Academics

Communication Students Adapt to COVID

During the past year, everyone in the Department of Communication was called upon to adapt to new circumstances and new ways of working, teaching, and learning. And since an important aspect of adaptability is strong communication, we were in a particularly good place to model and practice those skills. Three students share their experiences as members of the Department during the pandemic, what they missed, what they found instead, and the importance of community during what many deemed an isolated year.

photo of Sara Holland LevinSara Holland Levin, First year PhD student

“UConn - and particularly our department - has done a wonderful job of making our transition to graduate school as seamless as possible during the pandemic. There has been no lack of support; the faculty and grad students have been just as approachable as I would have expected during normal times, and the effort to maintain some sense of normalcy has been truly appreciated. Even still, the human interaction element is something that I think we’ve missed out on, and perhaps only a shift back to in person learning will help. All of the pieces are there: our class meetings, research opportunities, teacher training have been so excellent. But the part I think we’re missing is the ability to get to know one another. To talk about a hilarious assignment submission we graded. To complain about the traffic. Or, on a more serious note, to express concerns like imposter syndrome (Which - is very normal! Grad school is hard!!). In normal times, it's important to work through these things together. That was certainly the case for me during my Undergraduate and Master’s programs. That’s the major missing piece that I think we’re all feeling. There’s no substitute for a strong cohort, and my hope is that our first semester in person will help us feel more connected than ever with our community here.”

photo of Kelly GrantKelly Grant, First year MA student

“While the Department of Communication at UConn has been nothing but helpful, kind, and communal, this online year has been a lot of work with little play. I moved from Michigan to Connecticut while knowing nothing about UConn or the state in order to pursue my M.A degree. While I knew much of it would be online, the transition was challenging, as I wasn’t sure what challenges were due to my own inexperience or what were common, run-of-the-mill first year student related. Even throughout this year, however, both the faculty and my fellow students have been affirming, and have continuously extended a helping hand to this new student. While online schooling in an unfamiliar state hasn’t been easy, I have the wonderful people in the Department to thank in making this transition as positive as possible in this strange year.”

photo of Lauren LewisLauren Lewis, Senior undergraduate student

Being an undergraduate student amidst a global pandemic has been a challenge to say the least. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced University leaders to shift 100+ person lecture halls to a virtual setting and halt all in-person career panels, involvement fairs, and extracurricular activities. With this shift in learning and connectivity, even the simplest coursework, like creative group projects, has become an obstacle to overcome. Although this global health crisis has presented challenges to adapt to, I am fortunate enough to be a member of the Department of Communication, where the professors and advisors have made it their mission to provide help and assistance with the transition to a virtual course load. Whether it be a question I have about coursework or a deadline, or a request for an extension on a project due to having COVID or simply being overwhelmed by coursework, family issues and job interviews, I have always been met with kindness and leniency from the professors in the Department. The professors have been attentive to student needs oftentimes providing surveys for students to give their candid feedback, and changing parts of the course to align with student requests. In addition, my advisor, Joel Nebres, has been helpful during the transition to an online school year. He was always readily available for a meeting, whether it was for assistance on scholarship essays, or advice on prospective courses to take. He also implemented virtual panel series with experienced professionals within the Communication industry. As a second-semester senior, I was beyond appreciative of these engaging and informative sessions. Candidly, I can admit that this year was a struggle; all of my classes were entirely virtual making it hard to build connections with classmates and stay engaged and motivated to keep up on classwork. However, members of the Department were always there along the way, offering assistance or words of encouragement that gave me the strength and persistence to finish off the year strong!”

New Faculty Join Communication

The Department of Communication hired two new faculty for Fall 2020 and three more for Fall 2021. In Storrs, we welcome Drs. Jocelyn Steinke, Jiyoun Suk, and Elizabeth Hintz. Meanwhile, in Stamford, we are joined by Drs. Tyler Page and April Yue, as part of a new initiative to offer the major in its entirety on both the Storrs and Stamford campuses. Read on for more about our new colleagues.

Elizabeth Hintz, Ph.D.

photo of Elizabeth Hintz

Elizabeth Hintz (Ph.D., University of South Florida) will be joining the Department of Communication in August 2021 as an Assistant Professor of Health Communication. Elizabeth’s research examines how individuals managing complex, stigmatized, and poorly understood health conditions navigate challenging conversations with partners, family members, and medical providers. Her work can be found in journals such as Journal of Communication, Communication Monographs, Communication Methods and Measures, Health Communication, and Journal of Family Communication.

