Texas Tech University

Converging News

November 2017

In this issue of Converging News:

Dean's Note

David D. Perlmutter, Ph.D.
Dean David D. Perlmutter, Ph.D.

Dear CoMC Friends:

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

David D. Perlmutter, Ph.D.
Professor and Dean



Communication Studies department tailors a class to pre-nursing students

By Alexa Rosas

Photography of founders of the Pre-Nursing Communication class.
(Above image L-R) - Dr. Amanda Veesart, TTU School of Nursing Dean Michael Evans (sitting), COMC Dean David Perlumutter, and Dr. Jenna Shimkowski.

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 practices."

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 their career." 

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 ability.

"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 education students."

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 grow.

"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

Archduke visits COMC-TTU Fall 2017
(Above image L-R) - Archduke Georg von Habsburg-Lothringen and CoMC Dean David Perlmutter answer questions during one of their class visits.

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 Media class.

"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 elections."

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

CoMC Ph.D. student Derrick Holland.
Derrick Holland, COMC Ph.D. candidate.

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 and Holland.

"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 

CoMC Amber Krause
Amber Krause, Ph.D.

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 said.

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

People having a conversation in front of a Southwest Airlines tableStudent speaking with a recruiterTwo students speaking with a recruiterMcGavock recruiter talking to studentsSoldier talking to a studentThree people talking to each other


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