Fostering the co-creation of better social worlds through positive communication.
Who We Are
In the Department of Applied Communication at UALR, our mission is to foster the co-creation of better social worlds through positive communication. Our on-campus, hybrid and online courses not only provide you with the flexibility to pursue a variety of exciting and meaningful careers, they will set you apart in a highly competitive, global market.
Our department believes expanding access to higher education can transform lives. For that reason, we are proud to offer students the option of completing their Bachelor’s degree in a fully online format through the UALR Online program, and/or through face-to-face and hybrid classes. In addition, our M.A. program in Applied Communication provides a unique weekend, evening, and hybrid format for professionals who wish to advance their career.
Consistent with our departmental mission, the department is united around five pillars, which represent our core values. The five pillars include: (a) Positive Communication, (b) Communication & Culture, (c) Communication & Transformation, (d) Crisis & Renewal Communication, and (e) Experiential Learning. The pillars function as areas of inquiry, expertise, and foci for teaching and research. They reflect the department’s cohesive focus on ethical communication that is apparent in both our undergraduate and graduate programs.
We believe our curriculum enables students to learn how to practice positive communication in interpersonal, organizational, and public contexts. The coursework and experiential learning in which students in our programs engage, while in our department, allow them to be able to achieve our learning outcomes.
What is Applied Communication
Applied communication looks at how communication theory and principles can be used to better the communication that takes place in a variety of contexts. In our program, we focus primarily on interpersonal and organizational contexts, helping students analyze and develop messages, anticipate communication barriers and accomplish communicative goals, and embrace differences and influence discourse around them. Students learn to “apply” theory to everyday situations in order to improve the communication within those situations.
Our curriculum is interactive in nature, with an emphasis on case studies and ethical communication across the curriculum, in order to help students understand how to use positive communication to make a difference in their personal and professional lives.
Consistent with our departmental focus on applied communication, since 1973, our discipline has had a journal dedicated to Applied Communication issues, entitled the Journal of Applied Communication Research, which has been publishing “original peer-reviewed scholarship that addresses or challenges the relation between theory and practice in understanding communication in applied contexts” and “aims primarily to contribute to how people practice communication across multiple contexts” (http://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?show=aimsScope&journalCode=rjac20#.Vsj6QZMrLow).
Why We Changed Our Name
The discipline of speech communication has evolved over the last 100 years. The various changes inside the discipline have resulted in name changes of the departments and programs within colleges and universities throughout the United States.
Since being formed in the 1970’s, the Department of Speech Communication at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock has adapted to changes in the shape, content, and quality of the discipline, but our name has not changed until recently. Many prospective and current students have had misconceptions about our department based on our long-standing name, Speech Communication. Those students believed that our department was first and foremost a speech department. While public speaking is an important piece of what we do, we have only one course devoted to it, Advanced Public Speaking, and that course is not focused on the performance aspect of public speaking, but rather on research, language use, persuasive strategies, and organization of arguments.
We expect students to communicate in our courses, but this might take the form of small group projects, interpersonal activities, interviews, writing assignments, and/or public presentations. We offer courses in important areas of communication to give students a full overview of the types of communication they will encounter in both their personal and their professional lives.
In an effort to more accurately reflect the learning objectives and mission of our department, the Department of Speech Communication officially changed to the Department of Applied Communication on August 1, 2016. Because people in professional organizations, as well as employers, look for excellent communication skills as a hallmark of excellence in any field or profession, the department at UALR has adapted to reflect these needs. The name change of our department to Applied Communication embraces the broader view of what our stakeholders require from our students.
Highlights from this Past Year
Teaching Highlights: Instructional Activities/Curriculum
Highlights of our teaching accomplishments this year include focusing specifically on the student success and curriculum area of our undergraduate program, participating in several important high-impact practices, working cross-disciplinarily across departments and colleges, and receiving teaching awards.
Student Success & Curriculum Work
We established a Student Success and Curriculum sub-committee this past year, which is responsible for assessing and revising curriculum in our department to improve student learning. The faculty on this committee undertook a thorough evaluation of our undergraduate learning outcomes and curriculum this past academic year. They developed a restatement of the undergraduate major, to take effect Summer 2017. The restatement of the major and revised course descriptions included a revamping of our senior capstone sequence, leading us to add a senior portfolio to the coursework of our graduating seniors, along with their case study project and presentation.