In her free time, she enjoys traveling (on hold for now), hiking, and spending time with her husband and two fluffy orange cats, Keaton and Lionel. She is looking forward most to leaving the Florida heat and joining her wonderful future colleagues in Connecticut in August.

Tyler Page, Ph.D.

photo of Tyler Page, Assistant Professor

Tyler G. Page (Ph.D. at University of Maryland, 2018) joined the Department of Communication in August 2020 from Mississippi State University. A converted academic, he has a background in public relations and marketing in the technology sector. Prior positions include his role as the first marketing/public relations person at survey-giant Qualtrics, and the Vice President of Marketing and Operations at Peer60, Inc (now Reaction Data). Tyler’s research examines public relations theory and the effects of crisis communication. He has won top paper awards at AEJMC and NCA.

Tyler has lived all over North America (7 States and 1 Province) and passionately follows sports. He used to moonlight as a blogger / podcaster covering Major League Soccer, but now he spends his evenings chasing around his 3-year-old son.

Jocelyn Steinke, Ph.D.

photo of Prof. Jocelyn SteinkeJocelyn Steinke joined the Department of Communication in August 2020 as an Associate Professor of Science Communication. Jocelyn’s research focuses on the influence of media portrayals of women scientists and engineers on adolescent girls’ identification with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and published in scholarly journals such as Science Communication, Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, Frontiers, and others. Jocelyn serves on the editorial board of Science Communication and was named an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) fellow, recognized for her contributions to the public understanding of science. Jocelyn earned a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, M.P.S.  from Cornell University, and B.A. from Mount Holyoke College.

Jocelyn enjoys baking, gardening (organic vegetables and flowers), swimming, kayaking, and hiking with her husband, daughter, and son. She is delighted to join her accomplished colleagues in the Department of Communication.

Jiyoun Suk, Ph.D.

photo of Prof. Jiyoun Suk

Jiyoun Suk will be joining the Department of Communication in August 2021. She studies the role of communication processes in shaping civic trust, activism, and social justice. She is particularly interested in how people understand different social groups, marginalized communities, and populations with less political power.

When she is not working, she loves indoor cycling and running, which helps her stay active and vibrant. Though largely disrupted by the pandemic, she also enjoys traveling, trying new foods and cultures, and learning from new experiences. Also, as a huge animal lover, she enjoys drawing cartoons of her dog Rocky, a 2 year old Bichon Frise.

Cen “April” Yue, Ph.D.

photo of Cen April Yue, assistant professor

Dr. Cen April Yue is an incoming assistant professor of Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations. April's research interests focus on internal public relations, leadership communication, organizational change management, and relationship management. She has published in scholarly journals such as Public Relations Review, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, International Journal of Communication, and International Journal of Business Communication, among others. Prior to graduate school, April worked as a reporter and public relations professional in China. April is also a Research Editor at the Institute for Public Relations’ Organizational Communication Research Center.

Outside of work, April is a movie buff and appreciates everything by David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, and Wong Kar-wai. She used to run a film club screening independent and international films open to local communities at Purdue. Music-wise, she loves works from Philip Glass, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Lorde, and recently, Joey Yung.

April received her Ph.D. in mass communication with a specialization in public relations from the University of Florida in 2020. She also holds a masters' degree in communication from Purdue University.

Greetings from the Department Head

Greetings from the Department of Communication! Our Department continues to grow in popularity and visibility, and we will be welcoming five new faculty members when we return to campus in Fall 2021. In Storrs, we will welcome Drs. Jocelyn Steinke, Jiyoun Suk, and Elizabeth Hintz. Meanwhile, in Stamford, we will be joined by Drs. Tyler Page and April Yue, as part of a new initiative to offer the major in its entirety on both the Storrs and Stamford campuses. For more on our new colleagues, their research, and their teaching expertise, please see https://comm.uconn.edu/faculty.

Not only are our new hires working at the cutting edge of Communication research, but they will be providing critical training to our students in marketing and public relations, science and health communication, and social media analytics. Their expertise will help our grads remain at the forefront of the skills employers seek – as evidenced by our 90% placement rate one year after graduation.

