Texas Tech University

Holland thrives at University of Tennessee after CoMC doctoral program

James Loss

June 8, 2021

The College of Media & Communication's doctoral program seeks to equip students with the skills, knowledge, and experience required for success by providing robust opportunities for both practical and theoretical learning. Derrick Holland, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee's College of Communication and Information, is proof of the college's commitment to its graduate students.

Holland completed his bachelor's and master's degrees at Texas State University, but there was no doctoral program waiting for him there after graduation. However, Holland grew a connection with one of CoMC's most prominent faculty members while completing his master's.

Coy Callison, Ph.D., professor and associate dean of graduate studies, contributed to many of the research articles Holland read and analyzed during his master's program. Callison's previous research aligned with many of Holland's interests, and Holland was sold on his next steps in academia.

“I knew I wanted to work with him,” says Holland. “I didn't really have a direction on where I was going, but I knew I wanted to go to Texas Tech to work him.”

Holland says Callison didn't hesitate putting him to work.

As Holland entered the Ph.D. in Media & Communication program, Callison involved him in a grant project seeking to understand what types of water conservation messages would resonate with farmers in the Lubbock area. The data recovered in the project is currently under review, which means Holland and Callison continue working together even after Holland's graduation.

During his time at Texas Tech, Holland created many lasting relationships. Holland continues to work with Trent Seltzer, Ph.D., an associate professor of public relations, and although his former professors are now colleagues of Holland, he knows the time they invested in him as mentors propelled him to his current position.

“I learned so much from them the entire time,” he says. “I never considered myself a typical Ph.D. student—I'm used to doing labor work—so sometimes it felt like they really took a leap of faith on me, but they showed me so much. I got to hone my stats skills, my methodology, my problem solving. My entire skillset, everything I do, it's because of them.”

As for what Holland is doing now, he teaches a law and ethics of public relations course at the University of Tennessee. He taught a similar course at Texas Tech while in the doctoral program, which he claims led the way to his position at Tennessee.

“Teaching legal and ethical issues, specifically in the context of public relations, has been very exciting,” Holland said. “Serving our public relations students with a law and ethics course within the School of Advertising and Public Relations will hopefully become a draw for those interested in our major.” 

Holland was recently awarded the 2021 Faculty Teaching Award for his dedication to his students.

Outside of teaching, Holland has had two publications this year, one of which was in partnership with his former mentor Trent Seltzer.

“We looked at message transparency but in the context of crisis,” says Holland. “We analyzed the different crises, the types of organizational responses, and the level of message transparency. Ultimately, we uncovered that you have to disclose a generous amount of information in order to be considered accurate.”

Holland is also expecting a publication later in the year that began as a project during his time at Texas Tech.

As if Holland wasn't keeping busy enough (Callison has referred to him as a “human Swiss army knife”), he spends time volunteering around town and for his university. He recently orchestrated a panel for the University of Tennessee's social media week, where he brought in ESPN's Beth Mowins and Jessica Mendoza, who are the first women to announce play-by-play commentary and color commentary, respectively, at the network.

Holland knows his schedule is busier than most, but he prefers it that way. He has cultivated a mindset of saying yes to whatever's placed in front of him, which he applied wholeheartedly during his doctoral program. He doesn't recommend it for everyone, but he knows he wouldn't have experienced the same success if he had said otherwise.

“In your Ph.D., it's important to work as hard as you can,” he says. “I probably say yes too much, but I never wanted to be a burden on anyone. If someone wanted me to get something done, I was going to get it done as quickly and well-done as possible.”

However, Holland never felt unwarranted pressure from his mentors at Texas Tech.

“Funny enough, it's easy to work hard at Texas Tech,” says Holland. “The faculty is so great across all the different departments. They're so helpful. I enjoyed working with each and every one of them so much, and I like to think if you asked them, ‘how was working with Derrick?' they'd be positive about it. I look back on the program very pleasantly because I got to work with all those great people. And I'm still in contact with them.”

Holland relocated to Tennessee just as the pandemic began shutting down the nation. Living in a new place, still trying to get his feet beneath him, Holland says the friends he made at Texas Tech remained his greatest supporters.

“Everything was shut down,” says Holland. “I didn't know anyone yet. I had to sit in my house all day. That wasn't pleasant. Well, those people at Texas Tech were there for me. Dr. Callison, Dr. Selzter, they really were. If I needed a phone call one day, we would just chat it up for a while. That was really, really cool.”

Holland continues his habits of hard work at the University of Tennessee, and he keeps close contact with his Red Raider friends, whether it's working on another publication or a simple phone call to catch up. He says he owes his entire career to everyone who helped him along the way at Texas Tech—and he'd go back and do it again 100 percent of the time.