Speaker Series

The Department of Communication's Speaker Series invites guests from all areas of the discipline to share their research and expertise. As it is confirmed, speaker information will appear below.

For 2020-2021, Speakers Series events will take place via WebEx at:
http://s.uconn.edu/commspeakers

Tuesday, October 13, 2020 – Dr. Sorin Adam Matei

photo of Dr. Sorin Adam Matei12:30-1:45 p.m.

The “1% effect:” adhocractic rule and content quality in online production systems

Dr. Sorin Adam Matei, Purdue University
Professor, Brian Lamb School of Communication
Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Education, College of Liberal Arts

The top 1% contributors to Wikipedia, ranked by size of collaborative effort, are responsible for more than 2/3rds of the content produced on the site. Many other social media projects are also dominated by a relatively small number of voices. Yet, the deeper meaning, the mechanisms, and the effects of the observed unevenness are still under debate. The presentation proposes a “structural differentiation” perspective to understand online collaborative production of content. Uneven contributions are seen as the result of an evolutionary process, which generate new types of social structures. I use entropy and “elite stickiness” analysis of Wikipedia and Stack Overflow (a popular Question and Answer site) to detect discrete phases in the evolution of the two projects.  A “steady state,” signaling that structural differentiation has stabilized, is found in both spaces. This final state, is however, dynamic. I call it “adhocracy,” to recognize that leadership is achieved, not ascribed, and roles are temporary and mission-driven. More important, structuration and stickiness of elites interact and have a tangible impact on content quality. The presentation summarizes some of the findings of the Structural differentiation in social media: Adhocracy, entropy, and the 1% effect  volume, published by Springer Nature.


Sorin Adam Matei, Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Education, College of Liberal Arts and Professor of Communication, Brian Lamb School of Communication, studies online social structures and the interaction between technology and online groups. He is the founder of the NSF funded project Kredible.net and has initiated and founded several forward-looking interdisciplinary teams at Purdue University that connect humanities, social sciences, and computer science. He is also the leader of the Global Perspectives on Internet Communication program in Paris, France organized with experts from the French National Assembly, Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel (FCC-equivalent), and The French Laboratory of Excellence for the Study of Media and Creative Industries .  His most recent publications include the volumes Data factories,Transparency in Social MediaEthical Reasoning in Big Data and Structural differentiation in social media: Adhocracy, entropy, and the 1% effect.

Website: http://matei.org/ithink/

Link to slideshow: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1_i2WnrrYmvTtTxQObWxxo9AZYA4mU1Ac/view?usp=sharing

Thursday, November 12, 2020 – Dr. Rebecca Acabchuk

photo of Dr. Rebecca Acabchuk12:30-1:45 p.m.

Mindfulness and Well-being: Connecting Research to Practice

Dr. Rebecca Acabchuk, University of Connecticut
Post-Doctoral Research Associate
Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy and the Department of Psychological Studies

Mindfulness-based programs have gained in popularity in recent years, but how do we translate this research into tools to improve our own wellbeing?  This presentation will review the neuroscience of meditation, as well as engage participants in an experiential journey to contemplate key concepts of mindfulness-based practices, including embodiment, self-compassion, and connection.


Dr. Rebecca (Becky) Acabchuk has a PhD in Physiology and Neurobiology from the University of Connecticut. She currently works as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at UConn, where she holds a joint appointment in the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP) and the Department of Psychological Sciences. Her research focuses on evaluating the mental and physical health benefits of mindfulness-based programs, using advanced methods of evidence synthesis, as well as developing implementation strategies to bring evidence-based mindfulness programs into the community. She recently completed a randomized trial of 140 students at UConn comparing mindfulness tools to assist people in developing a meditation practice to self-manage stress. As a member of the SHARP Lab in InCHIP, Rebecca is part of a large multi-site NIH-sponsored initiative, The Science of Behavior Change (SOBC), which aims to better understand what helps people make healthy behavior changes, and actually stick to them. Rebecca runs mindfulness workshops locally and internationally, tailored for a wide variety of audiences, and she has been teaching meditation, yoga, and other wellness classes in the private sector for over 15 years. At UConn, she has led mindfulness workshops for teachers, students, athletes, the Recovery House, First Year Programs, Student Support Services, and others. As an adjunct Professor, she has taught multiple courses at Connecticut College and UConn, including the Neuroscience of Meditation and Health Psychology. Rebecca is also an Editorial Associate for Social Science & Medicine and Psychological Bulletin. She is a research consultant for the Mindfulness Director Initiative and the Brain Safety Alliance.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021 – Dr. Stacie Powers

phot of Dr. Stacie Powers12:30-1:45 p.m.