We are very proud of all we do here in Communication, but we could use your help. Due to cuts in state funding, we were already looking at budget reductions in the coming year. With the added financial impact of the COVID pandemic, we are more reliant than ever on alumni contributions to continue providing the quality academic experience our students deserve. For example, the software that we use to teach big data analytics costs $250 per year, per lab desktop. Our production courses are reliant on aging equipment, while our students pay out of their own pockets to travel to conferences and network with employers.

Please consider donating at http://s.uconn.edu/commsupportfund. No amount is too large or too small, and your tax-deductible contribution will help ensure that we can continue to provide a great academic experience and a valuable degree to future Huskies.

Yours Sincerely,
Ken Lachlan
Professor and Department Head

Department Launches New Undergraduate Curriculum

Since the department’s establishment as a standalone unit in 2012, the undergraduate program in Communication has grown and adapted to reflect a rapidly-changing discipline. Communication is one of the largest majors in UConn’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, enjoying steady growth during the 2010’s. The department places a focus on quality instruction, innovative pedagogy, and adaptive goals that reflect the needs of our students.

In 2019, the department conducted a rigorous self-study followed by an external program review. As part of this process, we identified areas where our undergraduate program needed to continue to grow, gaps that should be addressed, and opportunities to work more efficiently. Shortly after the conclusion of this process, we decided the timing was right to deconstruct the program we had created over the years and rebuild its components in a single, cohesive plan that could reflect our educational, organizational, and cultural goals.

Read more about our new curriculum below:

Process

Beginning in November of 2019, we envisioned an 18-month process for the revitalization of our undergraduate curriculum and program. Changes would be introduced in the Fall of 2021, after passing through rigorous faculty vetting and the appropriate university channels. Our goal was to work deliberately, considering each piece of our program as we made changes to ensure that every adjustment was delivered with purpose. In 2020, COVID-19 put an unexpected strain on this process as all participants worked to pivot courses to online instruction. Nevertheless, thanks to the persistence of our faculty and staff and the utility of online collaboration tools, we were able to meet our intended timeline.

Goals

Our curricular redesign was conducted with five primary goals in mind:

1. Ensure we’re meeting the learning objectives set forth by the National Communication Association.

A student of Communication should be able to:

    • Describe the communication discipline and its central questions.
    • Employ communication theories, perspectives, principles, and concepts.
    • Engage in communication inquiry.
    • Create messages appropriate to audience, purpose, and context.
    • Critically analyze messages
    • Demonstrate the ability to accomplish communicative goals.
    • Apply ethical communication principles and practices.
    • Utilize communication to embrace difference.
    • Influence public discourse

2. Rebalance the courseload across all four levels of study.

1000-level: Gateway courses to the Communication Major. Introductory courses that can serve outside departments as general education or foundational courses.
2000-level: Core courses in the Communication Discipline. Courses that provide baseline training and skill development in major domains of the field, preparing students for more advanced work.
3000-level: Specialty courses in the Communication Discipline. Courses that build upon knowledge developed at the 2000-level, including deeper dives into specific and nuanced areas of the field.
4000-level: Academic and Professional Student Development. Courses that prepare students for future work in academia or industry. Students will synthesize theory, research, and practice in the creation of high-caliber works. Products from these courses should directly translate to students’ academic and professional portfolios.

3. Ensure ‘Truth in Advertising’ in our Undergraduate Course Catalog.

We updated course names and descriptions to ensure they accurately reflect the modern course content, and eliminated courses that had not been offered recently. We also reworked our course numbering scheme to categorize our offerings into seven different course series, making it clear to students which courses cluster together in various areas of the discipline.

4. Encourage further experiential and application-based learning without losing our theoretical roots.

Modern communication graduates need to be able to reach complex audiences with effective messages, which places a premium on skills such as content development, data analysis, and professional communication. As a social science program, we looked for ways to develop these skills within a framework that values the role of communication theory and research. This approach ensures that our students receive a balanced education that prepares them for both professional careers and graduate-level academic studies.

5. Promote faculty experimentation within a modern curricular framework.

As society changes, so does the communication discipline. By introducing Variable Topics courses in each course series, and working to incentivize innovative course development, we want to empower faculty to regularly experiment with new ideas in the classroom.

Communication Courses

Beyond our required introductory and methodology classes, we restructured our courses into seven major series that reflect the range of the discipline. In virtually all cases, the 2000-level course offering in a series serves as the primary pre-requisite for all successive courses at the 3000 and 4000 levels to simplify enrollments. This structure also identifies five core courses that anchor their respective course series and serve as the foundation to our students’ education in the field. Finally, six advanced courses are identified as immersion courses, in which our students engage in practical work in the field prior to graduation.

