The updates we offer you from the College of Media & Communication are generally interesting
and, at times, even exciting, but some are more worthy of global attention than are
others. Featured among our news items this month is an innovation that we believe
is unique in the world.
Almost a year ago, I spoke at length with Dr. Michael Evans, Dean of the TTU Health
Sciences Center School of Nursing. At the time, the national news headlines noted
that one of the leading causes of death in America was medical error. Dr. Evans remarked
that he believed a leading cause of medical error was miscommunication among patients,
health professionals, and families.
We then asked ourselves, "What can we do about that?"
Here you can read about our partial answer.
One of the pitches our college makes to parents of potential majors is that communications
is the only field that never wears out. Everybody needs effective communications,
whatever their profession, and health professionals perhaps most of all, since the
decisions they make are literally life and death.
Consequently, the faculties from Nursing and Media & Communication in general, and
the department of Communication Studies specifically, got together, brainstormed,
and in record time approved a Health Communication for Pre-Nursing Majors course.
Dr. Jenna Shimkowski, from the Communication Studies department, is teaching the course
for the first time this fall. Other faculty -- such as Dr. Mel Sarge from Advertising,
Dr. Marjorie Buckner from Communication Studies, and Dr. Brian Ott, Chair of Communication
Studies -- contributed to the curriculum and its design and implementation.
The outcome: Every nurse who will eventually graduate from Texas Tech will have taken
an effective communication class from us.
Stay tuned: We think this is just the beginning of many more partnerships between
our college and those in the health professions.
David D. Perlmutter, Ph.D. Professor and Dean
Communication Studies department tailors a class to pre-nursing students
By Alexa Rosas
In cooperation with the Texas Tech pre-nursing program, Jenna Shimkowski, Ph.D., assistant
professor of communication studies, Marjorie Buckner, Ph.D., assistant professor of
communication studies, and Melanie Sarge, Ph.D., assistant professor of advertising,
have collaborated to develop a new course, COMS 2320, Communication in Nursing, which
opened its first section this Fall.
"The idea behind the class is that we are tailoring communication concepts to nurses,
[and trying] to formulate or design a class that is really targeted to their experience
working as a nurse," Buckner said.
The class, according to Shimkowski, will provide its students with knowledge of theories,
principles, and practices regarding interpersonal and organizational communication,
by dividing the class into three sections: Communication Foundations, Communication
and Care, and Communication in Health Organizations.
The collaboration was first conceived by Dean of Nursing Michael Evans and College
of Media & Communication Dean, David D. Perlmutter, who met to discuss ways to improve
communication among health professionals and with the public. "It occurred to us that
we needed to start early in the training of nurses, not just to offer workshops after
they were set in their careers," Dean Perlmutter said. "Why not a class offered by
us [CoMC], but tailored for undergraduates on the pre-nursing track? Our two faculties
then followed up with a fleshed-out definition of what that class would teach."
With completion of the class, the nursing students will understand how to more effectively
communicate with patients, families, and physicians. They will gain skills related
to developing therapeutic communication styles, managing crises, adapting health-related
messages to targeted audiences, and skills on communicating across multiple technologies.
Dean Evans explained, "The first benefit is that the course impresses upon the pre-nursing
students how vitally important and fundamental effective communication is to nursing
and to health care. The course also teaches the students the principles of effective
communication in a variety of situations experienced in health care. The benefit for
the TTUHSC is that it helps us to better select applicants who understand how to communicate
well and who will use these essential skills throughout their time as a student and
in their nursing career."
Shimkowski said, "We want students entering the nursing profession to feel confident
in educating patients and their families, improving their workplace environments,
and developing more effective professional relationships through competent communication
According to Buckner, the class' biggest asset is that it is specific to nurses and
that the students are not left alone to make the connection from their communication
class to their career path. They now have a partner in that journey.
"This class helps make those connections with them," Buckner said. "They can then
say that they understand some broad communication topics and how they can use it in
Brian Ott, Ph.D., professor and chair of the department of Communication Studies,
hopes that the class will aid future nurses in doing their job to the best of their
"I think this class fills a very important need," Ott said. "It demonstrates a recognition
on behalf of the medical industry for effective communication. Whether that's interpersonal
or organizational communication, I think it demonstrates that they recognize the significance
of it in effective medical practice."
The class requires no prerequisites but is now a requirement of the Texas Tech pre-nursing
program. The first section of the class, which opened this Fall, will serve 110 students,
but the Spring section is expected to be significantly larger, at 210 students, to
meet the program's demands.
