Annual Report

The mission of the Department of Speech Communication at UALR is to foster the co-construction of better social worlds through positive communication. Our focus is to enable students to practice positive communication in interpersonal, organizational, and public contexts.

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) Culture, (c) Transformation, (d) Renewal, 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.

Our vision is to enhance our centrality to UALR’s mission and vision related to student success, applied scholarship, and community engagement, resulting in regional and national recognition. We want to work towards the university goals of “no lost students” and “Think UALR first.”

This vision involves the following strategic goals:

  • Build stronger bridges with the community to facilitate service learning, internships, collaborative grants, and student projects for applied research and service;
  • Engage our alumni and interested community members in endowing our two scholarships to provide a path for student academic support;
  • Access grant funding to develop the Communication Skill Center into a regional center of excellence for communication issues;
  • Grow our majors with a goal of 100 undergraduate majors and 40 graduate students, filling classes to above capacity, necessitating a growth for two additional tenure-track faculty lines; and
  • Gain support for a building/space that creates professional, inviting spaces for students, alumni, community members, and faculty.

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
  • Internships

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.

Teaching Awards

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, as seen on the following weblink (http://ualr.edu/giving/product/speech-communication/). In addition, we added a direct giving link on our webpage for these opportunities this past Spring (http://ualr.edu/giving/product/speech-communication/).

Assessment Activities

Our assessment processes for our SPCH 1300 course, our undergraduate program, and our graduate program all involve direct measures. There are specific learning outcomes for each of these, and students’ work in their classes are compared to a rubric, with aggregated results from the assignments being used to determine if specific learning outcomes are being met by the course and programs.

SPCH 1300

By the end of the SPCH 1300 course, students will be able to:

  1. Conceptualize communication in complex and meaningful ways;
  2. Present speeches in an organized manner;
  3. Use technology to develop and draft components of a presentation;
  4. Locate, evaluate, and integrate online research into a presentation;
  5. Recognize, name, and analyze effective and ineffective/unethical communication behaviors;
  6. Generate communication-based solutions to problematic/unethical communication behavior; and
  7. Articulate the relationship between communication and positive community change.

In the SPCH 1300 course, students are given a “misconceptions about communication” pretest at the beginning of the class and a posttest at the end of the semester. Difference scores are used to determine if there is a significant difference in improvement of misconceptions from the beginning of the semester to the end. In addition, the following student work pieces are used for assessment purposes: (a) self-introduction speech, (b) positive communication video, (c) informative service speech, and (d) interpersonal communication paper. Pre- and post-test speech and paper rubrics are applied to these presentations and analyses.

Undergraduate Program

For the past several years, our undergraduate program has been grounded in three intended learning outcomes, with students being able to do the following by the end of their program of study:

  1. Demonstrate an accurate understanding of assigned theories in the discipline;
  2. Demonstrate effective oral communication skills in the public speaking context;
  3. Apply one communication theory to a real world situation in a final capstone paper and presentation.

In the undergraduate BA program, we use our capstone SPCH 4300 and SPCH 4110 courses as our major assessment tool. The capstone experience consisted in the past of a three-hour course in the Fall semester (SPCH 4300), in which students would write a comprehensive case analysis of a communication situation using a communication theory of their choice as the foundation, and a one-hour course in the Spring (SPCH 4110), in which students prepare and deliver a 20-25 minute presentation based upon their research. This past year we combined the paper and presentation into one semester, in order to help facilitate students’ timely graduation.

This past year, students’ presentations continued to be evaluated by both faculty and external stakeholders, using pre-established rubrics. During and after students’ presentations, faculty and external stakeholders assess students’ capstone presentations to refine our classroom teaching. The capstone presentations undertaken by our students and its evaluation by faculty and stakeholders provide us with insights about our teaching and students’ learning. Results from this year’s assessment continues to support that our students are meeting all three of these learning outcomes by the time they graduate, even with the change in how we delivered the capstone sequence. We will continue to monitor students’ performance with this change.

Although students met our expectations for learning, we want to work on continuous improvement, and this coming year intend to modify the rubrics for our capstone presentation to have macrostructure of their presentation be a required element, focusing more in the rubric on the application of theory to their case, as well as adapting their message to their audience. This will help us move to be in line with our revised undergraduate learning outcomes described below.

In the Fall 2015 semester, faculty members began discussing whether we wanted our undergraduate program curriculum to be meeting other objectives besides the three outcomes we had been focusing on for several years. We did a thorough analysis of our current course syllabi and studied the work done by the National Communication Association’s Learning Outcomes in Communication Project. We found that our learning outcomes, which had not been updated for several years, needed to be revised.