Introductory Courses

1000: The Process of Communication
1100: Principles of Public Speaking

Methodology Courses

2000Q: Research Methods in Communication
2010Q: Applied Research Methods

100’s: Professional Communication

2100: Professional Communication (core)
2110: Presenting in the Digital Age
3110/w: Organizational Communication
3120/w: Small Group Communication
3130: Comm. in Conflict Management
3198: Variable Topics in Professional Comm.

 

 

200’s: Interpersonal Communication

2200: Interpersonal Communication (core)
3210: Gender in Communication
3220/w: Intercultural Communication
3222/w: People of Color and Interpersonal Comm.
3230: Marital and Family Communication
3240: Nonverbal Communication
3241: Motivation and Emotion
3298: Variable Topics in Interpersonal Comm
4200/w: Advanced Interpersonal Communication

300’s: Media Effects and Audiences

2300: Effects of Mass Media (core)
3310/w: Media Literacy and Criticism
3320: Media & Diverse Audiences
3321: Latinas and Media
3322: Soap Opera / Telenovela
3330/w: Children and Mass Media
3398: Variable Topics in Media Effects
4300/w: Advanced Media Effects

400’s: Communication in Context

3410/w: Political Communication
3415: Protest and Communication
3420/w: Health Communication
3430/w: Science Communication
3498: Variable Topics in Specialized Comm.
4411: International Communication and Conflict

 

500’s: Persuasion and Promotion

2500: Persuasion (core)
3510: Marketing Communication
3520: Communication Processes in Advertising
3530: Public Relations
3598: Variable Topics in Persuasion and Promotion
4501: Advanced Persuasion and Communication
4510: Comm. Campaigns and Applied Research
4530w: Public Relations Writing
4540: Crisis Communication

600’s: Communication Technology

2600: Media in the Information Age (core)
3600: New Communication Technologies
3605: Communication Technology & Social Change
3610/w: Computer-Mediated Communication
3698: Variable Topics in Communication Technology
4640/w: Social Media - Research and Practice
4650: Human-Computer Interaction

 

700’s: Multimedia Production

2700: Fundamentals of Digital Production
3700: Visual Communication
3798: Variable Topics in Multimedia Production
4710: Narrative Digital Video Production
4720: Nonfiction Digital Video Production
4799: Independent Study in Multimedia Prod.

Immersion Courses

4979: Digital Portfolio
4981: Internship in Communication
4982: Research Practicum
4996: Undergraduate Research
4997w: Senior Thesis
4999: Independent Study

Major and Minor

The new major raises the number of credits in communication, expands the number of core courses required, and adds an Immersion Courses requirement. Each of these changes will allow our graduates to create a clearer picture of their education upon completion of the degree. For the minor, requirements remain flexible to meet the diverse needs of interested students. Across both, students have the option to pursue depth (by working extensively in one or two course series) or breadth (by selecting courses across the curriculum.)

Communication Major

  • COMM 1000 and COMM 1100.
  • 30 credits in 2000-level or above COMM courses, as follows:
    • Methods: COMM 2000q or 2010q
    • 4 of 5 Core courses (COMM 2100, 2200, 2300, 2500, 2600)
    • 15 additional credits in COMM, including:
      • At least one COMM writing (W) course
      • At least three credits in Immersion courses
  • 12 outside related credits at 2000-level or above (CLAS requirement)

Communication Minor

  • COMM 1000 and COMM 1100
  • 15 credits in 2000-level or above COMM courses, as follows:
    • Methods: COMM 2000q or 2010q (or equivalent)
    • 2 of 5 Core courses (COMM 2100, 2200, 2300, 2500, 2600)
    • 6 additional credits in COMM

Core Courses

image listing COMM Core CoursesCore courses teach students about the breadth of the communication discipline while providing the foundation for deeper inquiry needed in our 3000- and 4000-level courses. For both the communication major and minor, core courses represent a substantial amount of required coursework in a student’s plan of study. While each core course is uniquely suited to its subject matter, they collectively aim to accomplish the following goals in support of the undergraduate program:

  1. Develop competencies in the National Communication Association’s key Learning Outcomes to ensure our graduates meet the education standards of the discipline.
  2. Frame the discipline of communication clearly, including the roles of theory and research in its development, to prepare students to engage with more nuanced topics and challenges.
  3. Empower students to think like a communication expert when engaging with social, professional, political, and technological issues.
  4. Establish the self-efficacy, professionalism, and problem-solving skills that students need to succeed in advanced courses, professional careers, and graduate-level work.