High-Impact Learning Experiences
Our newly appointed internship coordinator, Melissa Johnson, used her contacts in the community to build the foundation for our internship program this past year. She developed partnerships with UAMS, the Arkansas Food Bank and the Department of Education, which resulted in internships for several students in the Spring 2016 semester. She developed a syllabus, internship agreements for our department and the organization, standards for students’ portfolio and discussion questions the interns complete on a biweekly basis.
- Study Abroad
Dr. Avinash Thombre took a group of undergraduate and graduate students to Trinidad in Fall 2015, providing them with an immersive experience with individuals who are situated on the margins of three cultures. This high impact class helped develop in students an understanding of the complexity of intercultural communication skills in day-to-day interactions.
- Capstone Projects & Research
Undergraduate students are required to pass our department’s capstone research project and presentation before they can graduate from our program. They regularly work with faculty mentors on their projects in order to be successful. Students produce presentations that clearly discuss how a theory of their choice applies to their own case study research. These projects and presentations provide the basis for our Undergraduate Program Assessment.
- Community Service
Many of our classes require service learning, with several of our faculty members trained as service learning educators. In particular, this past year, in the SPCH 1300 courses, in which there is a minimum of 4 hours of service required per student, there was a total of 3360 clock hours of service done,
In the SPCH 3320 Advanced Public Speaking class, in which students are required to do a minimum of eight hours of service per semester, there were 304 hours done total. Based on Arkansas’ volunteer hourly rate of $19.31, between these two classes, this is equivalent to $70,751.84 donated to the community in required service hours (http://www.thenonprofittimes.com/news-articles/volunteer-value-hits-23-07-an-hour/).
- Cross-Disciplinary Work
Katie Halford collaborated with Dr. Kristen McIntyre, Dr. Sarah Beth Estes, Rachel Jones, and Dean Bond-Maupin to link a section of SPCH 1300 with a first year experience course as part of the Interdisciplinary Experiential Cohort. Our students were able to learn more about our college and interact in the community in meaningful ways because we collaborated on curricular design, team taught, and participated in events outside of the classroom.
Cheryl Johnston coached students from the Information Technology Minor with their speeches for the “2 Days to Start Up” competition in November. All of her students placed in the top five with their teams, out of 20 teams. She continues to collaborate with the new programming instructor, working to realign lesson plans to provide fluidity between the information technology and communication areas they co-teach.
With the facilitation of Dean Bond-Maupin, Dr. Kristen McIntyre and Dr. April Chatham-Carpenter and two Applied Communication master’s graduate assistants worked with the Director of the University Writing Center, Dr. Allison Holland, and graduate assistants from her program, to develop ideas for future collaborations between the Communication Skill Center and the University Writing Center, to better serve students.
Dr. Kristen McIntyre received multiple teaching awards this past year, recognizing her excellent work in the classroom mentoring students and assessing student learning. In particular, Dr. McIntyre received the 2015-16 Faculty Excellence Award in Teaching from the College of Social Sciences and Communication, as well as the UALR Student Government Association’s Student Choice Faculty Award in May 2016. In addition, she was recognized by UALR students as the 2015 Best Professor through UALR’s student newspaper, The Forum.
Research and Creative Activity/Scholarly Activity Highlights
As is normal for the tenured and tenure-track faculty in our department, our faculty members were active in participating in research and scholarly activity this past year. A sample of the scholarly work this year done by our faculty include the following.
- Chang, C., Chen, Z. J., & Chatham-Carpenter, A. (2016). Constructing and negotiating identity in “birth culture”: An intercultural communication approach. China Media Research, 12 (1), 3-13.
- Driskill, G. & Jenkins, J. (2015). (Re)Framing the discourse of “church” purpose: Contradictions, constraints, and promise. National Communication Association, Las Vegas, NV, Nov. 18.
- Fuller, R.P. (Fall 2015). Readiness for Renewal: A service-learning research project in the crisis communication course. C.R. Anderson Research Fund; Association for Business Communication. $2,000.
