KU Representation at OCMC

“This conference experience was unlike any other I’ve attended. I loved the focus on graduate work. I think this conference is a great way to get to know established and upcoming scholars in the field, and to know where the discipline’s research is going.”
– Abigail Kingsford, Communication Studies Masters Student

The Organizational Communication Mini Conference (OCMC) is a small
sub-disciplinary conference run by graduate students for graduate students. The purpose of the OCMC is to feature and support graduate students pursuing research about organizational communication. The two-day event provides burgeoning scholars in the field with the opportunity to present their dissertations, theses, and other research projects.  All presenters receive feedback, and socialize with peers and established Organizational Communication faculty across the nation.

KU Communication Studies graduate students Abigail Kingsford and Chris Melvin with Dr. Angela Gist attended this year’s OCMC hosted in Evanston, IL by Northwestern University.

At the conference, Abigail presented her thesis prospectus about how millennials are socialized into working. She found the conference really useful in directing the scope of her project. After numerous conversations during the poster session, she decided to switch her focus to include blue-collar workers as well as
white-collar workers to investigate the differences in assumptions about work between the two groups and how organizations helped to prepare them for their first full-time jobs. At first she was unsure about a few aspects of her project’s value before the conference, but she now credits the conversations with other professors and graduate students from other universities for building her confidence and invigorated her to be excited to keep going forward.

Though not presenting this year, Chris attended to see the presentations and network with other people in the discipline, and activity not to be undervalued!

OCMC was lasted hosted at the University of Kansas in 1998. We are proud to be part of this disciplinary tradition! Next year’s conference will be held at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

Click here to find out more about OCMC 2016: http://ocmc2016.soc.northwestern.edu/

Below: Abigail Kingsford’s poster outlining her research


KU Debate Team National Runner Up

– From Coach Scott Harris –

The KU debate team of Sion Bell, a freshman from Laurel Maryland, and Quaram Robinson, a sophomore from Round Rock Texas, finished 2nd at the 70th National Debate Tournament in Binghamton New York.  KU lost in the Championship Debate to Harvard University. The final round took place at the same time as the Men’s NCAA Basketball championship game. They are the 15th KU team to advance to the Final Four of the NDT and the 6th KU team to reach the championship debate.

The final round was the culmination of four days of competition in which the field of 78 teams was narrowed to Kansas and Harvard.  Each team in the tournament debated in eight preliminary debates and the top 31 teams Debate Team 2016

qualified for single elimination debates. Bell and Robinson began the tournament with 5 consecutive wins over the University of Southern California, George Mason University, the University of California-Berkeley, Wake Forest University, and Trinity University. They then lost back to back debates to a 2nd team from the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Kentucky before bouncing back with a win over Northwestern University in the final preliminary debate. They advanced to the elimination rounds with a 6-2 record as the 13th seed. In the first elimination round they defeated a team from Emory University to advance to the Sweet 16 and the final day of competition.

In the sweet 16 they met the 4th seeded team from the University of California-Berkeley in a rematch and defeated them for the second time in the tournament.  In the Elite Eight they had a rematch with the 5th seeded team from Berkeley that had defeated them in the preliminary rounds and this time KU emerged victorious to advance to the Final Four. In the semifinals they defeated the University of Michigan, the top seed at the tournament and the team that had entered the tournament as the 2nd ranked team in the country.  In the championship debate KU lost to the Harvard team that was the top ranked team in the country. Bell and Robinson had entered the NDT as the 17th ranked team in the country.

A second KU team composed of Chris Carey, a senior from Westwood Hills Kansas, and Amit Bhatla, a junior from Lenexa, went 5-3 in the preliminary rounds and qualified for the single elimination debates. In the preliminary rounds they defeated the University of Texas, Indiana University, the University of Wyoming, Central Oklahoma University, and the University of West Georgia. They lost in the first elimination round to the Berkeley team that Bell-Robinson would later defeat in the Elite Eight.

