Department of Applied Communication’s Mission:
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 six theoretic models, which represent our core values. The six models include: (a) Positive Communication, (b) Organizational Culture, (c) Diffusion & Transformation, (d) Crisis & Renewal Communication, (e) Experiential Learning, and (f) Conflict Communication. These models 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.
To learn more about how our mission is lived out, see the article here.
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).
Recent Award Winners
We had a wonderful Celebration of our Communication Communities on May 6, 2021. (You can view the zoom ceremony here.)
In that ceremony, we honored multiple people, including our graduates, our Lambda Pi Eta inductees, and our departmental awards winners. Listed below are our award winners with a brief bio about why they won the award next to their picture.
Distinguished Student Scholar Award Recipients
As an undergraduate student in the Department of Applied Communication, Lorien Dahl sought out opportunities to learn and explore her passions, and to share the knowledge she was gaining as a result. Lorien recently presented her capstone project on self-talk and emotional intelligence at the Southern States Communication Association virtual conference as part of the Theodore Clevenger Undergraduate Honors Conference. Her paper was competitively chosen to be a part of this conference.
Lorien’s senior project explored the way a person’s intrapersonal communication or self-talk is impacted by their emotional intelligence. In addition, she did her own action-based research on being aware of and changing her own negative self-talk to positive self-talk as part of additional coursework she did in her final semester in Fall 2020, publishing a blog about her research on self-talk. Her findings demonstrate her own personal journey of growth.
In addition, as demonstrated by her senior portfolio, Lorien does an excellent job incorporating her creative skills with her reflections on her research, illustrating that she can use multiple genres to communicate her work.
Robin’s scholarship has been promoting our mission since she was an undergraduate in our program. Her Capstone work on communication strategies for women without children received a Signature Experience grant and had the prestigious honor of being selected for presentation at the Southern States Communication Association 29th Annual Theodore Clevenger, Jr. Undergraduate Honors Conference and was featured in UA Little Rock news. As a second-year MA student, Robin’s scholarship continues to enact and promote our mission in her work with the Uncommon Communities program with the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute (WRI). According to the WRI website, “Uncommon Communities is a leadership, community and economic development program developed by the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute and founded upon the research and methodology of Dr. Vaughn Grisham, Emeritus Director of the University of Mississippi’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement. This program will produce a group of community leaders equipped to work together in the areas of leadership, economic development, education, workforce development, and quality of life and place.” Selected as their graduate assistant, Robin has been helping with program evaluation through past participant interviews. Her project will provide incredibly important information about how participants experienced the program and use the information they learned. Her findings will directly shape the program’s future structure and content.
Students Making a Difference Award Recipients
Jodie is receiving the undergraduate student Making a Difference award for our department for her important work with the Pope County Foster Care Coalition. The Pope County Foster Care Coalition is a nonprofit that advocates for those in foster care or protective services by providing support and resources to case workers, families, and children in the community.
Jodie volunteers between 10 to 15 hours a week and 40 or more hours during holidays. She shared with me this past winter that she had been very busy because they had a foster family with 5 children (siblings) who lost everything in a fire. The family needed support and resources immediately and couldn’t wait on lengthy processes. The organization was able to find them a rental of which the deposit and first month were waived–they provided furniture, replaced toys, clothes, and other essential items, secured a donated moving truck, and were able to get the ATU baseball team to move the family into their new home.
The Pope County Foster Care Coalition (PCFCC) embodies the mission of our department by raising awareness for the foster care system, recruiting foster parents, and stepping in when the state cannot provide resources or support. They ensure no child goes without and ensure that they are afforded the same things as other children by working directly with case workers and other partner organizations, filling in the gaps.
As the Director of Education for Arkansas PBS (formerly AETN) since 2019, last year alone, during the pandemic, Sajni oversaw the development of 400+ original clips produced over 8 weeks, more than 70 new courses created and more — including Community Education programs like “Say My Piece” Poetry Camp and AR STEM Girls.
