Missouri State University
What is going on in the Department of Communication

A great year for Missouri State Debate

The debate team had another fantastic year with a number of notable accomplishments.

Representation in the National Debate Tournament

In March, Brendan Brower and Clayton Russo qualified for the 2017 National Debate Tournament at the University of Kansas.

According to debate advisor Dr. Eric Morris, “It is challenging to qualify, and they qualified on the basis of their record throughout the whole season.”

Success at the National Forensics Association tournament

Six Missouri State debaters attended the National Forensics Association tournament in April.

  • Mikayla Dickerson qualified as one of the final 32 debaters and was ranked the sixth speaker in the nation.
  • Gabe Morrison qualified as one of the final 16 debaters.
Eric Morris
Dr. Eric Morris

Join the debate

The debate team is open to all majors. Anyone wishing to give it a try is encouraged to register for COM 321: Inter-Collegiate Debating with Dr. Morris.

“You’ll probably give 12-20 organized speeches, and if you go to even one tournament, you’ll give twice as many as that,” Morris said. “We’ll show you how to put them together in ways that are fast and efficient, which will help your ability to deal with future situations where you may be asked to speak in-depth on a subject.”

And because employers consistently cite strong communication as one of the most desirable skills for prospective employees, these experiences help prepare debaters for a wide range of career paths.

Morris added, “I think one reason debaters tend to be so successful after they graduate is because they train themselves to be hard workers and also efficient workers.”

Register for the fall

  • What: COM 321 (Inter-Collegiate Debating)
  • When: Tuesday/Thursday, 3:30 – 4:45 p.m.
  • CRN: 40163
  • More information: Contact Eric Morris
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Publication and recognition for Stephen Spates

Dr. Stephen Spates, assistant professor in the department of communication, successfully defended his dissertation “Exploring Workplace Connections of Employees with Multiple Role Expectations: Accommodating Communication Behaviors of Hospital Chaplains” at the University of Tennessee.

Recent accomplishments


Spates has the following 2017 peer-reviewed publication:
  • Westerman, C. Y. K., Spates, S. A., Reno, K. M., Jenkins, E. W., & Lee, H. E. (2017). How Koreans and Americans use voice and silence to restore equity in workplace friendships. Ewha Journal of Social Sciences, 33, 181-223.


Workplace friendships develop because of increased proximity at work, creating the potential for inequity across both work and personal roles. Using communication to manage inequity in workplace friendships contributes to positive organizational outcomes. An experimental survey was conducted to learn more about voice and silence responses to inequity in workplace friendships in both Korea and the United States. This study extends equity theory across two cultures in the context of workplace friendships and communication responses. Message access exclusivity was also tested as a potential precursor to voice and silence responses. Working adults from both the U.S. and Korea were surveyed to learn their responses. Findings of the study are reported and implications of the findings are discussed.

Recognition from alma mater

This spring, Spates also received recognition from Oakwood University (where he received his Bachelor of Arts). He was included in the Oakwood Magazine feature “120 Faces of Oakwood University,” which was created in honor of the university’s 120th anniversary.
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Carrisa Hoelscher’s 2017 publications

Carrisa Hoelscher
Dr. Carrisa Hoelscher

Dr. Carrisa Hoelscher, assistant professor of communication, recently published two national peer-reviewed articles and one peer-reviewed book chapter.

Dr. Hoelscher’s 2017 publications

  • Hoelscher, C. S., Kramer, M. W., Nguyen, C., Cooper, O. D. & Day, E. A. (2017). Decision making and communication in a statewide interagency task force: An investigation of planned versus utilized processes. Management Communication Quarterly. doi: 10.1177/0893318916661762 (Advanced online publication).
  • Cionea, I. A., Hoelscher, C. S., & Iles, I. A. (2017). Arguing goals: An initial assessment of a new measurement instrument. Communication Reports, 30, 51-65. doi: 10.1080/08934215.2016.1184695
  • Kramer, M. W., Hoelscher, C. S., Day, E. A., Nguyen, C., & Cooper, O. D. (2017). Collaborating while getting the job done on time. In R. Heath & M. Isbell (Eds). Interorganizational collaboration: Principled leadership and communication for the 21st Century. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.
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LeAnn Brazeal recognized with General Education Assessment Award

Dr. LeAnn Brazeal
Dr. LeAnn Brazeal is a recipient of a 2017 General Education Assessment Award

The Council on General Education and Interdisciplinary Programs (CGEIP) has selected Dr. LeAnn Brazeal for the 2017 General Education Assessment Award for her  leadership in assessment for improvement and for employing effective and innovative practices to help students achieve success in general education in COM 115: Fundamentals of Public Speaking.

In 2016-2017, CGEIP reviewed 99 annual reports and selected seven general education course coordinators for this honor. Dr. Brazeal was recognized for this achievement at the All-Faculty Recognition Ceremony on May 2.

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Overcoming obstacles as a first-gen student

Shelby Morrison
Shelby Morrison

First-generation college students – those who are first in their family to go to college – face many hurdles in their quest for a higher education.

