The Institute for Leadership Studies Continues to Grow


The Institute for Leadership Studies (ILS) was created at KU in the fall of 2015 with the purpose of expanding the academic and research foci on leadership studies, and to provide a collective for drawing together the related research across the KU campus.

It is the mission of the ILS to create capacity for thriving in the face of challenge, conflict, and change. The ILS seeks to do that through innovative curricular and research-based programming. Tasked with expanding the curriculum at KU in leadership studies, the ILS currently offers the Leadership Studies Minor, formerly housed in the Department of Communication Studies. The transition of the Leadership Studies Minor courses from COMS to the ILS — which was effective in the fall 2016 semester — has been a smooth process due to the support of Suzanne Grachek and Dr. Tom Beisecker in COMS, and Dr. Amy Leyerzapf in the ILS. Forthcoming academic programs include an online certificate in Leadership Strategies & Applications, the creation of cross-disciplinary graduate certificates in partnership with other units on campus, and a peer-based mentoring program to support KU’s retention goals. Dr. Amy Leyerzapf in the ILS is also organizing an initiative to showcase research in leadership studies at the statehouse. She has commitments from faculty at other colleges and universities across the state to join together at the capitol in the spring and showcase the importance of higher education across Kansas and to illustrate ways in which Kansans benefit from our research.

ILS engages students across campus and from all disciplines in learning to do the work of leadership by developing a core set of leadership habits and a core set of leadership competencies. Academic programming in the ILS is intentionally designed for students to have opportunities to develop the habits of self-awareness, connecting to purpose, contribution, active reflection, and lifelong learning. And, while the curriculum is closely grounded in the theory of Adaptive Leadership (Heifetz, 1994; Heifetz, Glashow & Linsky, 2009), it is further designed to help students develop the capacities of managing self, diagnosing the situation, skillfully intervening, and energizing others.

In addition to the development of leadership studies at KU in general, the ILS is expanding its women and leadership initiative. The ILS Women’s Initiative builds on the Kansas Women’s Leadership Institute (KWLI), which brings together each year 20 international women and 6 Kansas women from small/rural communities for a year-long leadership education and development program. The KWLI is funded through grant dollars and support from visionary KU Endowment donors. In addition to the KWLI, the Women’s Initiative is partnering with KU undergraduate students to create a statewide women’s leadership conference to be held at KU in the spring of 2017, developing a women’s leadership graduate certificate, and building a research collective on women’s leadership. As part of that effort, Drs. Banwart and Woszidlo will present outcomes based on longitudinal data collected with the KWLI at NCA in November, and earlier this fall Dr. Banwart was invited to the Harvard Kennedy School’s conference on Adaptive Leadership to present preliminary results of the study.

Lambda Pi Eta Making Strides to Become More Active

The Lambda Pi Eta Chapter at the University of Kansas is making strides to become a more active chapter, both in membership and also involvement at the university and in the local community. Lambda Pi Eta is a nationally recognized honor society that recognizes, fosters, and rewards outstanding scholastic achievement while stimulating interest in the communication discipline. LPH represents what Aristotle described in The Rhetoric as three ingredients of persuasion: logos (Lambda), meaning logic; pathos (Pi), relating to emotion; and ethos (Eta), defined as character credibility and ethics.

The chapter has long been established at the University, but involvement and activity was revived in the spring of 2014 when Dr. Jay Childers became the faculty advisor. In the spring of 2015 Dr. Angela Gist volunteered to be the new faculty advisor for Lambda Pi Eta. At that point, Cassandra Bird, a doctoral student and Assistant Basic Course Director, was also appointed as the graduate advisor. Dr. Gist’s experience in working with the University of Missouri Lambda Pi Eta Chapter has proven to be beneficial in rebooting and energizing forward movement of the organization. As a result, membership has grown exponentially, from five students last spring to twenty-two students this fall. Ally Northrup, President of Lambda Pi Eta’s Alpha Mu chapter and Jacob Elberg, serving as Vice President, are the current initiated members. The following new members will be initiated on November 30th, 2015:

Gabriel Alaniz
Natalie Baldinger
Abigail Cauble
Chelsea Cullen
Patricia Donahue
Bailey Fee
Matthew Frederick
Alexandria Hernandez
Mary Holden
Daniel Jenab
Roon Johnson
Miriam Levine
Erin Martin
Ian Mirsch
Thomas Murphy
Jonathan Shafer
Sydney Studer
Taylor Tobin

Currently, the organization is identifying ways in which they can become more involved on campus and in the local Lawrence community. Members participated in the Student Involvement & Leadership Center’s (SILC) Information Fair on Daisy Hill for the recruitment of new members and to inform freshman of the exciting opportunities available in the Communication Studies department. Additionally, members are volunteering at the Linkugel Speech Competition, a bi-annual speech competition that students from the Speaker Audience Communication course (the introduction to public speaking course) participate in to promote public speaking and civic engagement. Lambda Pi Eta is also identifying a local Lawrence non-profit organization to support by hosting a  philanthropic event to either raise money and/or supplies as a way to connect and give back to the local community.​