It’s All Connected: Using Your PhD in the Field of Program Evaluation

Dr. Stacie Powers, REVA Group

A solid background in research methods can take you places you never imagined. In this talk I will describe the field of program evaluation, how I stumbled into it (and how you can be more strategic!), and some of the surprising and rewarding connections between what I do now and what I did in my time at UConn.


Stacie R. Powers, PhD, is the founder and CEO of REVA Group, an independent firm specializing in program evaluation. She has worked in this field since 2013, primarily with clients in education, healthcare, and the arts. She has led evaluations for Cleveland Play House, Women’s Sports Foundation, Girls Inc. of New York City, Atlantic Philanthropies, Up2Us Sports, and Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, among many others.

Stacie received a PhD in Communication from the University of Connecticut in 2009. Prior to becoming an evaluator, she held a variety of other research-related roles for over 20 years—from reference librarian to university writing coach to assistant professor—each offering a valuable perspective on teaching others how to address complex, real-world data challenges. Through these varied experiences, Stacie developed an approach to communicating about research that is both evidence-based and human-centered. She regularly presents at the American Evaluation Association conference and is frequently invited to speak about evaluation to professionals supporting the nonprofit sector.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 – Dr. Meryl Alper – recording available

Critical Media Access Studies: Examining the Benefits and Limits of Accessibility in Mediated Spaces

Dr. Meryl Alper
Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Studies, Northeastern University

The benefits of “accessible” media and technology for people with disabilities are rarely questioned, nor considered within broader critical/cultural frameworks. In this talk, based on an article recently published in the International Journal of Communication, I make a contribution to the field of communication by proposing critical media access studies to further define a growing area of inquiry into contested notions of mediated access, drawing on work from disability media studies and critical access studies in architectural design. My proposal for critical media access studies is furthered through a case study of physical spaces designed for media engagement for young people (e.g., gaming arcades, movie theaters) that provide “autism-friendly” programming. Qualitative analysis of interviews and observations with autistic children and their families, as well as participant observation in such sites, reveals ideological assumptions, frictions, and contradictions underpinning cultural accessibility. Critical media access studies can offer communication scholars valuable theoretical and conceptual tools for deconstructing power, visibility, and marginality in mediated space.


Meryl Alper is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Northeastern University, where she researches the social and cultural implications of communication technologies, with a focus on disability and digital media, children and families’ technology use, and mobile communication. Dr. Alper is the author of Digital Youth with Disabilities (MIT Press, 2014) and Giving Voice: Mobile Communication, Disability, and Inequality (MIT Press, 2017), which was awarded a 2018 PROSE Award Honorable Mention from the Association of American Publishers and the 2018 Outstanding Publication in the Sociology of Disability Award from the American Sociological Association. In her research and teaching, Dr. Alper draws on over 15 years of professional experience in educational children’s media as a researcher, strategist, and consultant with Sesame Workshop, PBS KIDS, Nickelodeon, and Disney. Prior to joining the faculty at Northeastern, Dr. Alper earned her doctoral and master’s degrees from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and History from Northwestern University, as well as a certificate in Early Childhood Education from UCLA.

Thursday, April 8, 2021 – COMM COVID-19 Panel – recording available

Questions from quarantine and lessons in lockdown: Examining the COVID-19 pandemic from a communication perspective

The panel will feature three projects that received funding from InCHIP last spring.  Please join us for the following:

My president, but not my governor: Understanding perceptions of blame during the COVID-19 outbreak in Connecticut
Christine Gilbert, Kenneth Lachlan, and Stephen Stifano
Presented by: Christine Gilbert

Exploring the effects of social isolation, relational quality, and communication on couples’ relational and physical health during the COVID-19 pandemic
Amanda Denes, Talea Cornelius, Katrina Webber, Chelsea Guest, Julia A. Ellis, and Amy A. Gorin
Presented by: Chelsea Guest

Unmasking racial disparities amidst dual pandemics: Examining social identity threat and emotion within the health belief model to understand mask-wearing intentions among Black, Latinx, and Asian individuals in the U.S.
Katrina Webber, Sara Stifano, Stephen Stifano, and Shardé Davis
Presented by: Katrina Webber

photo of speaker Dr. Kory Floyd
Dr. Kory Floyd, guest of the Speaker Series in 2015