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!