For Shelby Morrison, the biggest struggle was the financial burden.

“I’ve had to pay for college solely on my own, so I’ve taken out quite a bit of student loans for my degree,” said Morrison, a senior from Wood River, Illinois. “It hasn’t been easy, but it means making a better life for my family and myself, and making them proud.”

Morrison is pursuing a major in health communication, one of the newer programs at Missouri State University. This degree gives her the ability to work in the health care field and interact directly with physicians.

“My mentors and professors helped me to find the health communication major, and I ended up falling in love with it,” said Morrison. “I love the fact that I will be able to help people through health care.”

Challenges of being first-generation

Besides cost, another obstacle Morrison faced when she chose to go to college was not having anyone at home to help her plan for it. She had to discover many of the processes on her own.

“It was difficult getting prepared for college as my parents weren’t sure how to help me. It was quite an experience learning how to fill out a FAFSA, apply to college and get everything ready for the move,” said Morrison. “That was definitely challenging.”

But she never gave up because she always wanted a college education.

“I’ve never thought that college was a ‘question’ for me. I’ve always known I wanted to go,” said Morrison. “I want to make a good life for myself and my future family. My high school English teacher was the biggest inspiration to further my education. She helped me to believe I was totally capable of getting a college education.”

First-gen student at graduation

Advice from a soon-to-be alumna

Morrison had to find her own way and do the research on her own to succeed, but she does not want that to be the case for future first-generation college students. She seeks to inspire and help them.

Morrison is co-founder and current president of MSU: I’m First. Started in August 2015, the organization helps to ensure the success of first-generation students on campus. It provides resources such as faculty mentors and financial aid and scholarship workshops.

“My advice to future first-generation students is to definitely do your research. It’s always better to know too much than to not know about a form, deadline or event that could be very beneficial to you,” said Morrison, who will graduate this August. “Don’t be scared. This is a huge, brave step in your life and it will be worth it, even on the tough days.”

Despite having to overcome many different challenges compared to her peers, Morrison’s upbeat attitude has helped her achieve success. Her words of encouragement to any first-generation student is, “Never lose hope and always think positive!”

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COMWeek provided practical learning opportunities

COMWeek is one of the communication department’s signature events: a week-long immersion in some of the biggest topics in the field. It also includes plenty of opportunities to network and socialize with communication scholars, professionals and students.

Each year, visiting scholars present their research, and the week concludes with an alumni panel so that current communication students can learn from the professional perspectives of recent graduates.

Dr. Shawn Wahl, communication department head

Real-world experience

This year, COMWeek also provided professional training opportunities for four students, who served as the PR intern team. They gained practical experience with many of the most sought-after skills in public relations, such as event planning, promotion and coordination.

The student team consisted of Jacob Burke, Megan Hayes, Bryar Keyes and Tina Pham, who first began working on the plan as part of a class project.

According to Dr. Shawn Wahl, communication department head, “The students proposed a public relations and marketing plan in COM 379: Writing for Public Relations. Several of them wanted to gain more experience by actually executing the public relations and marketing plan they worked on during the Fall 2016 semester.”

After considering the students’ proposal, Wahl agreed to give them a huge stake in one of the department’s most important events.

“We were biting at the opportunity to get more responsibility,” team member Bryar said.

Learning to work within a brand

Just as communication professionals must learn to work within specific branding guidelines or creative directives, the COMWeek team was tasked with building a PR plan around Missouri State’s brand.

“Working with the brand was a big thing,” Bryar said. “It was a lot of fun because it gave us so much to go with. But we had to incorporate it and follow all the rules and guidelines in a specific way.”

Uniting the promotional materials around a consistent theme wasn’t always easy. During many months of planning, the students had to challenge themselves and stretch their skills into new areas of design, writing and organization.

When asked how they pushed through moments of doubt and exhaustion, team member Tina said they’d remind each other, “this is a big thing for our department, one that we love, so we’re going to get back into it. And we’d just take off again. That was the only way to do it.”

Mentorship and support

While COMWeek offered the student team the chance to exercise their professional skills, they got to do so within a supportive environment, where they were surrounded by expert mentorship.

In addition to Wahl’s guidance, the team also relied on instructor Didem Koroglu, who first proposed they create the PR plan in COM 379, and they shared that all communication faculty provided support, as did administrative assistant Suzanne Moskalski and Dr. Gloria Galanes, dean of the College of Arts and Letters.

“I think that’s what really helped us get through COMWeek,” Tina said.

Naturally, they experienced pre-event jitters. Team member Megan said, “The first day it started getting down to time, and we were like, ‘Guys, is anyone going to come?'”

“You know those butterflies,” Tina agreed.

But the team had nothing to worry about. Not only did people come, but according to Wahl, “Communication Week 2017: Make Your Missouri Statement was the most successful event in department history. I am so proud of the work of the public relations students. Overall, they did a wonderful job executing the public relations plan.”

