Talking Conference Experience with M.S. Student Brittany Bahl

M.S. Com student Brittany Bahl had the opportunity to attend and present at the Midwest Popular Culture Association 2021 Annual Conference. The conference took place in Minneapolis, MN, from October 8th-10th. We had a chance to catch up with Brittany regarding her first-time experience at the conference.

Brittany states, “it was a great experience, though a little different than it might have been normally because COVID was still a concern at that time and attendance was a lot lower than in previous years. Even so, I was still able to network with some people from other universities and got an opportunity to learn about what other kinds of research they were doing.”

Brittany presented a paper that has become the first chapter of her master’s thesis: “Prince Akeem’s Stolen Royal Oat: The Rhetoric and Legacy of Coming to America.” The paper she presented at the conference is a rhetorical analysis of the Coming to America film franchise, focusing on the rhetoric of toxic masculinity within the film, dealing with issues like representation, objectification, and consent. As a film analysis, it fits very well as a presentation piece for the MPCA. Bahl mentioned that “preparing for the presentation wasn’t too stressful, but I wasn’t sure what to expect (apart from a 15-minute time limit). The conference I attended was small, and most sessions had fewer than ten people in attendance. It was a lot less formal than I had anticipated, and it seemed everyone did what felt comfortable. Some presenters had detailed PowerPoint presentations, while others just stood up front and casually talked about their research for about 10-15 minutes.”

When discussing her interest in attending conferences such as MPCA/ACA, Brittany explained that submitting and presenting papers to conferences while in your master’s is “a good way to bulk up a C.V.” if a student is interested in pursuing a Ph.D. Since beginning the Program, Brittany has had the opportunity to present at two different conferences. She explained that “the process of submitting a paper wasn’t complicated once I found a conference with an open call for papers (CFP). The most difficult part is finding somewhere to send a paper.”

Some advice Brittany would give to other students looking to submit papers to conferences include,

  • Find professional organizations, small or large, and check when they have CFPs for conferences, or sign up for their newsletter and watch for announcements.
  • Ask a professor you know well if they would be willing to look over a paper you’re interested in submitting for a conference. I have had a professor who has assisted since beginning the process.

As for presenting at the conference,

  • Try to prepare something in advance if possible and then attend a few sessions prior to yours and get a feel for what others are doing.
  • Mainly, just try to get your work out there.
  • Make sure you give yourself enough time to edit your work.
  • And follow the organization’s guidelines for submissions. If your paper is selected to present, don’t stress. You’ll get to meet different people, maybe stay in a cool city, and get to share your work. 

Earlier this week, Brittany defended her thesis to the School of Communications M.S. Graduate Committee and was recently accepted to The University of Iowa to pursue her Ph.D. in Communication Studies.

Get to know your M.S. Com Students: Kevin Jurvis

One of the great things about Grand Valley’s Masters of Science in communication program is the wide variety of students it brings. Current M.S. student Kevin Jurvis is getting ready to finish his second semester in the program. Kevin double majored in Political Science and Communication Studies in his undergrad while also being very involved in Alpha Sigma Phi’s fraternity. He served as the Executive Vice President and President of the Fraternity his Sophomore and Junior years. Kevin has always been interested in Politics and has had multiple opportunities to work on various campaigns. He notes that he decided to pick up the second major (communication studies) after taking COM 101 as an elective in his undergrad, stating, “I really loved the material,” and further expressed the remarkable experiences with all Communications Faculty.

Kevin is currently weighing all of his options regarding his future career. For the last few years, he has been working as a transaction coordinator remotely for RE/Max Nexus in Birmingham, MI. And after working in a variety of communication-oriented positions and opening a dialogue with a few different companies, he is very interested in securing a role in the field of Public Relations. Kevin is originally from Huntington Woods, MI, and enjoys playing hockey, visiting his family’s cottage up north, and loves a good round of Euchre. However, in our interview, he mentioned that he is interested in exploring career options outside Michigan.

During his time in Grad School, Kevin has gathered some insight he’d like to share with others who are considering furthering their education.

