Newly appointed co-directors Jack Banks, PhD, and Susan Grantham, PhD, have big plans in store for the School of Communication. Their goal is to create a program driven by the professional world, exposing students to an agency environment, and making them better prepared for life post-graduation. Over the next four years, the team hopes to bring new life to the curriculum through experience-based learning, web design, and social media classes.
"We have the opportunity to make our program really distinctive and really stand out from competitors," Banks said. Additionally, they are actively seeking feedback from alumni, community leaders, and corporations to drive some of the changes. Their feedback will help School of Communication students learn the skills employers are looking for. "We have the opportunity to see [students] come into their own. We expect a lot, but there is a lot of leeway for them to figure out who they are," Grantham explained.
The co-directors' varied backgrounds make them an exceptional pair to share the appointment. Banks earned his Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Communication Arts and Sociology from San Francisco State University and his master's and PhD in telecommunication and film from the University of Oregon. He teaches courses in media, popular culture, television production, and media criticism. Grantham earned her PhD from the University of Florida and has over 15 years of experience in the public relations field. She teaches courses in public relations, integrated communication, and public relations strategy and management.
In late November 2015, several members of the School of Communication attended and participated in the National Communication Association 101st Annual Convention entitled "Embracing Opportunities" in Las Vegas, NV.
Dr. Lynne Kelly presented recent research, which she co-authored, entitled The Impact of Reticence on Usage of Text Messaging for Everyday Talk. Her paper was selected for the Communication Apprehension and Competence Top Papers session, and the study examined relationships between reticence and usage of text messaging to engage in everyday talk with friends, best friends, and parents.
Dr. Paul Siegel served as a Co-Presenter for the NCA Journal Editors' Workshop, as a Presenter for the session entitled Meet the NCA Journal Editors, as Respondent for the Freedom of Expression Division Top Papers Panel and as Chair of the Teaching and Living the Constitution: A Paean to the Influence of Frankly S. Haiman session.
Dr. Kristin Comeforo served as a Chair, for a panel and discussion session, on which Karen L. Schermerhorn, M.A. presented, entitled (Re)imagining Woman through Digital Media: Towards an NCA #hashtag initiative. The panel discussed the role that digital media is playing in conversations about women in society and in feminist initiatives, including "hashtag feminism." The panel and attendees engaged in thoughtful discussions about these issues and generated the hashtag #WhyFeminism to engage in digital dialogue both during the Las Vegas conference and beyond.
Christine Dandrow, a current Graduate Teaching Intern and graduate student in the School of Communication MA program in Communication, presented her research entitled Fandom as a fortress: The gendered safe spaces of online fanfiction communities as part of the Competitive Papers in the Student Section: Media Influence in Interpersonal Interactions. Her literature review discussed the ways in which online fandom (that is, the online interest-based communities that media fans create), functions in similar ways to online support groups, especially for marginalized groups such as racial minorities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and women.
Every spring around Commencement, the prior recipients of the Roy E. Larsen Award for Excellence in Teaching honor the new recipient.
On May 4, Professor Roger Desmond, the 2015 Larsen Award recipient, was wined and dined at Abigail's Grill and Bar in Simsbury. Nine prior awardees attended the event, and shared with Desmond the history and traditions of the Larsen Award.
The Larsen Award was first given in 1980, and is named for Roy E. Larsen, former vice chairman of Time magazine and a strong advocate for quality education. His son, Chris, lives in West Hartford and is invited each year to the dinner.
What makes School of Communication Professor Roger Desmond, PhD, particularly unique is his willingness to help and challenge students to find their right place in the world. Many alumni as well as current students tell stories about the "communication legend" who helped them develop during and after their time at the University.
"I clearly would not be who I am and where I am without the benefit of my nearly four-decades-long relationship with Roger Desmond," says Mark Zampino '81, public affairs director at Connecticut Society of Certified Public Accountants.
By challenging and encouraging students to do their absolute best, Desmond becomes a mentor and a friend for life.
In his nearly 40 years at the University of Hartford, Desmond has been a huge inspiration for many students and faculty members. His passion for teaching is reflected in his eagerness to stay on top of trends and developments within the field of communication, offering students the latest research and preparing them for professional careers.
"Despite decades in the classroom, he is always expanding and updating his range of reference, using his own research to inform his teaching, and finding ways to illustrate the continuing importance and relevance of the news to student's lives," says Mark Blackwell, PhD, former associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Desmond's knowledge stretches far beyond communication, as he is well read in other areas, such as journalism, public relations, psychology, video games, and much more. His scholarly publications focus on how the media influence the development of children and adolescents. By offering his extensive expertise and experience, Desmond engages students with lively anecdotes bringing the academic material to life. He even takes his journalist students to the courtroom, town meetings, and other community events to teach them how to report on them and give them practical writing experience with real world situations.
"Desmond helped me through my undergraduate degree, two graduate degrees, law school, countless political campaigns, teaching in academic, and life in general," says Spencer Kimball '02, a former student of Desmond and now attorney and scholar-in-residence at Emerson College as well as president of Kimball Political Consultants.
Donald Ellis, PhD, was honored as the keynote speaker for the 2015 N. Richard Greenfield Jewish Ledger Lecture that was held on campus on September 9, 2015. The lecture was co-sponsored by the Ledger and the University of Hartford's Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies. Ellis' expertise in group conflict between Israel and Palestine made him an excellent speaker for the event. Ellis spoke about his work and the type of communication approaches he uses when dealing with conflict. He discussed the complex nature of a conflict over identity and what effects this has on the overall struggle and forward progress. Ellis also discussed his newest book, Fierce Entanglements: Communication and Ethnopolitical Conflict, at the event. This book delves into topics about the importance of micro-communication approaches to relationship change and macro-political solutions in relation to the conflict. Ellis says, "An Israeli Jew striving for deeper understanding of the displacement of Palestinians in 1948, or a Palestinian coming to understand the historical discrimination against the Jews and the Holocaust are equally as important as treaties and agreement." Ellis has also published Deliberative Communication and Ethnopolitical Conflict and Transforming Conflict: Communication and Ethnopolitical Conflict.
Lynne Kelly, PhD, professor of communication, was selected as the 2015 Distinguished Teaching Fellow by the Eastern Communication Association (ECA). Kelly was presented the award at the ECA annual convention in Philadelphia, Pa., on April 24, 2015. She was nominated by faculty and former students. Joan O'Mara, PhD, a Hillyer College faculty member, said in her nomination letter: "Dr. Kelly is unequivocally the perfect candidate for this award. She is the ideal that the originators of the ECA 'Distinguished Teaching Fellows' award must have had in mind when they established this recognition. Her current vitae highlights a long and distinguished career of teaching, scholarship and service to the field of communication, both as an ECA member and a faculty member at the University of Hartford." Kelly has always had strong relationships with her students and showed support for those who needed guidance.