The Department offers five Core courses, which also serve as important prerequisites to advanced courses in the program. All communication majors must complete at least four of the five courses as part of their plan of study; communication minors must complete two of the five courses.

Immersion Courses

Understanding communication from a theoretical and methodological perspective is critical to the success of our students, but this knowledge is not sufficient without direct experience. Immersion courses serve as a supported environment where students are encouraged to apply and experience the concepts, theories, and ideas they have learned in the classroom.

Through immersion courses, students will:

  1. Devote considerable time and effort to work that develops practical skills in communication in preparation for future professional and academic work.
  2. Formulate meaningful working relationships with experts (faculty, alumni, corporate professionals, community leaders) over an extended period of time.
  3. Receive frequent constructive feedback about their performance to help better their work.
  4. Develop the experience, resourcefulness, and ethical grounding to act with confidence in academic and professional settings.

Given the diversity of our student body, we offer a variety of different immersion courses so students can choose the experience that best fits their interests, with the option to complete more than one as part of their plan of study. All communication majors must complete a minimum of three credits through one or more immersion courses:

Digital Portfolio (COMM 4979) allows students to continue to improve their digital production skills to assemble a collection of work that showcases their academic and creative talent.

Internship (COMM 4981) facilitates student entry into the business environment through supervised work in professional and community organizations.

Research Practicum (COMM 4982) connects students to ongoing research projects to contribute to the development, operation, or maintenance of the projects with careful supervision from faculty and graduate students.

Undergraduate Research (COMM 4996) provides students who are ready to lead their own research, the space and support to do so in partnership with at least one department faculty member.

Senior Honors Thesis (COMM 4997w) supports honors students in the research and writing of an undergraduate thesis with the support of a faculty advisor.

Independent Study (COMM 4999) enables students to pursue individualized, advanced projects under the guidance of a faculty member.

More to come…

While developing this new curriculum, our conversations shifted quickly from curricular requirements and structures to the type of culture we want to develop in our Undergraduate Program. To sustain a great program, we need to be clear on our vision, and incorporate our values into each learning experience. Keep an eye out for more on our vision, our values, and how we plan to incorporate those into our Undergraduate Program.

TL;DR

Just want the basics? For a summary of the new Communication curriculum, check out this video from Director of Undergraduate Studies Steve Stifano for students thinking about a major or minor in Communication.

Finals Survival Tips from Your Fellow Huskies

Finals week is stressful. As the dreaded week before winter break rolls around, I’m sure everyone is asking themselves the same question, “what should I be doing to prepare?’

Instead of Googling “Tips for Finals Week,” I decided to go old school this year and ask students on campus what they actually find helpful for them before or during finals week.  Here are some of their favorite stress relievers and go-to study tips:

STRESS RELIEF

“Meditation definitely helps me. I have this app called Aura and it’s amazing for stress and anxiety.” – Sidney Rochlin ‘19 (CLAS)

“It always helps me to talk things out to someone else.” – Ellie Grafstein ‘19 (BUS)

“If I have a chance to, Yoga really helps me clear my head.” – Katie Grigely ‘20 (ED)

“Don’t pull all-nighters, get sleep!!!” – Julianna Vinciguerra ‘19 (NUR)

“I actually clean my apartment as my stress reliever.” – Kelly Pagoto ‘19 (BUS)

Sometimes I just say to myself ‘I’m doing nothing and I deserve it’…that usually ends up with me watching Netflix and a face mask!” – Joni Cotter ‘19 (CLAS)

“My go-to is cooking or baking. Then I binge eat most of it…” – Amanda D’arbanville ‘19 (BUS)

 

STUDY TIPS

“Hand writing a study guide with the most important things. Handwriting is really helpful with memorization.” – Nicole Williams ‘19 (BUS)

“I really try to start studying at least a week before and devote around 30 minutes to an hour every day for that one exam until the actual test day.” – Kwaku Gyasi ‘19 (CLAS)

“Quizlet’s test mode is really good for studying! They make it so simple.” – Liz Gallucci ‘19 (BUS)

“I plan out step-by-step what I need to do for the week on my calendar to make sure I stay organized.” – Marisa Nazzaro ‘20 (ED)

“Well first I have a good cry…just kidding! But using color coded highlighters is definitely my lifesaver.” – Avery Adams ‘19 (CLAS)

 

I hope by reading about how other students on your campus use their time to succeed during finals week was helpful—and, at least, comforting, to know you’re not the only one, and we’re all in this together.  I know I’m definitely am going to try some of their study tips and stress relievers!