  1. The program will be what you make of it. The effort you put in will directly correlate with your results. Therefore, it is essential to set goals for yourself, remain on task, and find a balance between school and other extracurriculars.
  2. It is important to understand that the professors are there to help you some days, it may feel otherwise, but the level of material is also meant to challenge you. You are choosing to get this level of education, and therefore it is your responsibility to hold yourself accountable for the level of work you are given.

So far, Kevin says he’s had a great experience in the M.S. program and is happy with his choice to pursue an advanced degree. He closed his interview by saying he would recommend this program to anyone interested in expanding their knowledge in the realm of communications.

January-April 2019 SoC Digest

SoC in the News



Brandy Henderson Miller, an Ad/PR alumna, will serve as president/CEO of the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce, effective Feb. 1. You can read more in the Manistee News Advocate.



IndyStar reporter and 2018 SoC Distinguished Alumna-in-Residence Marisa Kwiatkowski has accepted a position as an investigative reporter at USA TODAY. Marisa gained national attention for her role in breaking the story on the Larry Nassar/USA Gymnastics scandal.


GrandPR, GVSU’s student-run PR firm, was featured in the Holland Sentinel. The full article can be found at this link.



Two student reporters from West Side Stories, Elliot Perpich and Sam Hall, produced a long-form science story called “Reaching for the Stars” that was picked up by SciTech Now, a web/TV program that is distributed on the PBS network throughout the U.S.

The Reaching for the Stars segment will go out in Feed #524 on March 25th and has an intended air week of April 29th.


M.S. in Communications graduate Pasha Shipp was featured in GVSU’s Graduate School Annual Report. As you can see from the piece (included below), she had great things to say about the program.

Speaking Engagements



Melba Vélez Ortiz will give the keynote speech at GVSU’s Latino graduation on April 26. This is an exciting event, as GVSU will be graduating the largest class of Latino students in its history. Congratulations, Melba!




Adrienne Wallace was recently elected as the Chair-Elect of the East Central District of PRSA. The East Central District includes 17 PRSA chapters from seven different states. Congratulations, Adrienne!


Carl Brown has been elected Vice Chair-Elect of the Communication Centers Section of the National Communication Association. Congratulations, Carl!

Book/Publishing Deals



SoC communication studies adjunct professor John Bruni recently released an album with his band, Silverstiles. To read more, see this article in the Lanthorn.

Image from Lanthorn, courtesy of Silverstiles


Eric Harvey received a contract to write “Who Got the Camera: Rap, TV, and the Rise of Reality” for the University of Texas Press. The book traces the collision of race, crime, journalism, media, music and celebrity from 1986 to 1996, and explains how that period decisively shaped our current moment.


Melba Vélez Ortiz’s “Maatian Ethics in a Communication Context” will be published by Routledge Press, the world’s leading academic publisher in the Humanities and Social Sciences.


Rachel McMahon, the GVSU communication studies major who received press earlier in the year for her (unpaid) work writing quizzes for Buzzfeed, has signed a contract with Simon & Schuster for a book entitled “What Kind of Quiz Book Are You?”, which will be published in July. For more information, see this Detroit Free Press article.




Lorie Jager has been selected as this year’s recipient of GVSU’s Outstanding Academic Advising and Student Services Award. This is a well deserved recognition of all the work Lorie does for our communication studies and health communication majors. Please be sure to offer your congratulations to Lorie the next time you see her.


Once again, GVSU students have won several Michigan Student Broadcast Awards. The winners are:

​College Television

  • Best Newscast, First Place: Grand Valley State University, West Side Stories – Flu Epidemic, Chalkboard Project, Geek Group, Alexandria Kelly ‘18, I-Ta Tsai, Justin Pelham ‘18, Cali Hubbard ‘18. (This represents back-to-back first place finishes for GVSU.)
  • News Feature, Second Place: Grand Valley State University, Relay for Life – Surviving Cancer, Jessica Croel ‘18, Sarah Good.

College Radio

  • Sports Announcing Team, First Place: Grand Valley State University,  GVSU Women’s Hockey vs Davenport, Paul McPherson ‘18, Nate Dreyer ‘20. (This is the fourth time in the last five years that GVSU has won this category, and the third award for this team.)

The awards will be presented on March 6 at the MAB’s Great Lakes Media Show in Lansing.



