. She added that working with students allowed her to “learn new things within the field and keep [her] up to date.” Assistant Professor Jieyoung Kong, Ph.D., agreed. Dr. Kong explained that working with students encouraged her to work outside of her preferred methodology and learn new areas as well.  Both Drs. Payne and Kong said that they enjoy working with students on  research projects and hope to see those opportunities grow, especially among undergraduate students.

taylor hillard.png
Honors Undergraduate student Taylor Hilalrd presents at the Kentucky Communication Assoication Conference, September 2016

Faculty from the Department of Communication routinely participate in annual conferences. Conferences such as the National Communication Association and Kentucky Communication Association are great ways to receive recognition for the work done within the department, but they also offer valuable opportunities for Communication students.

Currently, undergraduates have three available ways to participate in conferences. Students who write a quality research paper in class, honors students, and those who receive Faculty-Undergraduate Student Engagement (FUSE) grants can conduct research and submit their papers for presentation at state, regional, and national conferences. Graduate students also have many opportunities to research, write, and present their work. We look forward to seeing our faculty and students continuing to work together, to be on the cutting edge of the field!

~ Cody Pruitt, Student


Students Set Apart Through Study Abroad

The Department of Communication is excited to announce more opportunities than ever before for Study Abroad credit during the winter and summer terms. Helen Sterk, Ph.D., Department Head, says, “This is an explosion of opportunity. Generally only a few options are offered, but this year there are many courses to choose from, with two offered by WKU faculty.”


Winter 2017:
¨ Beyond the Selfie: Exploring London to Communicate Inward & Outward Journeys Via Multimedia Storytelling – London, earn credit for COMM 410, Study Abroad in Communication
¨ Exploring Visual Culture: British Popular Cultures and Counter-cultures – London, earn credit for COMM 410, Study Abroad in Communication
¨ KIIS: Maya Mexico Winter, Earn credit for COMM 400, Special Topics: Maya Mexico, Past & Present

spain.pngSummer 2017:

¨ Amazing Argentina: Exploring Communication & Culture, earn credit for COMM 263, Fundamentals of Communication & Culture (honors credit available)
¨ Grand Granada, Spain: Engaging in Communication and Culture, earn credit for COMM 145, Fundamentals of Public Speaking and Communication
¨ Cultural Comparisons of British and American Sport – London, earn credit for COMM 410, Study Abroad in Communication
¨ CCSA: Intercultural Communication, London, earn credit for COMM 463, Intercultural Communication
¨ KIIS: Barcelona, earn credit for COMM 400, Topics: Digital Storytelling, or COMM 463, Intercultural Communication
¨ KIIS: Spain, earn credit for COMM 263, Fundamentals of Communication & Culture


Dr. Sterk encourages students, “We have a number of faculty members who are leading international study, so get your self out of America. We have faculty members ready, and we are ready for students to do the same!” For more information go to http://www.wku.edu/studyabroad/

~ Jessica Powell, Student