"The demands of nursing school can minimize the time spent on communication techniques,
which can ultimately cause disastrous outcomes in health care," according to Registered
Nurse and assistant professor in the school of nursing, Amanda Veesart. "Organizers
hope to see the course grow into an interactive virtual course, as to cater to distant
There are approximately 600 declared pre-nursing students on campus, Veesart reported,
but with the program admitting three times per year, that number will continue to
"The nursing communication class is just one of the partnerships that we have already
established or plan to establish in the near future and with other units at Texas
Tech and in the health science system," commented Dean Perlmutter.
"We want to be seen as a world-class example of how a communication college can be
in partnership with all sorts of units in health and STEM disciplines to advance science
and the public good."
Archduke Georg von Habsburg-Lothringen Visits CoMC
By Alexa Rosas
On Oct. 16 and 17, Archduke Georg von Habsburg-Lothringen of Austria and Hungary visited
the Texas Tech College of Media & Communication. While visiting the college, he visited
with faculty and staff at a special lunch and spoke to Dr. Miglena Sternadori's Global
"The Archduke's visit was special because of his family's historical significance,
but also because of his experience as a diplomat and his deep understanding of the
current processes within the European Union," Sternadori reported.
While the Archduke delivered a presentation on Monday titled, "The European Union's
Greatest Challenges to Survive Brexit," at the International Cultural Center, his
presentation to Sternadori's class was a little different.
"In the Global Journalism course, he discussed only topics that are relevant today,"
Sternadori said. "They included the distinction between nationalism and patriotism,
secessionist forces within the EU, and surreptitious Russian influences on European
The students enjoyed the opportunity to hear him lecture and to ask him questions,
and class discussion was lively and interesting.
"What really stood out to me is that the Archduke didn't dwell on the state of his
country or how they have been impacted, but held an open discussion on world politics,"
reported Media Strategies senior, Yvette Munoz, who was one of the students fortunate
enough to be in Sternadori's global media class. "He answered questions about Brexit,
Spain and Catalonia and any other country we asked about."
According to Dean of the College of Media & Communication, David D. Perlmutter, the
Archduke has spent the last few years focusing on media subversion on the creation
of fake news by the Russian government, two topics that are both timely and valuable
to students studying media.
"It's very important for our students to know that the international news system has
pretty much broken down," suggested Perlmutter. "We can't trust a lot of what we hear
unless we independently try to verify it from multiple sources and think critically
about the plausibility of the content."
CoMC research tackles new area in environmental communication
By Derrick Holland
The national debate regarding environmental issues seems to harp on a handful of specific
topics, including climate change, nuclear energy, and extreme weather. Social scientists
have extensively explored these topics, but one important arena remains relatively
unstudied: attitudes and behaviors related to water issues. According to sources such
as the U.S. Drought Monitor and The Washington Post, water scarcity and water quality
are areas that need focus as global resources continue to dwindle.
To fill this void, Professor and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies Coy Callison,
Ph.D., along with CoMC Ph.D. candidate Derrick Holland, set out to uncover how political
ideology and past water experience impact attitudes and behaviors related to the issues
of water scarcity and water pollution. Although previous research has established
that issues like climate change are viewed through a political ideological lens, extending
this research into the realm of water messaging was an important goal for Callison
"We identified how pressing the issues of water conservation and water quality are
for not only west Texas, but also for the global community," Callison said. "The next
step was uncovering what types of characteristics result in positive water attitudes,
as well as what drives intentions to conserve one's water and to take steps to improve
the quality of one's water."
In their article, "Impact of Political Identity and Past Crisis Experience on Water
Attitudes," published in the Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education,
Callison and Holland found that those who identified as Liberal were more worried,
scared, and felt more threatened regarding water issues than their Conservative counterparts.
The researchers also found that Liberals perceived water issues as more important,
and were more likely to enact pro-water behaviors, such as taking steps to conserve
their water and also to improve the quality of their water.
Experience with water scarcity/pollution was also an area of interest for the research
team. Based on the nationally representative sample of 498 participants, the researchers
found that those with water crisis experience have higher levels of concern and are
more likely to change their behavior related to said water issues.
"We were also interested in how experience and ideology interact," Holland said. "The
data showed that Conservatives with water crisis experience were more likely to be
concerned about water issues and change their behaviors, while Liberals had high levels
of concern regardless of water crisis experience. The importance of experience for
Conservative participants was a highlight of the study."