GVSU’s PRSSA chapter, advised by Prof. Adrienne Wallace, has won the PRSSA’s national Pacesetter Chapter Recognition three months in a row: November, December, and January! ​According to the PRSSA website, the Pacesetter designation recognizes a Chapter’s success in the areas of membership, national participation, and/or Chapter development.

Congratulations to Adrienne and our PRSSA students for their outstanding work—and for helping to further establish our Ad/PR program as a national leader.



Last month, I reported that GVSU’s PRSSA chapter had won Pacesetter Chapter Recognition three months in a row. Well, it’s now four months in a row. Congratulations to PRSSA and Prof. Adrienne Wallace for their outstanding work!


Since a picture and a tweet is worth a thousand words (especially coming from multimedia journalism professor and SoC associate director Len O’Kelly):



For the second year in a row, GVSU students have won top paper honors in both the undergraduate and graduate categories at the National Association of Communication Centers conference. Jeannine Lane and Vivian Niestrom won the Huddy-Gunn Top Graduate Paper Award, and Hannah Karwat and Dominic Cassisi won the Bob and Ann Weiss Top Undergraduate Paper Award. This is an outstanding achievement that further solidifies GVSU’s reputation as having one of the best speech labs in the country.

Photo from @GVSpeechLab


Students from GVSU’s Ad/PR program, led by Prof. Robin Spring, claimed a win at the National Student Advertising Competition for District 6, which includes Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana. They will now move on to the semi-finals for a chance to compete at the national competition in June. For more details, read this post on the enLIGHTen blog.

NSAC Team at District Competition.
Photo from enLIGHTen blog

SoC Announces 8th Annual James W. Carey Memorial Lecture: “Fighting the Politics of Illusion”

Anyone who considers themselves a member of “Gen Z,” or those who are concerned with technology, democracy, and the public good, are invited to Edward E. Tywoniak‘s James W. Carey Memorial Lecture on Wednesday, September 26th.

Tywoniak’s talk is titled “Fighting the Politics of Illusion: Technology, Democracy and the Public Good,” and it will address the current political climate and its relationship to technical, cultural, and social change.

Tywoniak’s talk is the 8th in the series named for the pioneering communication studies scholar Carey, and reflects his belief that “problems of communication are linked to problems of community, to problems surrounding the kinds of communities we create.”

The talk will take place at 7 p.m. at Loosemore Auditorium at the Richard M. DeVos Center at GVSU’s downtown campus.

Tywoniak describes his talk as follows:

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Prof. Tywoniak (source)

“Today, the entire globe has been shaken to its core by the recent vortex of political, technical, social and cultural change, the likes of which the world has never seen. The ubiquitously disruptive effects of social-media on everything from political elections to journalism, from race relations to religion, (to name just a few), have taken a toll on all generations from all sides of the political divide. But no generation is seemingly more affected by these changes that the post-millennial cohort known as Generation Z (current college-aged men and women).

Members of Gen Z are often described as “digital natives” – tech savvy and connected from birth – while often self-described as diverse, entrepreneurial, progressive and individualistic. However, members of Gen Z are also described as having less religious identification, greater disappointment and dissatisfaction with politicians and government leaders, and being overwhelmed by the demands and responsibilities placed on them by families, peers, technology and society. They report a blurring of absolutes such as distinctions between home and work, study and entertainment, and public and private, with all this pressure and stress leading to increased reporting of teen depression, drug-addiction and suicide.

Using the ideas of James Carey for context, this presentation looks to do three things: 1) Provide a framework of analysis of current political, social and technical trends that are shaping the political and cultural landscapes both domestically and abroad 2) Offer some predictions and challenges facing Gen Z as they prepare to take over the challenges of providing stewardship for planet Earth over the next three decades and 3) Provide some hopeful words of encouragement in our ongoing quest for justice, fairness, and equality for all citizens of the world.”

Ed Tywoniak is Professor of Communication and Media Studies and Director of the W. M. Keck Digital Studies Lab at Saint Mary’s College of California.

