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Mass communications students and faculty reap bumper crop of awards

August 6, 2009 By Dennis Chaptman

Graduate students and faculty in the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Joint Program in Mass Communications landed several awards — the most in recent memory — at a national conference for journalism educators this week.

The awards, presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in Boston, underscore the program’s national reputation for research and teaching, says Dhavan Shah, UW–Madison professor of journalism and mass communication.

“It’s one of those years where the stars were all aligned. You had a great group of graduate students working closely with an excellent faculty,” says Shah, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s outgoing director of graduate studies. “The results are clear: It’s a place that’s hard to beat for research excellence. It’s part of an impressive track record.”

Among the program’s award winners were Shah, Robert Drechsel, Jack McLeod and Sue Robinson, who received recognitions from the Communication Theory and Methodology Division, Law Division, and Mass Communication and Society Division; and Dominique Brossard, Dietram Scheufele and Albert Gunther from the Department of Life Sciences Communication who were recognized with an award from the Science Communication Interest Group.

Four of the program’s graduate students — Melissa Gotlieb, Kjerstin Thorson, Amy Becker and Timothy Fung — were each authors on two award-winning papers. Two of these students are advised by faculty in journalism and mass communication and two by faculty in the Department of Life Sciences Communication. Both units jointly administer the mass communications Ph.D. program.

“The mass communications program has long been a leader in producing graduates that populate all the top communications programs in the U.S. and abroad when they become faculty,” says Scheufele, professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Life Sciences Communication.

Shah adds: “In terms of being able to conduct research and become an assistant professor, I don’t think there’s a better place to be in the country.”

Here is a list of awards presented to UW–Madison faculty and students at the conference:

Student papers:

  • Amy B. Becker, “New Voters, New Outlooks? Same-sex Marriage, Social Networks and Generational Politics.” (Top Three Student Paper, Mass Communication and Society Division).
  • Melissa Gotlieb and Kjerstin Thorson, “News Exposure and Political Participation: A Citizen versus Consumer Response to News Media Messages.” (Guido Stempel Award for Graduate Student Research, Top Paper, Graduate Student Interest Group).
  • Emily K. Vraga, Thorson, Timothy Fung and Hans K. Meyer, “Emotions vs. Cognitions? Testing Competing Models of Response to a Media Message in Predicting Participation.” (Top Three Student Paper, Communication Theory and Methodology Division).
  • Fung and Elliott Hillback, “Health Risk as a Threat to Freedom: Exploring the Role of Psychological Reactance in Reactions to West Nile Virus News Coverage.” (Eason Prize, Top Student Paper, Science Communication Interest Group).

Top faculty paper awards (papers written with graduate students):

  • Kajsa E. Dalrymple, Becker and life science communications professors Brossard, Scheufele and Gunther, “Getting Citizens Involved: How Controversial Science Policy Debates Stimulate Issue Participation During a Political Campaign.” (Runner-up for Top Faculty Paper, Science Communication Interest Group).
  • Drechsel, “The Declining First Amendment Rights of Government News Sources: How Garcetti v. Ceballos Threatens the Flow of Newsworthy Information” (Top Faculty Paper, Law Division).
  • Gotlieb, Kyurim Kyoung, Itay Gabay and journalism professor Shah, “Political Consumerism and Youth Citizenship: The Development of Identity Politics Among Tweens and Teens.” (Top Faculty Paper, Mass Communication and Society Division).
  • Nam-jin Lee and journalism professors Shah and McLeod, “Processes of Communicative Socialization: A Communication Mediation Approach to Youth Civic Engagement.” (Top-Three Faculty Paper, Communication Theory and Methodology Division).

Faculty award:

  • Journalism professor Sue Robinson was honored as one of three “Promising Professors.”

More information about graduate studies in journalism and life sciences communication can be found at these links.