Quaram Robinson was recognized as the sixth best individual speaker at the tournament. Scott Harris, the David B. Pittaway Director of Debate at KU said, “We are incredibly proud of the performance of the debaters at the NDT. Quaram and Sion had an amazing tournament with 6 wins over teams ranked in the top 10. Making it to the final round was a testament to their talent and hard work. I am very grateful to the hard work of all the assistant coaches who helped them on this remarkable run.” According to Assistant Coach Sean Kennedy their performance included some historic achievements. Sean claimed, “They are the first team not ranked in the top 16 going into the tournament to make it to the final round since rankings began in 1973; they are only the 2nd team of two non-males to debate in the final round and Quaram is the first black woman to ever compete in the final round.”

It was announced during the tournament that the University of Kansas will be the host for next year’s National Debate Tournament to be held March 23-27, 2017. Coach Brett Bricker stated, “We are very excited at the prospect of bringing the NDT to the University of Kansas for the first time.”

KU teams also performed well at other national tournaments.  The team of Jacob Hegna, a freshman from Austin Minnesota, and Henry Walter, a freshman from Overland Park Kansas won the National Junior Division Debate Tournament, a national championship for debaters in their first two years of college competition. It is the third consecutive year that KU has won the NJDDT Championship. The team of Chris Fry, a freshman from Overland Park Kansas, and Will Katz, a sophomore from Topeka Kansas took 3rd place at the tournament.  The team of Lainey Schrag, a freshman from Overland Park, and Tyler Woodcock, a freshman from Leavenworth finished in 5th place. At the Cross Examination Debate Association national tournament the team of Hegna-Walter finished in 9th place.

COMS 342 Raises Money For Great Cause


This semester, $627 was raised for The Sexual Trauma and Abuse Care Center in Lawrence by graduate student Haley Vellinga’s COMS 342: Problem Solving in Teams and Groups class.

The class was split into 4 teams and each team raised the money through four different fundraising events. “Team Grade A” held a dodgeball tournament at the Union. “Team Jayhawk” held a percentage night at Buffalo Wild Wings. “Team Impact” partnered with Premier Martial Arts in Lawrence and held a Self Defense workshop. “Team J-ELM” partnered with the Lawrence Community Center and held a swimming event.

This is the first semester Haley Vellinga has taught this class. A previous instructor, Phil Wagner, had similarly partnered with The Sexual Trauma and Abuse Care Center in the past, and Haley decided to continue the tradition of focusing and advocating for this cause.

In the upcoming Spring semester, she and her class of COMS 342 students will have a chance to double their efforts when she will teach two separate sections of the class. That’s eight teams of undergraduate students all working towards the same cause. That’s the power of Problem Solving in Teams and Groups, the COMS 342 class. The real-world solutions that these students are learning is of great value for the here and now as well as the future.

The names of the COMS 342 students that participated are:
Meredith Brownell, Brooke Buckner, Maddie Dobyns, Kagen Fell, Joey Hurley, Mercedes Jellison, Megan Lindemann, Uzzie Martinez, Amy Melby, Spencer Painton, Lindsey Peterson, Cathy Readman, Jared Singer, Cameron Smith, Michael Stigler, Madisyn Warinner, Jessica Washington, and Ezekiel Welch


(Pro)Social event speaker Dr. Angela Gist


On October 23rd, 2015, Dr. Angela Gist, an Assistant Professor in Communication Studies, was the guest speaker for a (Pro)Social event. (Pro)Social is an organization that works to promote social support among graduate students in Communication Studies during their time at the University of Kansas.

As an organizational communication scholar, Dr. Gist has researched the power of networking communication in both online and interpersonal contexts. She presented several networking tools and practices that will aid individuals as they seek to build their social networks and make connections that will prove beneficial once graduate students are on the job market. She covered online tools, such as LinkedIn, building a personal website, and how to brand yourself online. Additionally, she shared personal practices of connecting with others and maintaining professional relationships. “Networking has the power to transform your career by leveraging professional relationships as opportunistic resources”, Dr. Gist said.