In addition, Sajni was the lead for Arkansas AMI, which was created in partnership with the Department of Education in response to COVID-19 — featuring 24 original learning guides, 400 hours of broadcast programming for pre-K through 8th grade, including over 300 PBS programs and 400 clips (20+ hours) of original content featuring teachers and community partners. Over the 8 weeks it aired, 161 schools spanning 64 of 75 counties utilized the programming to ensure children continued to learn –—despite being out of the classroom!
Sajni also served as Program Education Manager in the Department of Geriatrics – College of Medicine during the time she was in graduate school. Her work entailed creating training materials for older adults in the area of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia, as well as opioid abuse. Her work on training to combat opioid abuse in older adults in Arkansas, related to her master’s project, is now published.
Sajni’s work in the last few years is so impressive that she is certainly deserving of our department’s Making a Difference award.
Alumni Making a Difference Award Recipient
For more than 24 years, Melissa has worked in the nonprofit community. Her passion for worthy causes and working with donors to realize their philanthropic goals keep her engaged and involved in the development field.
Melissa Stiles joined the Arkansas Prostate Cancer Foundation (APCF) is the Director of Development in March 2020. Prior to APCF, Melissa served as the Senior Major Gifts Officer for CARTI Foundation. During her tenure, she created a major and planned giving program. With this, the foundation completed its first-ever capital campaign raising more than $11 million (exceeding the $10 million goal) to fund programs and services for cancer patients.
Melissa received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech Communication from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UA Little Rock) in 1994. She received her Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) designation in September 2018. Melissa is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). Melissa is also a member of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Alumni Association. Through UA Little Rock, she supports Last Mile scholarships for students experiencing financial struggles in the last semester prior to graduation.
Melissa’s work to support UA Little Rock students and needs in the community at large make her a worthy recipient of our Alumni Making a Difference Award.
Community Partner Award Recipient
In the summer of 2012, just two years after Immerse Arkansas first opened their doors to youth aging out of the foster care system, our department began our partnership with Immerse Arkansas.
The students enrolled in SPCH 7352: Organizational Communication Training, now called ACOM 7352: Communication Training & Pedagogy. These students were the first from our program to join the Immerse Arkansas youth for their Tuesday night gathering in Eric and Kara’s living room.
Sharing spaghetti, games, and lots of laughter with the youth, our students learned more about the amazing organization and people that would be coming to our classroom for professional communication workshops. They also received $100,000 Grand candy bars, a sweet tradition shown to newcomers.
Many June Tuesday night dinners later, our partnership has continued each summer as Immerse Arkansas continued to grow–always working to address the needs of youth in crisis–so much so that they moved out of Eric and Kara’s living room to Mosaic Church and then most recently to their location close to our campus on Asher. Even in the midst of all of their growth and a pandemic, our Summer 2020 students were still able to work with Immerse virtually, because of the willingness and support of the amazing Immerse family.
In the true nature of experiential learning, our students’ lives are immeasurably deepened not just through the lived experience of building and facilitating workshops tailored to communication needs in our community; but, arguably, more so, through the connections and relationships they build with the Immerse youth and staff through this process.
Immerse Arkansas transforms youth from crisis into Overcomers. We are grateful for the opportunity to partner in this powerful mission. For this reason, we would like to present our Community Partner Award to Immerse Arkansas, and to Eric Gilmore and Jake Ritter, who are here representing Immerse Arkansas at this ceremony.
Graduate Student Spotlights
Undergraduate Student Spotlights
Spring 2021 Graduates
Fall 2020 Graduates
Lectures by Alumni & Faculty
The Department of Applied Communication hosts leadership lectures multiple times a year, highlighting research and work done by faculty and alumni in the areas of communication, management, and leadership.
For a sample of past lectures, go to this link.
To sign up for current lectures, go to this link.
All offices are located in Ross Hall in the center of UA Little Rock’s campus. The main office is in Room 120. You are welcome to come and see us!