While taking advice about this upcoming week it is important to remember, no matter how many articles you read about tips for studying, everyone is different and not everything will work for you. Even though studying is important, taking breaks is important, too. Taking stock of HOW you spend those breaks, might help you make the most of them and get the maximum benefit.

I hope one of these tips from your fellow Huskies will help you get through these exams and onto the holiday break that you so very richly deserve. Good luck to all!

 

Time Management Tips

By: Meghan Farrell

Communication Major & Economics Minor, 2019

As a student who juggles multiple jobs, a full-course load and community involvement, I had assumed that simply having many responsibilities would be enough to make me “good at time management.” However, in college I quickly learned that time management skills do not come automatically from the addition of more tasks, but the quality and impact of your work really matters, too. My work experiences have taught me that careers in communication require excellent time management ability as one must manage multiple deadlines, competing priorities and diverse audience needs—all while ensuring a high standard of attentiveness to detail.

 

One of the most important tokens of advice I received was to consider time management not as a standalone skill, but a combination of them. In the spirit of paying forward, I offer my own tokens of advice on time management.

 

Start with the Work That Matters Most. My first tip is to identify the work that energizes you, particularly when there are pressing demands on your time. Deadlines are going to conflict, emergencies are going to arise, meetings will be rescheduled, someone is going to hate your first draft; however, if you are passionate about the work you will find the energy to push through and move to the next task.

 

Make a Working List. I also recommend keeping a fluid to-do list. Planning and organization are among the most obvious time management skills, but it is easy to get overwhelmed if you are resistant to adapting your plans. I often block out time for specific work and school responsibilities, but I also ensure that I evaluate my task list at least twice daily. Reflecting on your to-do lists can also help you come up with creative ways to take advantage of the “slow” parts of your day. I listen to recorded lectures or relevant podcasts on my commute to my internship to reinforce material from classes, and I spend time between classes strategizing article or design ideas.

 

Keep Communication Channels Open. Working as a member of a team is common in many upper level courses, and it’s the norm in most office environments. Communication, delegation and empathy help you manage time in a team environment for efficient work flows. Clear communication and delegation of responsibilities, from the start, will help your team succeed. In my school projects, I create task communication documents in Google Docs that outline objectives for the project, allow people to sign up for the tasks that align to their strengths and track progress to hold everyone accountable. The tracking document also helps identify challenges early on, so that you can intervene effectively before tensions build or it’s too late to solve a problem effectively.

 

Practice Self-Care. One of the most important lessons that I have learned to improve time management skills is how to manage stress. Anyone who took Interpersonal Communication knows that stress can have damaging effects on both your mental and physical well-being. Understanding how you can respond effectively to stress and setbacks will make you stronger when you face your next challenge. Thus, it’s important to also develop your coping skills as a co-requisite of your time-management skillset.

 

Stress Doesn’t Breed Creativity. Especially in a career where you are called upon to think creatively, it is important to give yourself mental breaks to recharge. There are many ways to manage stress, so it is important to find what works best for you. For example, I love the outdoors, and I will often casually write content while sitting outside: I remember one article that I wrote in September at 4,580’ elevation, nestled in the White Mountains. Being in nature allows me to clear my head and broaden my perspective so that I can tackle my next assignment with a renewed focus.

My Education Abroad Experience

Imagine it’s February and you’re wearing nothing heavier than a light coat. You’re walking on the cobblestone streets heading towards the Ponte Vecchio while eating the best gelato in the world and you have plans to travel to Spain the next weekend with your newfound friends. For me, I could never picture that being my life, especially in college. Before studying abroad, I was never a big traveler and had never left the country. I was born and raised in Connecticut, as well as attending UConn, so applying to study somewhere that was that far where people spoke an entirely different language seemed scary to me. After hearing my friends discuss the application process, I decided to join in and research. Soon after, I realized my interest was prominent enough to apply. The website made the checklist clear and manageable. As the application deadline came closer and I had officially applied, I became more and more eager to actually go. At that point I was unsure of what place was right for me but after speaking to the abroad advisors, I realized Florence, Italy was the perfect fit. I was drawn to how Florence was a city, but on a smaller scale. The history and unique culture made me feel like that place could be my home, all while learning about my family heritage. The city, people, and classes could not have done a better job of making that come true.