Natalie Hoskins, a doctoral student and president of (Pro)Social said, “As someone who is currently on the job market, I enjoyed Dr. Gist’s presentation and found it to be very useful. Her LinkedIn advice helped me fine tune my self-presentation online. However, the biggest takeaway for me, was learning that the seeds of social networking need to be planted far in advance of when you actually wish to reap what you sow. You can’t expect to make meaningful connections overnight.”

Dr. Gist’s genuine enthusiasm and passion for helping those around her succeed in developing and implementing valuable networking skill sets truly helped those in attendance reflect on the importance of networking and gain new knowledge on effective ways to do so. Thank you, Dr. Gist!

38th Annual OSCLG Conference attended by COMS Jayhawks past and present


KU Communication Studies graduate students, faculty, and alumni presented, collaborated, and gained new knowledge at the 38th Annual Conference of The Organization for the Study of Communication, Language and Gender (OSCLG) in Kentucky during September 30-October 4, 2015.

Among the attending were current graduate students Haley Vellinga, Francis Soto, Josh Morgan, COMS Professor Dr. Adrianne Kunkel, and alumni Jennifer Guthrie (now a professor at UNLV), Jimmie Manning (now a professor at NIU), Mary Beth Asbury (now a professor at MTSU), Phillip Wagner (now a professor and administrator at University of South Florida, Manatee), and Courtney McDaniel (now an MA student at UNLV).

Dr. Phillip Wagner presented his work on male fitness spaces and ideas of masculinity and the body. When asked what he thought was the best part of reconnecting with current Jayhawks, he said, “While the conference was pretty big, KU, by far, had the biggest representation. It also reminded me that no matter how far you go or how long you’ve been away, you can pick up right where you left off. Some Jayhawks had left almost a decade ago—some are still there—yet we were all like family. That’s what makes me so proud to be a Jayhawk.”

Additionally, Josh Morgan presented his research on gender and sexuality expectations, specifically examining rural LGBTQIA narratives. Courtney McDaniel, Dr. Adrianne Kunkel, and Dr. Jennifer Guthrie also gave presentations on their research.

Frances Soto had the following to say about her first conference experience: “The most rewarding takeaway was being able to strengthen my bond with my colleagues from KU in an inclusive, safe, feminist space. It was so beneficial to my academic identity to be around distinguished feminist scholars and learn about the important intersectional issues which connect us all within our society; issues that should be discussed more, not only here at KU, but also within our communities.”

As those who attended the conference returned home, Bailey Hall was filled with many positive remarks and energized researchers. “In terms of the conference, it was amazing to have 8 of my past and current students at the conference. I am so proud of all of them and it was just so incredible to see how some of them have really grown into great scholars over the years, particularly the ones who finished several years ago,” says Dr. Adrianne Kunkel.

Next year, the OSCLG conference will be held in Chicago, Illinois. We hope to have a strong Jayhawk presence again next year, both from Jayhawks near and far!


Departmental Spotlight – Weston Weibe


Weston Weibe is second year PhD. student and a first year Assistant Basic Course Director. Weston’s positive attitude and willingness to help are just two characteristics that shine in his roles as an ABCD, graduate student, and teaching assistant!  Read more about Weston below!

Please tell us about yourself, your research interests, and where you are in your studies:

I am a second year PhD student who studies interpersonal and intergroup communication. I am particularly interested in intergenerational conflict within families.

What has been the most rewarding experience working as an Assistant Basic Course Instructor?

Chipotle messed up one of our orders up during orientation. After two long months of attempting to contact the Lawrence manager, I met with him and he gave me a free burrito.

What has been the most challenging experiences or moments thus far?

I work with three very hard working individuals who are really good at what they do. It’s challenging to keep up.

What are some of your favorite hobbies when you aren’t busy teaching classes, researching, and working as a ABCD?

My newest hobby has been working on some woodworking projects with one of my roommates which has been fun. I also love to be outside, am involved with my church, and travel to Branson on a fairly consistent basis.


Departmental Spotlight – Gretchen Montgomery


Gretchen Montgomery is a MA/Ph.D. student and a first year Assistant Basic Course Director. She has so much passion and zest for education and pedagogy! Thank you for all that you do for our basic course and the department, Gretchen!