Under the direction of our new Department Chair, the Student Success and Curriculum (SSC) sub-committee led faculty in reviewing and revising these outcomes, with the restatement of our outcomes listed below. More information on the impact of these changes to our curriculum appear in section “c” below.

We believe the curriculum in the Speech Communication department at UALR enables students to learn how to practice positive communication in interpersonal, organizational, and public contexts to make a difference.  We believe that the coursework and experiential learning in which students in our programs engage, while in our department, allow them to be able to do the following.

Communication graduates use a positive communication framework to ethically lead by:

  • Analyzing messages

Communication graduates use communication theory to effectively critique messages.  This message analysis is done through active listening and critical thinking, allowing communication graduates to enact mindful responses to messages.

  • Developing messages

Communication graduates create and adapt their messages to different purposes and contexts, using a variety of methods. When appropriate, they co-create their messages with their stakeholders.

  • Anticipating communication barriers

Communication graduates critically apply communication theory to situations involving leadership, relationships, and change. In doing so, they assess potential breakdowns in communication, and generate communication recommendations for self and others.

  • Accomplishing communicative goals

Communication graduates are effective as leaders in change management. They work with others to co-create goals and collaboratively problem solve situations.  They evaluate their own personal communication strengths and weaknesses to improve their own communication as change leaders.

  • Embracing difference

Communication graduates embrace differences between others via active listening and positive communication.  They respect diverse perspectives and the ways those perspectives influence communication.  They adapt their communication in diverse cultural contexts.

  • Influencing discourse

Communication graduates recognize the importance of communication in everyday life.  They use their communication and research skills to frame and evaluate personal, local, national, and global issues, in order to productively respond to those issues.  In doing so, they are strong advocates for applying best practices in communication within various contexts.

Graduate Program

We have three overall learning goals for our graduate program. Each year we look at one of these learning goals, rotating through them every three years. These goals are for students, by the time they graduate, to be able to:

  1. understand and engage in applied communication research,
  2. develop ethically responsible recommendations for applied communication contexts, and
  3. make effective presentations to shape or inform communication practices.

We collect several student artifacts over the course of their program, which we use to explore how students are learning, related to these goals. These artifacts include students’ comprehensive exam answers, their final research project, and their final portfolio. We use pre-established rubrics for all of these. In addition, their final project is presented to a professional audience and faculty members.

We use a pre and post-test “misconceptions about communication” test for students when they begin and end their program, similar to what is done in the SPCH 1300 course. We also do an alumni survey every five years, to help us improve our program.

Notable Outcomes

For the undergraduate BA program, our students continue to demonstrate a high level of competence in presentation skills and mastery of content in the capstone sequence, suggesting that the changes we’ve made to both the curriculum and our teaching practices are having the desired effect. Each year we have developed a number of ways to involve faculty, students and stakeholders in our assessment efforts. Our entire faculty is heavily invested in virtually every aspect of our assessment process. We continue to fine-tune our assessment process to provide us with higher quality data. We have revised our learning outcomes and are developing an accompanying assessment plan, which led us to make some changes in our undergraduate curriculum.

For the graduate MA program, our students continue to demonstrate the ability to understand and engage in applied communication research through their required research projects and comprehensive exams and/or portfolio reflections. Students are introduced to a case study approach in the first semester, and then in the following semesters, they take courses that each include a case analysis. This process seems to be working in helping our students meet our outcomes.

The ongoing assessment of learning across our programs is used to strengthen our teaching. We have meetings as a faculty to discuss results from the SPCH 1300, undergraduate, and graduate assessment processes. We continue to reflect on three major questions in our ongoing efforts to enhance student learning.

  1. How can we enhance deep learning across our various programs?
  2. How can we develop student mindsets by challenging communication misconceptions?
  3. How can we improve our case study approach to communication analysis to ensure continuity across the program?

Curricular Modifications Based on Assessment Outcomes

As a result of revising our undergraduate learning outcomes, the departmental Student Success and Curriculum sub-committee created a curriculum map and an assessment plan that would allow us to assess our new undergraduate outcomes over a period of three years (two outcomes a year). Based on the curriculum map, we found we needed to do some adjustment to our major curriculum, with the start of that revised curriculum being Summer 2017. There will now be a dedicated class or class options for all of our learning outcomes. We will be testing out our rubrics using our sophomore research methods and senior capstone papers and presentations this coming year in order to be ready to put this into operation starting Fall 2017. We applied for and received an assessment grant to pilot test rubrics for our outcomes, which we did in June 2016.