A couple months later, I got off the plane and was in an entirely new country. The first week was a blur, exploring new sights and settling into my Italian apartment. Soon, once classes started, a more structured schedule helped me make the most of my time every day. In my semester there, I took four classes: Social Media, Italian, Intercultural Communication, and the Art of Buon Fresco. Luckily for me, two of my courses provided valuable knowledge in my future career as well as my major.

Social Media took us step by step on how to create interesting, eye catching posts as well as how to build your audience reach. In that class, we took “field trips” and went to the major sites, such as the Boboli Garden, to take pictures for our Instagram account we created for the course. In Intercultural Communication, we discussed how important it is to be culturally sensitive and aware. Also, in that course, we interacted with students from the University of Florence regularly and discussed topics together such as stereotypes. For my Communication major, these courses helped me gain skills and perspective on what may be asked of me later on in my upcoming career.

While those two helped me with my career path, all four guided me through the culture while I was there. Italian, of course, gave me the basic understanding of the language that I was able to speak, or at least try to, with the locals (which they greatly appreciated). Florence is known for their beautiful artwork around the city, thus why the Art of Buon Fresco provided me with insight and background of the famous works of art I was seeing every day. One of our lessons in that class was a trip to Palazzo Pitti. We walked through the palace’s historic rooms and discussed the fresco’s we saw, their techniques and meanings. After that class, places like Palazzo Pitti are no longer just beautiful pieces of architecture, they tell a story through the artwork within about what life was like during that time period. Without taking these classes, I would have never known about the culture and everyday life in another country the way I do now.

Although my courses happened to teach me about subjects in my major, every course you take will still help you in the future. Think about it: you are in an entirely new country, whichever you choose, and you are in a classroom. The professor will be from that area and will be able to give you lessons from their local perspective. Already, you will begin to understand and learn what the people from that country think and think about. Also, once you live outside of the U.S. for a while, you are able to learn about an entirely new culture and find new ways to empathize with those not from your background. You are able to work on your ability to think bigger and outside of what you know. That alone will help you in the future. The independence, confidence and experience that you had there will follow you for a lifetime.

I was hesitant about going at first; however, thankfully I made the right choice for me as I would never take that time back. I believe this was the best adventure for me to grow as a person thanks to my informative classes and open mind each day I was there. So with the application deadline approaching, my advice to you would be to research more about studying abroad. What could it mean for you? Where would be your perfect place? If you think this could be right for you, apply for this amazing opportunity! If you are even thinking about, or want to know more about study abroad, speak to your academic advisor as well as the abroad advisors! You never know if it’s right for you unless you try.

People of Color & Interpersonal Communication

As the Spring 2018 semester began, Communication students were buzzing about the new courses that had been added to the course catalog. One of the new courses, People of Color and Interpersonal Communication (COMM 4222) taught by Professor Shardè Davis, has been particularly popular amongst students.

The objectives of this course are to observe the impact of race, ethnicity, and culture on interpersonal interactions and survey key theories and empirical works of past and current race relations in the U.S., negotiation of identity, and ways identity is communicated in various personal relationships. Professor Davis teaches students about the communication theories that may be relevant to many people of color that are not thoroughly covered in any other course within the university.

Students learn through many different personal experiences throughout the course. For example, students complete a project where they observe race relations in a public place on campus, and they also partake in a privilege walk to understand the different intersecting forms of identity and oppression. Students are able to gain knowledge from one another through this experiential method of learning. The classroom cultivates meaningful and productive conversation about the relations between communication and race.

Professor Davis hopes that students are able to learn theories and language that will help them understand the experiences that they go through in their lives. This class builds upon the interpersonal communication courses that students have already taken while intertwining aspects of diversity in communication. People never stop communicating, and this course teaches students how to communicate more effectively with a more diverse population.

Professor Davis stressed the importance of keeping the course relevant. Race relations in America and the world are always changing, and because of that, so will class discussions and projects. She emphasized the need to make the class relevant to the world around us and the experiences that her students are going through.