Please tell us about yourself, your research interests, and where you are in your studies:

I am taking my first year of PhD coursework and finishing up my thesis project this semester. My research focuses on intergroup communication, specifically questions about language and identity.

What has been the most rewarding experience working as an Assistant Basic Course Instructor?

Helping with orientation was great! I really enjoyed meeting and working with all of our new GTAs. I like the problem-solving aspect of the Basic Course, and being able to support our instructors when they have questions or concerns. Also, it’s always great to hear them talk about their successes in the classroom!

What have been the most challenging experiences thus far?

Any transition to a new role comes with challenges! Mostly it’s been trying to find a balance in my schedule between teaching, classes, and the Basic Course.

What are some of your favorite hobbies when you aren’t busy teaching classes, researching, and working as a ABCD?

I really enjoy cooking and learning about food. It’s my favorite way to de-stress, plus it’s a great way to think through ideas for class and research. Getting my mind distracted with cooking/baking is always when I have my breakthroughs! 🙂

I also have a 2 year old lab mix, Fiona, who is an absolute joy! We love going to the park and spending time outside.


Congratulations To Our Departmental Award Winners!

Here are the 2014-2015 graduate students to be honored in the department’s awards ceremony on May 7th, 6:30pm at Maceli’s Banquet Hall in downtown Lawrence. Congratulations to all of the winners!

E. C. Buehler Outstanding First-Year Teaching Fellowship
Daniel Overton

E. C. Buehler Teaching Fellowship
Casi Bird
Hailey Drescher

Kim Giffin Research Award
Vince Meserko
Phil Wagner

Sene and Louella Carlile Scholarship
Casi Bird
Hailey Drescher
Lindsay Harroff
Jen Schon
Chong Xing

William A. Conboy Outstanding Graduate Student Award
Chelsea Graham
Mike Kearney
Vince Meserko

Hob Crocket Departmental Research Award
Chong Xing
Natalie Hoskins

Wil Linkugel Departmental Research Award
Chelsea Graham

Department Spotlight for April: Casi Bird

Casi Bird

Our April spotlight is on PhD student, Cassandra (Casi) Bird. Casi comes to KU after completing her M.A. in Communication Studies at Central Michigan University. Casi is a third year PhD student in the department, currently finishing her comprehensive exams. She is also the only person in the department to have a top paper at the upcoming CSCA conference. Read more about her below!

Tell us a little about your research interests and plans:

My research generally concerns issues of violence. I am interested in investigating how people come to understand and cope with traumatic events. In relationship to these violent episodes I have looked at negotiations of citizenship, geography, and legal precedent. I have done a lot of work with the Department of Justice White Paper that authorized the use of drones against U.S. citizens suspected of terrorist affiliation, but I have also continued my work into presidential responses to mass shooting event such as Columbine in 1999 and Aurora in 2012. These moments are clearly unpleasant for the American community but they are also ripe for significant change and influence by our political and media elite. I expect that my dissertation will continue along the line of reception studies of violence and crisis.

In addition to doing research, you also serve as an assistant basic course director for the department. Can you tell us a little bit about what that’s like, and your experience teaching at KU? 

This role has been pretty awesome. In fact I think it’s the best decision I have made, and one I am so thankful Dr. Russo and company made, letting me work as an assistant basic course director. I love being able to talk about pedagogy and help design courses that will help undergraduates become more comfortable public speakers. Dr. Quenette has given me so many opportunities to be involved in every level of administration from working on assessment to building our COMS 132 class to being the Linkugel Speech Festival Director for the THIRD time (April 29 and May 4 from 5-7pm…a little shameless promotion here!) I think the best part is orientation and being able to help our new graduate students transition to life here at Kansas.

You currently teach the honors section of public speaking for professional schools (COMS 133). What will you be teaching next semester (Fall) that students can sign up for? 