- Fuller, R.P. (2016). The big breach: An experiential learning exercise in mindful crisis communication. Communication Teacher, 30(1), 27-32. doi:10.1080/17404622.2015.1102306
- Fuller, R.P., & Putnam, L.L. (in press). Planning a negotiation. In J. P. Fyke, Faris, and P.M. Buzzanell (Eds.), Cases in organizational and managerial communication: Stretching boundaries. New York: Routledge.
- Heistad, D., Chatham-Carpenter, A., Moser, K., & Woods, K. (in press). Educating with purpose: An integrated communication model for first-year student success. In T. Vakos (Ed.), Educationally Effective Practices within the First-Year Seminar. Columbia, SC: National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience & Students in Transition.
- Jenkins, J. & Driskill, G. (2015). Communicating church purpose: An expanded taxonomy for contemporary congregations. Religious Communication Association, Las Vegas, NV, Nov. 22.
- McIntyre, K. A. (co-presenter). (October 2015). Approaching community partners as co-educators. Talk presented at the Conference on Community Writing, Boulder, CO.
- McIntyre, K. A., & Fuller, R. P. (in press). A credit-bearing programmatic approach to community-based learning at a metropolitan university: The UALR Department of Speech Communication. In C. Wankel and L. Wankel (Eds.), Integrating curricular and co-curricular endeavors to enhance intellectual, intercultural, global, community, and personal student outcomes. Emerald Publishing Group Limited.
- Mirivel, J. C. (forthcoming 2016). How communication scholars think and act: A lifespan perspective. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.
- Mirivel, J. C., & Fuller, R. (in press). Social talk at work: Speech acts that make a difference. In B. Vine (Ed.), Routledge handbook of language in the workplace. New York: Routledge.
- Mohammed, S. N., & Thombre, A. (2015). The global and the local in Trinidad and Tobago’s Indian music format radio. The Journal of Human Communication Studies in the Caribbean, 1,1. Available at http://journals.sta.uwi.edu/jhcsc/index.asp?action=viewAbstract&articleId=477
- Thompson, C. L., & Kleine, M. W. (2016). Varied responses as a means to the richness of discourse: Reading tough texts. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 10 (1), Article 5. Available at: http://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/ij-sotl/vol10/iss1/5
- Thompson, C. L., Kleine, M. W., & Rabalais, A. (2016, June). The possibilities and problematics of promoting a liberatory classroom in an institutional context – the university. Paper presented at the international Conference on the Future of Education, Florence, Italy.
- Thompson, C., Thombre, A., & Mirivel, J. C. (2015, November). Infusing ethics in college curricula: Best practices. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association, Las Vegas, NV.
In addition, Dr. Julien Mirivel was chosen as the 2015-16 winner of the Research & Creative Endeavors Award for the College of Social Sciences and Communication at UALR, recognizing his excellent work in researching positive communication the past few years.
Service and Engagement Highlights
Listed below are some specifics about the excellent service and engagement of faculty and students in our department.
Avinash Thombre continued in his second year of the LeadAR program, which is a training program for emerging Arkansas leaders, sponsored by the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Services. This program has provided opportunities for Dr. Thombre to network and learn about economic and social issues facing communities in the state of Arkansas, in order to be able to address critical problems in these communities.
Every year, the faculty conducts trainings, workshops, presentations, or consulting in a wide variety of organizational contexts. Here is a sampling of their participation this past year.
- Central Arkansas Marriage Initiative facilitator
- Dassault Falcon Jet consultant
- Central High School & Pulaski Academy, Little Rock, keynote speaker
- Arkansas Public Administration Consortium workshop trainer
- American Heart Association emcee
- Episcopal Collegiate Prep School guest instructor
- UAMS Leadership institute workshop facilitation
- National Association of Social Workers (NASW) consultant for Arkansas chapter & conference presenter for national conference
- Service-Learning Academy for Community Connection Center facilitator
- Presentations on effective presentations to multiple classes across campus
- Presentations on networking and workplace appreciation to classes across campus
- Presentations on large vs. small group communication to classes across campus
In addition, students, staff, and faculty connected with the Communication Skill Center at UALR presented multiple workshops this past year, as seen below.