Colloquium Series speaker Dr. Angela Gist


Dr. Angela Gist, an Assistant Professor in Communication Studies, was recently featured as a guest speaker in the departmental colloquium series. Dr. Gist received her Bachelors from Ohio University in Journalism and Advertising, her Masters from University of Georgia in Mass Communication and Advertising, and her Doctorate from the University of Missouri in Organizational Communication. Dr. Gist is in her second year of teaching and research at the University of Kansas and has quickly become very involved in the local campus community. Her research interests broadly focus on organizational communication, with a more specific focus on social mobility, social class, and power.

Dr. Gist’s presentation, entitled “Qualitative and Theoretical Inquiry of Working-Class Dignity Violations in Organizations”, focused on the experiences of the working-class. Themes of her research included the linguistic infantilization of the working-class unemployed, classed disproportionate (dis)respectful social interaction, and the inherent inequality that is embedded into the institution of work.

The first of the two studies that she presented took a critical ethnographic approach to further explore a blue-collar unemployment support organization. “The findings of this study critique the organizational culture revealing that the organization operates on an implicit assumption that infantilizes the working-class unemployed and produces tension-filled, productive-destructive results in the experiences of the working-class job seekers”, says Dr. Gist.

Additionally, Dr. Gist discussed a research project that she co-authored with Dr. Kristen Lucas from the University of Louisville, that focused on a duel-path model by which managerial practices negatively impact dignity.

“I am joining an interdisciplinary scholarly conversation that seeks to empower marginalized voices.  As a critical interpretive scholar, the work I do ultimately seeks to ethically foreground the stories and experiences of individuals with lower social class status, so that we can all have a better understanding of their standpoint.  I hope to impact organizational communication by nuancing the knowledge we have regarding identity differences and by illustrating the way engaged scholarship can positively construct and improve local communities”, says Dr. Gist on the impact of her scholarly work in the organization communication field.

Communication Studies has hosted the colloquium series since the fall semester of 2008. Speakers are selected by the Colloquium Committee and come from a wide range of research backgrounds and interests. The goal of hosting the Colloquium Series is to learn from fellow scholars, enrich interdisciplinary relationships, and celebrate research that continues to impact our discipline and others.

We would like to thank Dr. Gist for sharing her research. Additionally, many thanks to those that have presented in the past and those that we look forward to hosting in the future!

If you would like to find more information on the Colloquium Series, please visit this link.

Langston Hughes Visiting Professor Dr. Alcides Velasquez


This semester, Communication Studies welcomes Langston Hughes Visiting Professor Dr. Alcides Velasquez. Dr. Velasquez holds a Ph.D. in Media and Information Studies from Michigan State University and is currently an Assistant Professor at Universidad Javeriana in Bogota, Colombia. His research concentrates on how social media affordances and social and cognitive factors influence social media activism.

During his visit, he is teaching COMS 320, Communication on the Internet, as well as a COMS 560 seminar Minority Representation in the Media.

He finds great interest from KU Faculty in engaging in cross and inter disciplinary research, especially in topics related with digital media. He values the efforts the University is making to create appropriate spaces to facilitate these new projects and ideas related with digital media, and he is looking forward to making connections campus-wide with departments and professors already engaged in research projects relating to his research.

This has already yielded results. He is collaborating on a project with two faculty members,  Dr. Joseph Erba and Dr. Hyunin Seo, from Journalism and Mass Communication about the portrayal of immigrants by users of online news websites. The goal of this research project is better understand how users of news websites are discussing the issue of immigration, given the importance it has acquired for the primary elections.

For Communication Studies collaborations, he is working with two members of faculty, Dr. Andrew Quenette and Dr. Ashley Muddiman, on a project about social media and political participation. This research project is aimed at examining whether social media acts as a gateway for traditional forms of political participation among Latino youth and will compare Latino youth with non-Latinos.  Secondly, he is collecting data with a Communication Studies Ph.D. student, Jennifer Schon that looks at mediated communication patterns between parents and their teenage children. More specifically, the study examines factors that play a role in whether and how parents utilize information communication technologies, such as learning source, learning efficacy, and mobile communication competence.

He finds the pace of life in Lawrence much different than that of Bogota, Colombia—a city of 8 million people. His wife Diana and his two sons Tomas (3 years old) and Benjamin (4 months old) have joined him, and he enjoys the family-oriented atmosphere of the University and the town.

“Lawrence has many places to take small kids to play and have fun. For someone with small children, that is very valuable. Besides, the weather has been great for outdoors activities, which is great for kids.  Life in general seems easy in Lawrence.”

When he isn’t teaching or working with other faculty and students, he enjoys watching films and listening to music, and loves playing and watching soccer.

