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Communication News & Notes

Professor Mandy Young, alumni Elizabeth Stephens (Ph.D. ’10) and Tesfa Alexander (Ph.D. ’10), and current Ph.D. students Brian DuffyMelissa Thompson and Tracy Manning Hood participated in the Tennessee Board of Regents Qualitative Research Conference at Austin Peay this past October. Professor Young put together this panel for a seminar on methodology.

New Faculty

Christina Moss was hired as a new professor for the Lambuth campus. Professor Moss received her Ph.D. from Louisiana State University in Communication studies, her MA in Communication Studies from the University of Western Florida, and a BA in Speech and Communication from the University of Alabama.


Professor David Appleby’s and Professor Stephen Ross’ film Frog Pond was recently selected to be part of the Keep Tennessee Beautiful website. This film was originally created in 1986 as a production of then-Memphis State University Department of Theatre and Communication Arts. Professor Appleby served as director, editor, co-producer, and co-adaptor of the film. Professor Ross is credited as the Assistant Director. The film gives special thanks to the MSU Athletic Department, the MSU Bureau of Business and Economic Research, and the MSU Music Department.

Professor Tony de Velasco recently appeared in an Australian Broadcasting Company story speaking about the election. Tony was interviewed as a political analyst concerning voting trends in the South and other parts of the United States. He also received the 2011 U of M Alumni Association Distinguished Teaching Award.

Film and Video Production faculty — Professors David Appleby and Stephen Ross, and Associate Professors Roxie Gee and Craig Leake — were honored for their “reputation, achievements and impact” on the Movie & Film Industry during the 2012 Business and Industry Salute Luncheon sponsored by Carnival Memphis.

Professor Allison Graham co-edited The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, Volume 18–Media for The University of North Carolina Press. The 2011 publication examined how the mass media influences our ideas about the South.

Assistant Professor David Acey received the 2011 Outstanding Achiever award during the Memphis Silver Star News 20th Annual Memphis and Shelby County Achievers Award Celebration.

Associate Professor Craig Leake received the Award of Merit for Documentary Filmmaking at the 2011 University Film and Video Association Conference, Boston, MA.

Associate Professor Craig Leake and Professor David Appleby won a regional EMMY (2011) for their film BEYOND BABYLAND, which examines high infant mortality rates in Memphis.

Professor Stephen Ross was awarded the 2011 Outstanding Communication Educator of the Year Award by the Tennessee Communication Association.

Professor Katherine Hendrix received the 2011 U of M College of Communication and Fine Arts’ Dean’s Research Award. The year prior she was promoted from associate professor to professor. In 2012, she received the 2012 Southern States Communication Association Michael Osborn Teacher-Scholar Award.

Associate Professor Sandra Sarkela gave several guest lectures as the 2012 Visiting Distinguished Professor of Communication and Ethics at the School of Communication and Multimedia Studies, Florida Atlantic University.

The Department of Communication hosted Rodrigo González, the Cuba program director for Girasol, a non-profit study abroad endeavor based in San Francisco. Rodrigo came to the U of M as part of an initiative to establish research and study abroad opportunities in Cuba for U of M students and faculty.

Natalie Parker-Lawrence, an adjunct instructor, won a spot in the first Women’s Theatre Festival of Memphis in August 2012 for her new full-length play, a collection of nine true-story monologues about insomnia, I Bet They’re Sleeping All Over America.

The “One Hundred Years speech” by Michael Osborn, professor emeritus, was printed in the January 2013 issue of Vital Speeches of the DayOthers featured in this article are Hillary ClintonBarack Obama and Ben Bernanke, economist and chairman of The Federal Reserve.


Caroline Sawyer, doctoral student, received a Graduate Scholar Award at the 2012 International Conference on Sport & Society at Cambridge University in London. She presented her paper at the conference, “Fantasy Football: The Game-Changer in the American Football Religion.”

Merci M. Decker, doctoral student, is the chair of the National Communication Association’s Peace and Conflict Communication Division.

Melody Lehn, doctoral student, and Associate Professor Antonio de Velasco co-edited Rhetoric: Concord and Controversy (Longrove, IL: Waveland Press, 2011). She also won the 2012 Departmental John Angus Campbell Teaching Award.

Brandon Goldsmith, doctoral student, presented “A 12 Step Program for Recovering White Caucasians” on the Top Student Performances Panel at the 2012 Southern States Communication Association Conference.

Kristen Hungerford, doctoral student, received the Top Student Paper award in Media Studies at the 2012 Central States Communication Association Conference for her paper, “Laughing at Comedies of Difference on Saturday Night Live: A Case Study of Betty White’s Mother’s Day Episode.”

A documentary film by Graduate Assistant David Goodman was chosen for the Indie Memphis Film Festival. Spiritual Transit was screened on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. David’s film is a memorable character study of a talented and eccentric Memphis musician, John Boatner, now in his 70s and facing an angst-ridden turning point in his life, one that compels him to leave home and move to the West Coast.

Patrick Churvis and Chad Barton, along with recent alumnus Shelby Baldock (BA ’11), won the Indie Memphis Cinema in Music Award (best cinematography) at the 2012 Livefrommemphis Music Video Showcase.