- 2016 June: Immerse Arkansas youth. Conflict Management
- 2016 June: Testing Services staff. Customer Service
- 2016 May: Disability Resource Center staff. Navigating Change
- 2016 May: Academic Success Center staff. Elevator Pitches
- 2016 April: MBA. Effective Presentational Structure
- 2016 April: Information Technology Capstone. Elevator Pitches
- 2016 April: Professional Selling. Negotiation
- 2016 April: Our House staff. Ethical Feedback
- 2016 April: Marketing Capstone. Effective Presentational Structure
- 2016 March: Professional Selling. Effective Presentational Structure
- 2016 February: Professional Selling. Elevator Pitches
- 2016 February: PR Capstone. Effective Presentational Structure
- 2016 January: Model Arab League. Effective Presentational Structure
- 2015 November: FYE: COEHP. Effective Presentational Structure
- 2015 November: FYE: Information Science. Effective Presentational Structure
- 2015 November: Marketing Capstone. Presentation Rehearsals
- 2015 November: MBA. Presentation Rehearsals
- 2015 November: Advanced Sales. Paraphrasing
- 2015 October: MBA. Effective Presentational Structure
- 2015 October: Advanced Sales. Building Rapport
- 2015 October: Testing Services staff. Workplace Appreciation
- 2015 September: Advanced Sales. Large group vs. Small Group Communication
- 2015 September: Careers and Mass Media. Networking
- 2015 September: Academic Success Center. Social Media Workshop
- 2015 August: MBA-Health Cohort. Effective Presentations
Faculty participate in key committees and initiatives on campus, such as the following.
- Academy for Teaching & Learning Excellence
- Camden Arkansas Project
- Chancellor’s Committee on Racial & Ethnic Diversity
- CSSC Assessment Committee
- CSSC Awards Committee
- CSSC College Identity Committee
- CSSC Core Curriculum Committee
- CSSC Policy Committee
- CSSC Research & Creative Activity Committee
- CSSC Undergraduate Curriculum Committee
- Disability Resource Center Faculty Advisory Board
- Discover UALR
- Donaghey Scholars
- Faculty Advisory Board to the Provost
- International Celebration Week Planning Team
- International Studies Advisory Committee
- UALR Core Assessment
- UALR Experience
- UALR Information Fair
- UALR Open House
- UALR Student Orientation
- UALR Sustainability Committee
- Welcome Week
Student Success Highlights: Recruitment, Retention, & Timely Graduation
We are very pleased with the outcomes of our recruitment efforts to help bring students into our major. We continue to use an appreciative and intrusive advising model to help students be retained through to graduation.
Listed below are some specifics about these efforts.
The Department of Speech Communication has seen an almost 50% increase in the number of undergraduate students majoring in its program. Much of that increase comes from having a bachelor’s degree option that is now completely online, as part of the UALR Online program, as well as a strategic use of communication to stakeholders about our program over the past two years.
The department was awarded the 2015-16 College of Social Sciences and Communication Innovation in Recruitment and Retention Award in Spring 2016, recognizing the department’s innovations in student recruitment and retention efforts.
Consistent with a newly created communication plan, we have worked on a number of marketing & recruiting initiatives this past year, such as:
- Pursuing the necessary paperwork and approvals to get our department name changed to Department of Applied Communication, to better reflect what we are doing with our undergraduate and graduate programs.
- Developing a flyer for our Professional Communication minor and using it in multiple recruiting contexts.
- Maintaining a public Facebook page for the CSC that promotes the importance of communication scholarship, as well as events and workshops related to the CSC and the department.
- Maintaining a closed Facebook group for the Department, which highlights graduate student, undergraduate student, and faculty accomplishments as well as showcases the work of program alumni.
- Developing new explanatory flyers about our departmental programs.
- Maintaining a continued presence on KUAR and UALR’s Forum student newspaper about faculty and successes of our program, to help students and community members know about the program.
- Working on updating our website to make it more accessible and user-friendly.
The department set up two departmental committees this past year in order to best deal with the functions of recruitment, retention, and timely graduation. Half of the faculty serve on one of the committees, and the other half serve on the other committee.
- The Student Success and Curriculum (SSC) committee focuses on building curriculum and assessing student learning, as well as improving advising across the programs of the department
- The Building Bridges with the Community (BBC) committee focuses on recruiting students into the various programs and marketing the programs to external stakeholders.