I am fortunate enough to be able to teach that same class again! It is a class I was heavily involved in designing and working with the honors students has been a real blessing. I only have 11 students this semester (which, obviously, has been incredible) but I am hoping to have a full class again next semester!

You have been awarded the top student paper in the Political Communication division for the upcoming CSCA conference AND are a part of a top panel for the Basic Course division- CONGRATS! Can you tell us a little more about what you will be presenting about?

Thanks so much! I was actually pretty shocked! I heard a few other people had received acceptances from the Political Communication division, and I hadn’t heard a thing so I had assumed it would be bad news, but man, it was the best news ever! My paper for political communication is about how three different reading communities came to understand President Clinton’s call in his memorial speech following Columbine to “protect our children.” I analyzed how school administrators, President Clinton’s own task force on school safety, and the parents and classmates of Columbine came to understand this call. It situates the event in this historical time period to see how traumatic events lead to rash decision making and do not necessarily lead to long term success. My top panel came out of a conference Dr. Quenette, Lindsay Harroff, and I attended in September. It will be a discussion of speech festivals in communication departments; from how to get one going in departments to the successes and failures we have all had along the way.

Last question—what do you like most about Lawrence so far?

The weather. Hands down. Coming from West Michigan makes the non-snowy winters a blessing. Meeting Mike was pretty cool too. But I might still say the weather!


Department Spotlight for February: Ben Compton

Ben Compton

Our February spotlight is on new graduate student, Ben Compton. Ben comes to KU after completing his B.A. in Communication Studies at the University of San Diego. Ben received the Graduate Studies Fellowship first year student award, awarded to the Communication Studies department for the first time this last year. Read more about him below!


Tell us a little about your research interests and plans for while you are at KU: I have always described my research interests as what you and all your closest friends talk about in private: sex, attraction, and all that jazz. But maybe that’s just what my friends talked about! Since being here at KU, I’ve have been working primarily with Dr. Hall on research focused around attraction. I am also working on some projects of my own with professors at the University of San Diego about various topics like cheating and homophobia. As a new KU masters student, I am just trying to soak up as much knowledge as I can from the established professors here!

You were awarded a fellowship for the department through the Graduate School for studying at KU, congrats! Can you tell us a little about what that means for you and your time here? I was very appreciativeof being given this opportunity. Generally speaking, this opportunity has allowed me to shadow various professors and more experienced graduate students to better understand and get a feel for how to create and conduct research, whether that be by running research labs, coding, transcribing, or creating surveys. As for my time here, it allows me to focus primarily on research and hopefully will result in publications for the department. When I see how hard my cohort is working when it comes to their teaching, I try to keep up with the amount of effort they are putting in.

So starting next year you will teach, what kind of classes do you hope to get the chance to teach while at KU? As of right now, I would be thrilled just teaching Public Speaking. I have never had the opportunity to teach, but am really excited to do so. In the long term, as an interpersonal scholar, I would love to teach or assist any class within that focus. While an undergraduate, I loved all my rhetoric courses, and think they would be so much fun to teach. However, I can think of about 20 students who are way more qualified to teach than me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t dream!

Will you be attending and/or presenting at any conferences this semester? Yes, I will be traveling to Spokane, Washington and San Juan, Puerto Rico to present some work I have been doing this past semester. Guess which one I am more excited for?! In a few weeks I will be at the Western States Communication Conference presenting a paper and then this May I will goto Puerto Rico to present at the International Communication Association conference. Both presentations are on heterosexual individuals’ perceptions of same-sex cheating in exclusive relationships. For example, if I have a girlfriend, and she has a gay male best friend, what behaviors between them (such as cuddling or kissing) do I believe to be cheating behavior?

Last question—what do you like most about Lawrence so far? I would say the basketball culture. As a lifetime lover of the sport, I have grown up watching the game, memorizing the box scores, and arguing with friends over which conferences are superior. At first I put up a wall to jumping on the Rock Chalk bandwagon, but after about eight months of living in Lawrence, I finally feel like I am growing my wings and evolving into a true Jayhawk. Also, I may be the only one, but as an Arizonan, I love this cold and snow.