SoC faculty that participated in the NCA 108th Annual Convention: Honoring PLACE: People, Liberation, Advocacy, Community, and Environment

This year a number of our faculty members participated in the National Communication Association’s 108th Annual Convention: Honoring PLACE: People, Liberation, Advocacy, Community, and Environment. This year’s convention took place in New Orleans, Louisiana. Below we have listed the SoC faculty members and their participation in the convention. 

Corey Anton: 

Role: Presenter A Roundtable Discussion of Surfing the Anthropocene: Digital Affect and the Big Tension

Valerie Peterson: 

Role: Presenter A Roundtable Discussion of Surfing the Anthropocene: Digital Affect and the Big Tension

Richard D. Besel:

Role: Chair and Respondent Mediating Environmental Communication

Carl Brown:

Role: Presenter Communication Centers Section Business Meeting

Role: Chair Communication Centers Section Paper Session

Dr. Carl Brown Top-Ranked Panel Award

Anthony Spencer

Role: Presenter COVID-19 and Government Trust: A Spiral of Silence Analysis in South America

Role: Presenter Pandemic migration: The role of media to and from Latin America

Photo of Dr. Anthony Spencer (right) and Dr. Paola Albarrán from Telemundo Television (left)

Adrienne Wallace 

Role: Presenter Media Mastery: Redefining Media Literacy in the Digital Age

Role: Presenter SPARK A ‘Diversity First’ IDEA: An Approach to Equitable PR Campaigns

Role: Presenter Mitigating Harm: To PLACE PR Ethics at the Center of AI and IoT Strategy

Won Teaching Idea Award

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.

Dr. Corey Anton Publishes Article and Book Review

Congratulations to Dr. Corey Anton for his two latest publications! An article published in ETC: A Review of General Semantics, titled “Communication: the Act and Art of Taking-for-Granted” and a book review of “Cynic Satire” by Eric McLuhan, published in Explorations in Media Ecology.

“Communication: the Act and Art of Taking-for-Granted”

In this article, Dr. Anton questions the negative connotation in the popular usage of the expression “taken-for-granted.” He attempts to demonstrate a different meaning and usage of the term. He even goes as far as to say that “…it would seem impossible to not take-for-granted. Might it be that ‘taking-for-granted’ is the very essence of communication?”

The article can be found here.

Book review of “Cynic Satire”

McLuhan’s book is an overview of the history of Menippean satire. Anton’s review of it comes not long after Eric McLuhan’s death, making the book especially meaningful to those that loved him and studied his work. In Anton’s words, “This book will be hailed as one of his finest, a solid piece of erudition. It is lucid, meticulously researched and heuristically rich.”

For those that would like a copy of Anton’s book review, please email him directly. His contact info can be found here.

Communication Research and Practice Trends to Look for in 2020

Wondering what is on the horizon in the vast world of communication? With the new year upon us, it’s only natural to think about what 2020 might hold. Our faculty members, from various perspectives in the field, tuned in to let you know what trends they think you should expect this year. They assert that the study of technology in communication, the end of objectivity, a focus on corporate purpose, and environmental communication are all recent trends that will carry over into 2020. Read on to learn why.

The Study of Technology in Communication

Dr. Carl Brown, Communication Studies

Technology has permeated human communication. Letter writing has long been out of vogue and face-to-face communication, though still vital, seems to be going the way of the buffalo. In their stead, emails, social media, and video chat fill the interpersonal void. On one hand, technology mediated interactions remove some human elements of traditional communication. The ability to perceive and interpret nonverbal cues is, at best, reduced and, at worst, removed. On the other hand, technology allows interactions to take place that might otherwise not due to obstacles like distance or inconvenience. From professional positions to meaningful personal relationships, technology mediated communication has made the world a smaller place. This focus on virtual and mediated communication has prompted scholars to study the phenomenon by applying multiple and various approaches to communication research. Conversation analysts explore the differences and similarities between face to face and virtual communication, communication ethicists chart the ways in which honesty and open communication are, or are not, seen in this modern mode. Empirical researchers seek to identify predictors of successful mediated communication; interpretive researchers capture the essence of the experience of communicating through mediated channels, and; critical researchers look for ways to transform and expand access to communication. Regardless of the form of mediation or style of research applied to it, scholars are studying this modern communication in ways that ensure its transition from a trend to a staple of communication scholarship.

The End of “Objectivity”

Dr. Eric Harvey, Multimedia Journalism

For journalists and journalism scholars alike, the past 20 years has been a time of radical change. The thorough digitization of newsgathering, news publishing, and news consumption has occasioned significant changes in the fundamental tenets of journalistic practice. Print circulation has plummeted, online advertising is dominated by Google and Facebook, breaking news is often consumed on Twitter hours before a story is written, and new “disruptive” business models to reinvent the form seem to emerge weekly. Yet amid all the technological and economic change has emerged a significant, and promising, cultural shift. More diverse populations than ever before are using new technologies to make their voices heard, collaborate across continents, and, with data and documents, illustrate complex stories and hold those in power to account. Most compellingly, old school and new school journalists alike have come to the realization that the 20th century standard of “objective” reporting–always much more of an institutional mantra than an actual possibility–cannot meet the challenge of a 21st century world facing climate disaster, rising inequality, and a growing population who brands inconvenient truths as “fake news.” By preaching the gospel of objectivity, 20th century journalists established themselves as impartial arbiters of truth on par with scientists, which allowed journalism (and journalism education) to flourish in a society in which news consumption was mostly one-way. Yet even then, few practitioners actually believed such a goal was possible. Henry Luce, founder of Time magazine, once said, “Show me a man who thinks he’s objective and I’ll show you a liar.” Now, in a connected and curious world, journalists are abandoning what is now called the “view from nowhere,” that serves the economic and political elite more than citizens, for a model that is more open and honest. Instead of treating their profession as a rarefied skill, modern journalists are showing their hard work, both in their stories and on social media; collaborating with community members as fellow reporters and researchers; and contextualizing their stories with an ethically-informed worldview shared by their readers, listeners, and viewers. At a time of immense global change, journalism’s role is more important than ever. By merging traditional emphases on accuracy, timeliness, and fairness with newly honest, open, and forthright approaches, journalists will best position themselves to address the future.