Each faculty member is now trained in how to declare majors. We created a new undergraduate advising form representing the Fall 2015 catalog changes, which will help students know where they are in the process of obtaining their degree.
The faculty formulated key strategies that start with student advising, curriculum design and mentoring of students throughout their journey in the undergraduate degree. Once the student declares Speech Communication as a major, they are advised to take three core classes (SPCH 2310, SPCH 2311, SPCH 3320) in their first year of the program. These classes focus on learning the theories of the discipline, conducting research, and being able to deliver a public presentation. Most students follow this advice, enabling them to have a strong base that sets them up for success to take further professional and elective classes. The case study approach grounds our entire curriculum and unites efforts to assess our learning objectives in the form of our capstone class.
The department launched its second Communication Week event this past spring. The week focused on celebrating the good things we do in Speech Communication and providing resources for our community related to communication knowledge and skills. Faculty and Communication Skill Center interns led games and simulations for students. Faculty facilitated workshops related to elevator pitches, interviewing, and networking. Students participated in an elevator pitch speak-off. An alumni “Lunch and Learn” event allowed students to learn from departmental alumni, and there was an alumni fund-raising event held.
Students in our classes and programs are involved in community-based service learning. For example, we have the following requirements.
- SPCH 1300: Four hours of required service is done by students and incorporated into their class projects and speeches.
- SPCH 3320 Advanced Public Speaking: Eight hours of required service is done by students and incorporated into class projects and speeches.
- SPCH 4300/4110 Undergraduate Capstone: External stakeholders are brought in to review the 20-25 minute presentations.
- SPCH 4314 Internship: CSC interns facilitate communication skill-building activities and PowerPoint workshops in SPCH 1300.
- SPCH 7352 Organizational Communication Training: Students conduct trainings with local nonprofits.
- Graduate Student Culture Analysis Projects, approximately 10 each year, involve serving local organizations by analyzing culture and communication and providing practical implications.
We created a Student Awards Committee, which recognizes outstanding students for their work in our programs. This year the committee and department developed criteria for an annual undergraduate and graduate Distinguished Scholar Award, as well as Making a Difference Award. We gave these out to six students in Spring 2016, and will have a plaque displaying their names in our office in the future.
Students who took the SPCH 1300 course at UALR have had a 74.8 – 81.3% (76.4% average) retention rate for the past 10 years (based on enrolling the next academic year), while students who did not take a SPCH 1300 course at UALR or elsewhere had a retention rate of 45.6 – 57.0% (50.8% average). If students transferred in a SPCH 1300 course, their retention rate for the past 10 years averaged between 72.8 to 76.8% (74.1% average). These numbers show the importance of students taking the SPCH 1300 course to be successful in college.
Development and Alumni Relations Highlights
We established a Building Bridges with the Community (BBC) departmental committee this past year, who has been working with the Department Chair and Alumni Advisory/Development Board to develop an Applied Communication Leadership Lecture Series, with the inaugural year of this to begin in Fall 2016. This four-date lecture series includes both faculty and alumni as facilitators of topics such as positive communication, nonverbal communication, and managing conflict for leaders in the workplace.
Our Alumni Advisory/Development Board consists of nine BA and MA alumni:
● Koy Butler, House of Three
● Debbie Knight, One Banc
● Tamidra Marable, Heifer International
● Mary Cantrell Twedt, UAMS
● Alex Long, Jason International
● Bruce Trimble, Bridgeway Hospital
● Ashley McNatt, Dept. of Health
● Christy Standerfer, Clinton School of Public Service
● Eileen Denne, Denne Consulting
This past year we developed and approved by-laws for the Alumni Development Board, which included the purpose of the board, membership procedures, officer information, and gifts policy.
We have begun a targeted funding campaign to promote two endowed scholarships in Speech Communication, named after our former dean Dr. Angie Brenton and emeritus professor Dr. Allan Ward. This funding campaign has also been supported by our Alumni Advisory/Development Board. To support ongoing excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, our Department has additional funding opportunities, including Undergraduate Student Support and Graduate Student Support. In addition, we added a direct giving link on our webpage for these opportunities this past Spring (http://ualr.edu/appliedcomm/give-to-the-department/).
All offices are located on the 2nd floor of the Speech building, on the South side of UALR’s campus. The main office is in Room 237. You are welcome to come and see us!