Understanding what drives pro-water attitudes and behaviors was an important first
step for Callison and Holland, who currently have five accepted conference papers
and another article under review in the realm of water research.
"In order for water policy makers and crisis communicators to reach their intended
audiences, there has to be an ample understanding of how individuals view issues like
water scarcity and water pollution," Callison said. "Based on that assumption, this
study was a valuable start for social science research surrounding water issues."
New CoMC professor works to promote research
By Alexa Rosas
Before Amber Krause had decided to pursue a graduate education at Texas Tech University,
she had gained a knowledge of communication in her job at State Farm Insurance and
as a Production Coordinator at CEV Multimedia in Lubbock. While working to communicate
with industry leaders, clients, customers, and coworkers, Krause learned about the
different ways that audiences communicate.
"The way you look at products or the way you look at grant proposals changes depending
on the audience," Krause said. "I was able to gain that insight, and I think it is
going to be very applicable as I set into this position."
As a new Assistant Professor of Practice in visual communications, Krause's position
now consists of three parts. The first is teaching with the College of Media & Communication
as an Assistant Professor of Practice. For example, this Fall 2017, she is teaching
Advertising Layout and Design, and Introduction to Digital and Social Media. The second
part of her new position is time working in the Communications Training Center.
"Essentially the [CTC] position is calling for helping people across campus, whether
they be graduate students, faculty, or undergraduate students. I will be helping them
to create visuals in a more meaningful way for the audience that is being presented.
That can be their dissertation, their thesis, or their research projects," Krause
Finally, the third portion of Krause's position is to work in the Office of the Vice
President of Research, specifically with the research development team. Her first
assignment is to present at a women's grant writing workshop.
"I will help them to create simple visuals," Krause said. "I will advise them on some
basic design principles, and then give them the tools to create these visuals themselves,
so that [researchers] may make their proposals more appealing to reviewers."
Her unusual, blended mission was the result of an agreement between TTU's Provost,
the Office of the Vice President for Research, and TTU CoMC Dean, David D. Perlmutter.
"One of our main areas of research in the College of Media & Communication is science
and health communication," Perlmutter said. "About a year ago, I was talking to Dr.
Pappas, a renowned chemist at TTU, and we said, 'Wouldn't it be great if we had a
campus resource for powerful, persuasive visuals to bolster science projects?' The
Provost and the VPR shared our vision and jointly funded it with CoMC."
According to Associate Professor of Chemistry, Dimitri Pappas, students in the physical
sciences with an understanding of media in their field can gain a competitive edge.
"Amber will teach scientists and students in the sciences the value of good communication
in their scientific endeavors," Pappas reported. "There is a real fight today to cut
above the noise as the number of journals and articles is exploding."
TTU Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Michael Galyean commented,
"My office partnered with the CoMC and the Office of the Vice President for Research
to provide the funding for Amber's position. Researchers often have great ideas and
solid data to support their ideas, but if they are not able to 'package' it in an
understandable and visually appealing manner, their great ideas might have less chance
of receiving support from funding agencies or their work might be less likely to be
published in the top-quality journals."
Dr. Guy Loneragan, who was Interim VPR when the agreement was made, commented, "It
was an easy decision – it is easy to be a part of a process that helps our faculty
write more compelling proposals and disseminate research findings."
"The goal is to help faculty get above the line from 'do not fund' to 'fund'," he
said. "When that happens, more great ideas get explored. Also, being able to, for
example, produce more interesting ways to disseminate data in journal articles [will]
increase the opportunity to publish in top-tier journals and then to be cited. This
all helps in getting the data 'out' but also helps our institution's reputation as
a great public research university," he added.
Krause suggested that there is a pattern of grants that look nice, that are easily
understood, and that include visual elements being more highly accepted, based casually
on what she has seen within the OVPR's office.
"This position will, in part, teach scientists how to package and communicate their
work more effectively," said Pappas. "As much as we try to be objective, there is
a large subjective aspect to scientific peer review. The idea of institutional bias
is a real one, and anything one can do to overcome these biases brings a proposal
or publication closer to success."
Krause suggests that her role has the potential to promote research across the university.
"A job skill that is always going to be pertinent is communication, so the more scholars,
professors, and undergraduates that we can equip with communication skills, whether
that be visual, verbal, or presentation skills, the better off I think the university
will be moving forward."
Fall 2017 Career Fair
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