For the graduate program, our five-year plan requires a review of our assessment process. While we are “assessing assessment,” previous data prompted several changes. We have made adjustments to first-year classes to aid students in improving their ability to conduct credible and strong case analyses. We are also shifting our five core courses to the first year, so that students have a solid background to begin their research projects in their second year – projects that flow from one of the five theoretic pillars of our graduate program. We are working on a plan to gather portfolio data for mid-program and end-of-program review, to be able to do both formative and summative assessment of our program. In addition, as seen in the next section, one of the major priorities for next year is to look more closely at our learning outcomes and curriculum for our graduate program, as we did this past year for our undergraduate program.

The upcoming year will prove to be a busy year with multiple moving parts.

Program Review

One of the largest things that is to take place is our seven-year Program Review, in which external reviewers will be looking closely at every part of our program, after we do an intensive self-study this Fall. We began the ground work for this self-study this past year with our undergraduate curriculum work and surveys of students and alumni. We look forward to learning how we can continue to improve.

Faculty Hire

This next year we will need to hire a replacement faculty member for Dr. Ryan Fuller who has taken a job to be closer to family in California. Dr. Fuller has been integral these past few years in our undergraduate and graduate program, regularly teaching required and elective courses in the areas of Conflict Management and Crisis Communication. We are hiring two part-time visiting instructors for this coming year, but hope to have permission to hire a full-time tenure track assistant professor for 2017-18. If we get this permission, then we will need to commence a search process for this person, with the goal of having someone hired by March of 2017. This hiring process, if approved, will be done considering discussions we have had about the direction of our undergraduate program this past year, as well as the direction for our graduate program in the coming year, in order to hire the best person to help fill in curricular gaps and reach our goals.

Undergraduate Program

This past year we have focused primarily on student success and curriculum and recruiting for our undergraduate program. We want to continue working on these things, putting the necessary infrastructure into place to implement the revised curriculum in Summer 2017, and explore the best ways to continue serve both our face-to-face and online undergraduate students.

Graduate Program

Along with this continued focus on our undergraduate program, we want to turn our attention this year to our graduate program. Using an early Fall faculty retreat, we plan to start focusing on the following issues in our graduate program. We have already brainstormed topics to explore in each of these areas, which will guide our work this next year.

  • Learning outcomes & assessment
  • Curriculum & scheduling of classes
  • Recruitment & selection of students
  • Relationships with students & alumni

Marketing & Communication

We anticipate that our department name will be changed by August 1, 2016 to the Department of Applied Communication. That, along with a change in our undergraduate BA degree, effective Summer 2017, to BA in Applied Communication Studies, means that we need to completely rebrand our department. Our course prefixes will be changed for the Fall 2017 catalog to ACOM instead of SPCH, which will necessitate developing a cross-walk to help students and other stakeholders clearly understand what we are doing. In addition, our new learning outcomes for our undergraduate major will need to be clearly communicated to our students and stakeholders in materials we develop.

The money we will receive from winning our college’s Innovation in Recruitment and Retention award will help jumpstart this process, but we anticipate this coming year to be a transition year with marketing materials, website, advising materials, etc. all needing to be developed and redone. We have an intern/work study student who has already started working behind the scenes to help with this.

Development

We need to work intentionally on continuing to get our two new scholarship accounts up to the endowment level. This will require working alongside the Office of Alumni and Development to develop more relationships with potential donors and alumni, as we move forward. The work we have already done to set up these scholarships and work with our Alumni Advisory/Development Board will be integral to achieving this priority.

Enrollment

Fall 2015 Census: 692
1st Major Headcount
  1.  Fall 2015

Applied Communication Studies MA – 26

Speech Communication BA – 65 (face-to-face: 63; online: 2)

2.  Spring 2016

Applied Communication Studies MA – 23

Speech Communication BA – 73 (face-to-face: 53; online: 20)

Student Credit Hours Generated 
  1. Fall 2015: 2076
  2. Spring 2016: 2012
Retention

Our Fall 2014 – Fall 2015 retention rate for our Applied Communication Studies MA students was 60%, while our Fall 2014 success rate (students retained in Fall 2015 or graduated in 2014-15) from our MA program was 68%. For our undergraduate program, our Fall 2014 – Fall 2015 retention rate was 46.5%, while our Fall 2014 success rate was 65.1% (accounting for students who graduated in 2014-15 or were retained in Fall 2015).

Personnel
  1. Instructors: 3
  2. Assistant Professors: 1
  3. Associate Professors: 3
  4. Full Professors: 3
  5. Administrative Specialist III: 1
Grants & Contracts

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.

Fundraising
  1. Angela Laird Brenton Memorial Scholarship – amount raised to date of $18,593.17 (this includes a pledged amount of $5,600 still to be received for the year).
  2. Allan Ward Scholarship – amount raised to date of $1576.05.