The James W. Carey Memorial Lecture is hosted each year by the Communication Studies Major Program of the School of Communications, and this year features additional support from the Department of Political Science and the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

For more information, please contact Dr. Valerie Peterson at

Award-Winning Investigative Reporter Marisa Kwiatkowski (’05) to Inaugurate School of Communications Speaker Series in March

In 2016, Indianapolis Star investigative reporter Marisa Kwiatkowski received a tip about a lawsuit being filed against USA Gymnastics, which is based in Indianapolis. With her Star investigative colleagues Mark Alesia and Tim Evans, Kwiatkowksi started looking through the files she collected.

What they revealed through their reporting would lead to the arrest, trial, and sentencing of national gymnastics team doctor Lawrence Nassar; a sprawling investigation into USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University (Nassar’s former employer); and, when more than 100 of the abused young women testified in open court, a national reckoning on the issues of amateur athletics and sexual abuse.

On March 26th, Kwiatkowski, a 2005 graduate of Grand Valley State University’s journalism program, will speak about her role in this story at the School of Communications’ first annual Robert Mayberry Comm-Unity Series.

Kwiatkowski’s talk is titled “Local Reporting, National Impact: Marisa Kwiatkowski on Breaking the USA Gymnastics Story.” It will take place Monday, March 26 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Loosemore Auditorium on GVSU’s downtown campus.

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Indianapolis Star investigative reporter Marisa Kwiatkowski (Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Star)

“Marisa Kwiatkowksi has done remarkable investigative work that has had profound impact since graduating from GVSU,” says Assistant Professor of Multimedia Journalism Jeff Kelly Lowenstein. “We are thrilled that she’ll be returning to campus to share her insights and experience with our community.”

During her career, Kwiatkowski has reported on social services issues, including child abuse and neglect, poverty, elder abuse, human trafficking, domestic violence and access to mental health services.

Prior to her employment at the Star, Kwiatkowski worked for The Times of Northwest Indiana and media outlets in South Carolina and Michigan. She is past president of the Indiana Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and previously served as vice president of Girls on the Run of Central Indiana.

Kwiatkowski has earned more than 40 journalism awards throughout her career, including Indiana Journalist of the Year, the Tom Renner Award from Investigative Reporters and Editors, a Sigma Delta Chi Award in public service, the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism and the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award.

Before her stellar professional career started, however, came Kwiatkowski’s undergraduate tenure in GVSU’s Journalism program. Her advisor then was current Associate Professor of Multimedia Journalism Lawrence Beery.

“Marisa was drawn to public affairs reporting,” Beery recalls. “That was especially true during her time as a reporter and editor for the Lanthorn, the student-run newspaper.”

Beery also recalls that in 2004, Kwiatkowski was honored by the Michigan Press Association for a Lanthorn editorial titled “Stepping Stones.” The judges at the time remarked: “It’s important to be involved in the university community. This is a nice reminder of why that’s important.”

The Comm-Unity Series is named in honor of professor emeritus of communications and philosophy Robert Mayberry, who died on December 8, 2017, at the age of 79.

Professor emeritus of communications and philosophy Robert Mayberry (Photo courtesy of Stephen Rowe/GVSU University Communications)
Mayberry started at GVSU in 1971, and was instrumental in developing the William James College and creating the School of Communications, which was founded in 1983.

Professor of Communication Studies and former School of Communications director Alex Nesterenko calls Mayberry “an academic visionary.” He adds that Mayberry “saw, perhaps more clearly than most others, how various academic programs logically connect, and that the union between them would prove to be highly successful for students and for Grand Valley.”

Thirty-five years after its fledgling beginning, the School of Communications launched the Robert Mayberry Comm-Unity series as a testament to the school’s continued devotion to interdisciplinary scholarship. It celebrates Mayberry’s academic vision of diverse academic programs forging a productive connection for students and for the Grand Valley community.

The series will feature public intellectuals, practitioners, and alumni who have benefitted from and/or engage in the kind of cross-disciplinary education and practice that leads to the betterment of localities across the U.S. and the world.

Assistant Professor of Advertising and Public Relations Yasmin Gopal believes that Kwiatkowski is the ideal speaker to launch this series. “Marissa’s reporting brings to light deep social inequities and injustices with a view to eradicating these from our social fabric.

“Her visit and her talk will be an inspiration to our students,” Gopal adds.