And Wahl’s instinct that the students were ready for this challenge paid off. “I have confidence,” he said, “that this applied experience in public relations, marketing and event planning will help them as they compete for the best jobs across industries.”

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Students gather data that may shape Greene County

Aerial view of Springfield with a focus on the Missouri State campus

Students in Didem Koroglu’s communication classes are participating in a service learning project with the potential to have significant impact on our community.

They’re partnering with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks (CFO) to increase public engagement with the 2017 Springfield-Greene County Community Focus Report, which investigates 11 “red flag” and “blue ribbon” areas in the county.

Bringing new voices to the conversation

According to a KY3 story about the project:

CFO has been researching and publishing these detailed community focus reports since 2004. In the past they have collected feedback through committees that are made up of leaders from roughly a dozen agencies. Those agencies share feedback they get from residents, and that information is then broken down into 11 areas of focus for the report.

Koroglu and her students are working to expand and diversify the feedback by providing an online option for residents to contribute.

Residents can now provide feedback about life in Springfield and Greene County via an interactive website dedicated to the Community Focus Report.

The students will then analyze and organize the feedback, creating white papers that will help direct efforts around the 11 focus areas.

Key details

Provide feedback for the Community Focus Report

Follow the students’ work

More information about the project and report

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#COMWeek2017 Alumni Panel

On the final day of COMWeek, Missouri State alumni will join us for an interactive panel. Current communication students will enjoy this opportunity to learn from the experiences of recent graduates who are making an impact in the field.

Meet the alumni panelists

Adria Baebler

Adria Baebler is a 2013 graduate of Missouri State and holds degrees in organizational communication and Spanish. She spent her first year out of college teaching English in Uruguay through the Fulbright Scholarship program, followed by a project management position for a corporate travel company, then worked as a translator for a nonprofit in Guatemala. Baebler currently works as an oncology consultant for Cerner, a healthcare IT company in Kansas City, where she meets with clients to develop and manage hospital conversions to Cerner software.

Bethany Bell

As PR & Social Media Manager at the Marlin Network, Bethany Bell develops and executes PR and social media strategies for global food brands. Before joining deep in 2013, Bell was the ‘Person in Charge of Getting the Word Out’ at Askinosie Chocolate, an artisan, bean-to-bar chocolate maker in Springfield. Growing up in the coffee industry, Bell is also a strong advocate of the local food movement.

Doug Gaehle

Formerly an account manager for Osborn Barr, a communications agency specializing in agriculture located in St. Louis, Doug Gaehle is now responsible for planning and executing tradeshow presence on behalf of the United Soybean Board. With over five years’ experience in public relations, marketing and event planning strategies. He has worked on a variety of brands, including: Green County Park Board, Anchor Poppers, Harvest Splendor, Unilever, Missouri State University Department of Communication, Monsanto and United Soybean Board.

Sara McClendon

Sara McClendon graduated from Missouri State in December 2011 with a degree in public relations. Currently, McClendon is a manager at Osborn Barr, a full-service advertising agency with offices in St. Louis, Kansas City and Nashville. She works primarily on DEKALB Asgrow brands in a hybrid public relations/account service role. She values Missouri State, not only for its role in preparing her for her career, but also for the lifelong friendships and connections it fostered, which keep her growing professionally and personally.

Key details

  • When: 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., Feb. 24
  • Where: PSU Ballroom East
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#COMWeek2017 Guest Scholar: Dr. Scott A. Myers

Thursday, Feb. 23

About Dr. Myers

As an instructional communication researcher, Dr. Myers’ research focuses primarily on the role communication plays in the instructor-student relationship, both in and out of the classroom, using experimental, survey and content analytic research methods. His current research projects focus on the role communication plays in the undergraduate student-faculty advisor relationship and how students use organizational citizenship behaviors in the classroom.

Dr. Myers is also a family communication researcher with a focus on how adult siblings maintain their relationships. He is beginning a series of studies examining how adult siblings use affectionate communication as a way to maintain their relationships. Currently, he is the director-elect of the educational policies board of the National Communication Association.

Key details

  • When: 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., Feb. 23
  • Where: PSU Ballroom East
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#COMWeek2017 Guest Scholar: Dr. Jeffrey T. Child

Wednesday, Feb. 22

About Dr. Child

Dr. Child has been particularly interested in utilizing communication privacy management theory as a framework for understanding the way social media users think about the overall management of their online disclosures.

In addition, he explores how the family reflects a unique culture where unique rules, roles and communication practices emerge and ensue. His scholarship in this area examines communication about family problems, how families coordinate narratives and cover stories among members for effective functioning, family communication practices in different cultures and finally how relational cultures are developed and sustained through the establishment of rituals.

The final area of Dr. Child’s expertise in instructional communication began when he was a basic course director at NDSU and established a practice of making all curricular changes from an assessment data-based standpoint. His research in instructional communication informs effective classroom communication practices.

Key details

  • When: 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., Feb. 22
  • Where: PSU Ballroom East
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