By Rand Nelson
The College of Communication and Information Sciences plays an active part in the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, the largest umbrella organization for educators in the fields of journalism and mass communication.
At the annual conference in August, UA’s Dr. Jennifer Greer was sworn in as AEJMC president, and nearly 20 UA faculty members hosted presentations, participated in panels and moderated discussions at over 40 conference sessions. They also brought home numerous awards.
UA’s leadership and representation within AEJMC enables its faculty and students to be a part of the conversation that frames the evolving industries of journalism and mass communication at the educational level.
Promising Professor Award
Mass Communication in Society, a division of AEJMC, presented their Promising Professor Award for faculty to Dr. Brett Sherrick. The annual award acknowledges excellence and innovation in teaching for three faculty members in the first five years of their full-time teaching career.
“I’m honored to be considered for the Promising Professor Award,” said Sherrick. “As a professor, you get a lot of feedback from students, but you don’t get as much from teaching professionals. This is a nice way to validate my work.”
Part of the evaluation process for the award involves examining qualities and teaching styles of the considered professors. This includes an examination of the professor’s strengths and weaknesses as well as what makes their teaching styles unique.
“Transparency is very important to me. I want my students to understand the reasoning behind the decisions I make,” said Sherrick. “This also helps me understand and justify those decisions myself, which is an important step in trying to improve my teaching.”
Dr. Sherrick’s research covers a broad topic range including the video game industry and its effects, media psychology and pro-social media or media with a received benefit to the consumer.
Article of the Year Award
Communicating Science, Health, Environment and Risk, another AEJMC division, awarded Dr. Jennifer Hoewe the Article of the Year Award for an article she co-authored with Dr. Lee Ahern and Dr. Colleen Connolly-Ahern of Penn State University.
“Worldviews, Issue Knowledge and the Pollution of a Local Science Information Environment” investigates how political frames affect attitudes toward an environmental issue with local impact (storm water runoff).
“The deficit model of scientific communication [teaches] that if people just have more knowledge, they will better understand,” said Hoewe. “What we are finding is that it is just not that simple. It’s not just getting the public the information. Their predispositions, their preexisting attitudes and beliefs are going to factor into how they use that knowledge.”
The research team’s study showed that even with scientifically accurate information about the effects of storm water runoff, people’s willingness to support solutions that would be helpful to combat those effects was influenced by their politics.
Unlike many other division-specific awards, there is no submission process for Article of the Year. Instead, an initial cut to the top six articles considered is performed by ComSHER officers and then a team of five to seven experts of the field score the articles for quality and likelihood of impact on the field.
Top Teaching Award
Dr. George Daniels was awarded first place for the Best Practices in Service Learning in Journalism and Mass Communication Teaching 2017 competition, sponsored by the AEJMC Elected Standing Committee on Teaching.
His entry, “Transforming Mass Media Students into Problem Solvers: A Mass Communication Diversity Service Learning Course,” highlights a course which places graduate and undergraduate students in a variety of service roles designed to increase their awareness of, and sensitivity to, difference and diversity.
“The class is a challenging course to develop,” said Daniels. “There are so many moving parts; it involves students working in the community and you are constantly developing partnerships.”
Daniels and the second- and third-place finisher in this year’s competition gave presentations on their entries at the annual conference.
National Magazine Competition
The C&IS student-produced magazine Alpine Living won third place in a national magazine competition for its website. Sponsored by the Magazine Division of AEJMC, this competition recognizes the top student magazine — print and online — as well as individual stories within the magazines.
In March 2017, a group of graduate and undergraduate C&IS students traveled to New Zealand to produce a 100+ page, full-gloss, international travel magazine highlighting the culture, people and history of the country.
Matthew Wilson won second place in one of the top article categories for his story, “Sea of Dreams,” which captures the perspective of Project Jonah and the Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari in the preservation of marine life habitats in New Zealand’s Golden Bay and Hauraki Gulf.
Top Paper Awards
Several C&IS faculty members earned top paper awards for their divisions.
Dr. Laura Lemon received a Top Special Topics Paper Award from the Advertising Division for her work, “#Sponsored #Ad: An Agency Perspective on Influencer.”
Dr. Wilson Lowrey and Tom Arenberg received a Top Faculty Paper Award from the Community Journalism Interest Group for their collaborative work, “The Impact of Web Metrics on Community News Decisions: A Resource Dependence Perspective.”
Ethan Stokes received the McCombs and Shaw Top Student Paper Award in the Political Communication Interest Group for his work, “A Global Election: Analyses of Arabic, Chinese, and Russian News Coverage of the 2016 U. S. Presidential Election.”
UA to Host Annual AEJMC Colloquium in 2018
C&IS will host the 43rd annual AEJMC Southeast Colloquium on March 8-10, 2018. This is the longest running regional research gathering for AEJMC, and 2018 will mark UA’s fifth time as host.
The colloquium is similar to the annual conference in opportunities for networking and continuing education, but the primary focus is research.
“There is a little more leniency in terms of the research papers not having been through as much review, and it is a great place to get initial feedback on projects you are working on,” said Daniels. “And it is grad-student friendly, with the mix of grad students to faculty being about two-thirds graduate students.”
Additionally, the Southeast Colloquium provides attendants with an on-campus feel, rather than a hotel conference center in a major urban area. Participants will attend sessions in Reese Phifer Hall, tour UA facilities and experience Tuscaloosa attractions.
As a pre-conference, the colloquium will be preceded by the ninth annual Discerning Diverse Voices Symposium. This daylong event welcomes participants from around campus and elsewhere in the nation for a unique venue for diversity-related research and creative activity.
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.