Chad Barton presented his film at the 14th Annual Indie Memphis Film Festival.


Lauren Chapman (BA ’07) recently graduated from Yale University with a Master of Architecture degree. At Yale, Lauren received a scholarship for excellence in design and academics, and has had her work displayed in several Yale galleries. Additionally, The New York Times has published some of her work. While at the University of Memphis, Lauren graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Communication with an emphasis in Video and Film Production.

Jerome Mahaffey (PhD ’00) recently published a book with Baylor University Press, The Accidental Revolutionary: George Whitefield and the Creation of America. He is the John and Corrine Graf Chair of Communication Studies at Indiana University East.

Aparna Hebbani (PhD ‘02) teaches communication at the University of Queensland in Australia and has won a prestigious research grant (AU$123,235.00) titled, “Refugees employment aspirations and inter-generational communication about future occupational pathways.” This project is the first to investigate the long-term employment aspirations of recently arrived refugee communities and how they communicate them to their children.

Jim O’Donnell (MA ’01) became a full time videographer at Memphis’ WREG-TV, Channel 3. Since then he has won several regional Emmy awards for his investigative reporting. He recently accepted a position at a San Francisco network affiliate to head up their investigative unit.

Andre E. Johnson (PhD ’08) is the Dr. James L. Netters Assistant Professor of Rhetoric & Religion and African American Studies at Memphis Theological Seminary, and is editor of the “Rhetoric Race and Religion” blog. His journal article, “The Prophetic Persona of James Cone and the Rhetorical Theology of Black Theology,” won the 2011 Religious Communication Association’s Best Article Award at the National Communication Association Conference.

Fang-Yi Flora Wei (PhD ’05) recently published “Rethinking college students’ self-regulation and sustained attention: Does text messaging during class influence cognitive learning?” in Communication Education. His study has been reported by more than 48 media outlets nationwide, including U.S. News & World Report, Science Daily, Science American, and the Chicago Tribune.

Jennifer Jackson (PhD ’12) successfully defended her dissertation, “Cindy Sheehan’s Confrontational Iraq War Protests: A Case Study in Contentious Rhetoric.” She is currently in the Speech and Theatre Department at Middle Tennessee State University.

Shirley Oakley (PhD ’10) has accepted the position of academic chair at the Department of Communications at St. Petersburg College, Clearwater Campus, FL.

Shannon R. Little (MA ‘11, BA ‘09) recently accepted the position of Marketing and Events Coordinator for the Huey’s restaurant chain.

Richard Otto (PhD ’07) was recently elected to chair his Media Communication and Technology Department at East Stroudsburg University.

Mittie Carey (PhD ’12) successfully defended her dissertation, “Freedom Faith of Prathea L. Hall: A Hybrid Rhetoric of Protest.” She was also the recipient of the University of Memphis’ 1st Generation PhD Fellowship, which provides financial assistance to selected graduate students who are underrepresented in their respective disciplines and who will become the first person in their immediate families to earn a doctoral degree.

Kimberly Johnson (PhD ’10) has accepted a tenure track position as an Assistant Professor of Speech Communication at Tennessee State University.

Rachel Denzin (MA ’12) successfully defended her special project, “The Digital Literacy Skills of Undergraduate Students: A Problem & Solution.”

Four alumni currently work on the CW network show, “America’s Next Top Model”: Pat Artus (BA ‘10), Marshell Becton (BA ’06), Olivia Hickox (BA ‘11) and Joey Thorsen (BA ‘08). 

Films by Eric Huber (MA ’01), Shelby Baldock (BA ’11), Charles Metz (BA ’10), Whitney Howard (BA ’08), Ben Cummings (BA ’11), Nathan Ball (BA ‘11) and Jesse Hearn (BA ’11) were included in the lineup of the 14th Annual Indie Memphis Film Festival. Ryan Parker (BA ‘00) won Best Hometown Short and Audience Choice Award for Fresh Skweezed.

Ryan Sidhom (BA ’09) and Clarissa Sidhom (current COMM major) have come quite a long way since meeting each other in the department and getting married. Clarissa is taking honors classes and both she and Ryan have started their own successful local wedding and event production company, Vantage Media, LLC. 

Mike Compton (BA ’93) and his wife Sherry wrote the screenplay for the 2011 movie, Carjackedstarring Maria Bello and Stephen Dorff.

Chris Niswonger (BA ’11) was hired by the University of Rochester to work in its admissions/recruitment office.

Sarah Haley (BA ’04) was recently hired as the new press secretary for Ann Romney, wife of presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Kevin Dean (BA ’02) is now executive director at Literacy Mid-South, a non-profit organization involved with learning and literacy.

Eddie Peters (MA ’75) was awarded the George Morrissey Lifetime Achievement Award by the Central Florida chapter of the National Speakers Association.

David Howard Toombs (BA ’96) of Olive Branch, Miss., passed away at the age of 39 in January of this year. A communications graduate, David was a loyal and beloved Tiger fan for many years and a member of the U of M Alumni Association since 1997.

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