Students are thrilled to have a course like this at the university, and many of them can’t stop talking about their experiences with the course. A current student stated, “I like this course because I’m able to hear different perspectives on life and how their experiences shaped those perspectives. I would describe the class as a place where a group of students are able to have meaningful and insightful conversations about topics that our society has deemed as taboo. Dr. Davis is a great professor that has taught me valuable life lessons that I can use outside the classroom to be not only a better member of society but more importantly, a better person overall”.

The course will be offered online in the Summer of 2018 for any interested students. For any questions about the course or Dr. Davis’ research, you can email her at sharde.davis@uconn.edu

Students Campaigning About Gender Issues

 

Both Women’s, Gender, Sexuality Studies and Communication students are enrolled in Gender in Communication (COMM 3450) , currently being taught by graduate student Kara Winkler. The course explores the overlap between WGSS concepts and the ways in which humans communicate. Similar to persuasion (COMM 3100), the course allows students to be a part of a semester long group project that creates a campaign to address social issues happening on the UConn campus.

 

This course was created to help students understand how social and biological constructs intersect and interact to produce gender and to understand how gender influences and is influenced by language, relationships, and communication. By the end of the course,  students recognize that gender cannot be fully understood without examining its relationship to class, race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation, while articulating the influence of media in the construction and perpetuation of the meaning of gender.

 

The Gender in Communication project allows students to create campaigns based on issues surrounding gender. Each campaign brings attention towards an important issue on the UConn campus. Students this semester are focusing on gender stereotypes, intersectional feminism, women’s reproductive rights, women in the workplace, and many more interesting topics. Each campaign is presented to the class and brought to the campus where they are promoted through social media, websites, panels etc. The promotional materials are now filling the campus and internet, gaining many followers for each campaign. Overall, the campaign project is a fun, interactive, and rewarding way to demonstrate understanding of course concepts and also get involved in the UConn community.

 

Gender plays an incredibly important role in the way we communicate. The course touches upon the influence of culture, language, stereotypes, values, and many more things on our perceptions of gender, and how our perceptions of gender influence all of those things as well. The effects of gender in communication depends on the person and their own experiences and challenges with gender identities, expressions, and expectations. Learning about gender and communication is important for understanding our complex social world. “I think the most important aspect of this course is exposure ideas that challenge previously held beliefs, attitudes, and values that are so deeply ingrained in our society” says Winkler.

Behind the Lens

When it comes to building a schedule for the upcoming semester there are things that every student looks for: new courses and classes that only meet one time a week with no textbooks. If I’m being honest, that was why I enrolled in Digital Production. Little did I know I enrolled in an incredibly enriching applied course that would allow me to unleash my creativity in ways I’ve never been able to before.

Walking into the first class of Digital Production I was concerned because there were only 35 people in a 150 person lecture hall, and I assumed no one even bothered to show up. I later learned that the course was designed to use a big lecture hall so we could use class time to collaborate. As Professor Stifano walked in, it was clear that something was going to be different about this course as the first thing he said was “I’m Professor Stifano, but you can call me Steve. If I could be wearing sweatpants I would be.” The course is presented in a very relaxed manner, allowing every student to feel comfortable sharing ideas and thoughts about projects they are making. The greatest part about a small class size setting is that you get to develop a strong bond with your classmates to create things that are more than just a group project. We created stories, we created movements, we created news, collectively.

With equipment provided by the Communication Department, the only thing that we had to worry about was coming up with ideas, and making them come to life through photo essays and short films.  While many courses that are required for the Communication major stress theoretical approaches, this course allows us to test out those theories. Professor Stifano gave us complete freedom to turn our passions into visions.  By pushing us to ask ourselves what we’re afraid of, what we care about, what we believe in, we could exemplify those things in our images and films.

Initially my classmates and I were nervous about operating equipment, coming up with new ideas, and editing films. It’s one thing to read about how to do these things, but to actually get our hands dirty and develop those skills allowed us as students and artists to build off of each other and create really amazing projects. Every single group developed friendships that continued outside and after the class.

Communication is a lot more than just learning how to speak to one another. This class explores the way that we can communicate through different types of media. Communication becomes an art in this course because of the way the we carefully design each message. We learn about media bias, hypodermic needle model, and decoding messages in every communication course that we take, but this class allowed us to experiment with them in our own projects.

Professor Stifano’s passion for the class and respect for all of our projects and ideas makes COMM 2940 an environment where students can thrive.