Dr. Tim Penning, Advertising & Public Relations

One key trend in PR research and practice is the notion of “Purpose.” CCOs (Chief Communications Officers) are increasingly wrestling with the ideas that corporations can’t just be promoting their products and services. Companies have to have purpose, some larger societal vision for what they do and the impact they have not just on the bottom line but on society. This has been coming from related issues such as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and other topics. What needs to be studied is the impact of articulating a broader social purpose. Does the purpose need to be related to the company in some way, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and gun control, or can it be about more general social issues, such as 84 Lumber and immigration? This affects other aspects of public relations, such as employee relations, in which employees often drive the purpose or chose where to work based on it; investor relations, given that many socially conscious mutual funds have merged; community relations, where in some cases business is seen as a better source of addressing issues than government, and consumer relations, since taking a stand can both win and lose customers.

Environmental Communication and the Anthropocene

Dr. Richard Besel, Communication Studies

For communication studies scholars, interest in environmental issues has grown steadily over that last few decades. In the early 1990s, “environmental communication” began to first appear in conference titles. Eventually, the International Environmental Communication Association (IECA) was founded in 2011. Today, environmental communication is recognized as an important topic worthy of academic attention. For example, the National Communication Association’s (NCA) magazine, Spectra, prominently displayed “Communication and the Environment” on its cover last March. Within this larger interest area of environmental communication, scholars have recently begun to consider a fairly new idea: the Anthropocene. At the 2019 NCA convention, there was a panel session on “Communication and Surviving in the Anthropocene.” Popularized by atmospheric scientist Paul Crutzen, the Anthropocene is a proposed geological epoch when humans have a significant impact on the environment. Environmental communication scholars have an interest in several aspects of this new name and time: Are we really in a new geological epoch? How has the way we communicated about major environmental concerns, such as climate change, brought us to this point? Where do we go from here? Environmental communication concerns, such as those associated with understanding the Anthropocene, will likely maintain our scholarly focus for years to come.

So there you have it. Our experts have weighed in and now it’s your turn. Let us know what you think we should be looking for in 2020.

This post was co-authored by Drs. Brown, Harvey, Penning, and Besel.

Dr. Melba Vélez Ortiz Wins Top Teaching and Outstanding Faculty Mentor Awards

Dr. Melba Vélez Ortiz is nothing short of spectacular. She was born and raised in Puerto Rico. She earned her doctorate at the University of Illinois-Champaign with her primary focus on communication ethics and she has taught at the university level for 21 years.

Dr. Vélez Ortiz is well-published and a trailblazer in the field. She has published in journals including Communication Education and Journal of the Association for Communication Administration. She has also received numerous awards for her exceptional teaching, including but not limited to the Professor of the Year Award from GVSU Trio Programs in 2017 and the Kimboko Award for Outstanding Graduate Faculty from GVSU Graduate Student Association in 2017.

Earlier this year Dr. Vélez Ortiz was nominated for the 2019 Top Teaching Award in Communication Ethics presented by the Communication Ethics Division of the NCA and she won! This award recognizes achievement in pedagogy at the national level. At the 2019 NCA convention in Baltimore where she received the award, she also participated in a panel discussion titled “A Student’s Guide to Surviving Communication Ethics.”

But as if that were not enough, she was also selected for the Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award for Fall 2019. This is an honor given by Grand Valley State University to faculty members who have been nominated by the graduate students for outstanding mentorship.

These awards come as no surprise to anyone that knows Dr. Vélez Ortiz personally. Her students adore her, her colleagues respect her, and anyone that encounters her leaves with a smile on their face. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone as passionate about the study and application of ethics as Dr. Vélez Ortiz. She always manages to sprinkle ethics into the classes she teaches, no matter what the subject may be.

Pat Arneson, Ph.D. at Duquesne University, the colleague that nominated Dr. Vélez Ortiz for the award, said;

“As Dr. Vélez Ortiz writes in her teaching philosophy, ‘Every course I teach, no matter what the subject, is an ethics class.’  She situates communication ethics as the foundation of good communication, character building, and engaged citizenship. She provides thought-provoking readings and assignments designed to enhance students’ learning experience.”

The only thing that matches her passion for ethics is her passion for students. Students get far more out of their classes with Dr. Vélez Ortiz than just a letter grade…they get life lessons and unforgettable memories.

Of course, none of this would be possible without the help of Professor Chad, Dr. Vélez Ortiz’s beloved companion and guide dog. Please help us congratulate Dr. Melba Vélez Ortiz. We’re so proud of you, Melba! And we are proud of you too, Professor Chad.