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!


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 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. 


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.