New COMS Faculty: Dr. Ashley Muddiman

Dr. Ashley Muddiman is the most recent addition to our Communication Studies faculty. She earned her M.A. in communication from Wake Forest University, and Ph.D. in communication studies from the University of Texas at Austin. After spending two years as an Assistant Professor at the University of Wyoming, she was offered an Assistant Professorship with the Communication Studies department at the University of Kansas, and we are glad to welcome her for the 2015 Fall semester!

Dr. Muddiman’s research centers on political communication and media effects, specifically political incivility and digital news. She uses social scientific methods in her research, but she also enjoys working in departments with faculty and students who use a variety of methodological approaches to communication studies.

She is teaching two undergraduate courses for her first semester with the department. The first, COMS 335: Rhetoric, Politics, and Mass Media, focuses on the content and effects of political media. The second, COMS 560: Politics, Technology, and New Media, covers digital technology and how it influences citizens, campaigns, governance, and news.

For the upcoming spring 2016 semester, she will teach COMS 607: Political Communication, which gives students the opportunity to conduct a mock political campaign through the semester. She is especially excited about her upcoming COMS 930: New Media and Politics, which is an advanced version of her current undergraduate course for COMS 560.

For this year’s NCA, she is presenting two papers. The first, titled “What’s in a Frame? Using Political Incivility to Model News Frame Validation,” is on Thursday, Nov. 19 at 2pm. The second, scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 21 at 9:30am, is part of a paper panel titled “Embracing the Dark Side of Politics: Distrust, Avoidance, Incivility, and Difference in Contemporary Political Discourse.” During this presentation, she will discuss research about how people interact with politically uncivil news online.

When she isn’t teaching, she enjoys her two favorite hobbies: Traveling and art. In her recent travels to San Francisco, Chicago, Puerto Rico, and London to present her research, she tries to find time for sightseeing. When she can find the time, She enjoys painting, and she is looking forward to visiting the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.

She had trouble deciding what her favorite thing about Lawrence and KU has been so far.

“At KU, everyone has been so welcoming and the job fits so well. It is great to be in a place where many people, faculty and students alike, are interested in politics, digital technology, or both.”

She is enjoying Lawrence very much, and finds the variety of downtown shops and restaurants in Lawrence to be great. She adds, “I am a huge fan of the television show Parks and Recreation, so I love that the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department is fabulous and has so many free fitness centers!​”

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!


Department Spotlight for March: Dr. Scott Harris

Scott Harris
Our March spotlight is on Director of Debate (DOD), Dr. Scott Harris. Dr. Harris has been the DOD for KU debate for 24 years, and came to KU after a short stint coaching at Louisville, and completing his PhD at Northwestern University. At the start of next season, Dr. Harris will officially be the longest running debate coach at KU, having surpassed Dr. Donn Parson by one year. Read more about him below!

It is great to sit down with you! Not everyone is familiar with what college debate is, and what you do. Could you tell us a little bit more about what it means to be the Director of Debate at KU? 

Well there are a lot of different ways to answer that, and there are sort of two different questions there. What does it mean to be the DOD at KU, and what do I do. The first part of the question, my initial reaction, was I think it means the same kind of thing as being the head basketball coach at KU, given the tradition of success that KU has. When I came here, there was a lot of pressure, Dr. Parson built a legacy of success, but that began even before him. KU is one of the historic programs in debate. So being able to be a part of that tradition and history, it is overwhelming and humbling.

What do you DO as debate coach? You wear so many hats as a debate coach. You are a teacher, you are a strategist, you are a researcher, you are a counselor, you are a budget planner, you are a receipt-taper downer, you are a travel agent. There are so many many different things you do. Yesterday it was requesting money from the student senate, there are so many parts, and it changes each day.

As you mentioned before, KU debate has had, and continues to have a lot of success. Do you have any major team goals going into nationals this month with CEDA and the NDT?

The goal for CEDA is always to make it to debate the final day, and hopefully win. The goal for the NDT is to make it to the elimination rounds and to go from there.

In addition to coaching debate, you also teach classes for the department (e.g., Rhetoric of War, Rhetoric of Sports, Argumentation). What are some of your favoriteclasses that you have taught at KU? 

I don’t know that I have a favorite subject that I teach, but my favorite classes are the one’s where students are interactive, motivated, and want to learn and–sometimes that happens in one class and sometimes it doesn’t. For me, what makes teaching fun is when you have students that want to learn, and that can happen in any subject.

Last question–we’ve asked everyone! Living in Lawrence, what is your favorite thing? 

The people. It is a friendly, communal place. Growing up in Detroit, then living in Chicago, and then Louisville- this was the first smallish town that I lived in. You definitely get that sense of community.

Thanks to Dr. Harris for sitting down with us this month! We will be cheering on the Jayhawks at they travel to Wichita, KS for CEDA Nationals and Iowa City, IA for the NDT in the next few weeks.