ComArtSci Brings Home 5 Emmy Awards

Posted on: June 15, 2017

AND THE AWARD GOES TO....

Well, actually, five awards. ComArtSci faculty and WKAR colleagues brought home five wins from the 2017 Regional Emmy® Awards on Saturday, June 10, at the MotorCity Sound Board Theater in Detroit.

J-School Wins

Two ComArtSci faculty members, Troy Hale, professor of practice in the School of Journalism (J-School) and the Department of Media and Information, and Geri Alumit Zeldes, associate professor in the J-School and director of journalism graduate studies, brought home an Emmy for their project “Run Jump Paddle.” The 27-minute documentary follows the experiences of three extreme athletes, each in their own relentless environment.

“Troy came up with the idea to follow extreme athletes as they become one with the environment,” said Zeldes. “We, the team, brainstormed and found three athletes, exemplary of the concept of taking on animalistic qualities to become one with nature.”

The team also included two students, who have since graduated: Jennifer Berggren ‘14, who served as the films’s director and editor, and William Bridgforth ‘15 as the cinematographer.

The documentary developed from a pitch given to The Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, in response to an open call for projects. The Center agreed to fund the film.

“I think they liked it because it wasn’t the “normal” environmental film,” said Hale. “We tried to make a fun film that had an environmental message, but was entertaining first.”

Castellucci and Zeldes at the Emmy Awards

Castellucci and Zeldes at the Emmy Awards

The J-School’s Mike Castellucci, professor of practice, also brought home a win for his 6-minute video called “Steam Medicine.” The documentary follows Kim Springsdorf, who heads the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso, MI, and was shot entirely on Castellucci’s iPhone.

This was Castellucci’s first time entering the solo journalist category, though he has won Emmys in five different regions across the country.

“I specifically entered this category for the JRN school to show students that you can shoot a broadcast quality, award-winning story on your phone,” said Castellucci. “I usually want my iPhone work to compete against everybody else in the business who have two-person camera crews and who use broadcast cameras and equipment.”

J-School faculty members have a combined total of nearly 55 Emmy Awards. This is Hale’s 23rd, Zeldes’ third and Castellucci’s 22nd Emmy win. According to Zeldes, these awards hold great significance for the J-School.

“It means they have professors who can compete with professionals in real time,” said Zeldes. “It means that the School of Journalism is a destination for outstanding storytelling.”

WKAR Wins

WKAR brought home three Emmys for their original productions “Curious Crew” and “Evening with the Governor.”

Tim Zeko, executive producer, and Rob Stephenson, host and writer, accepted the Emmy in Children/Youth/Teens - Program/Special for the “Curious Crew” episode “Wheels and Axles.” The award for Interview/Discussion went to the host and producer for “Evening with the Governor,” Tim Skubick.

Michigan State University Athletics Spartan Vision productions won another four awards, bringing the Spartan total to nine Emmys. These awards recognize excellence in the television industry, and Michigan State was certainly in the spotlight this year.

By Kaitlin Dudlets 

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ComArtSci Professor Honored with Gene Burd Outstanding Dissertation Award

Posted on: June 8, 2017

RM Award WideRachel Mourao, assistant professor of journalism at ComArtSci, received the Gene Burd Outstanding Dissertation Award from the International Communication Association (ICA) this year.

“It’s very special,” said Mourao. “You spend a year working on a project, exclusively working on a dissertation, so it’s nice to know that in some way you did good work. It’s a nice way to finish a cycle.”

Mourao was a journalism P.h.D student at the University of Texas at Austin when she met Gene Burd, an associate professor emeritus. She studied under Steve Reese, the associate dean for academic affairs for the Moody College of Communication.

Mourao’s dissertation research focused on a wave of protests in Brazil from 2013-2015, which started out small, but evolved into massive right-wing demonstrations with elite support. She studied how journalists navigated this transformation to cover the protests, what influenced their work and how they made sense of the political strife.

Mourao’s findings contradict literature gathered in the U.S. and Europe that found news portrayal of protesters to be negative.

“The stories focus on spectacle and violence, and some argue that comes from an ideological resistance that journalists have to protesters,” Mourao said. “The story I found was different— it was the opposite of that.”

The majority of the reporters in Mourao’s study were against the demonstrations, especially in 2015, yet their coverage was supportive of the protests.

“It’s really indicative of Brazil— what really drove negative or positive portrayal of protesters was how aligned the protesters were with official sources,” Mourao said.

For example, if there were official sources, meaning elected officials or those appointed by elected officials, that were supportive of the protesters, the coverage of the demonstration would be supportive, regardless of the journalist's personal views.

From Reporting to Research

Mourao was born in Brazil and worked there for several years as a reporter, where she witnessed many of the problems she has encountered in her research. She said her research is a way for her to give back to Brazil.

“I knew I wanted to write something that would shed light on some of the issues faced by the press in developing countries, which are sometimes different and sometimes similar to issues faced by the press in the United States and Europe, where most studies focus,” Mourao said. “My main goal was to show that some of the processes that we take for granted here or that seem really evident in the literature produced in developed countries do not always work the same way in less developed nations.”

Mourao said there is lot of criticism of the press in Brazil, such as claims that the media self-censors and their coverage is against those under the poverty line. As a journalist, she did not see this criticism reflected in the newsroom. Now, her research aims to explain why and how journalists’ coverage reflects the beliefs of those in power.  

The Next Step: Broadening the Research

Mourao used content analysis to examine the way the mainstream press covered the demonstrations and compared that to survey data she gathered from journalists. She also has a third element that she hasn’t used yet— the journalists’ tweets.

“I want to know if the coverage they sent on social media is different than what they produced for mainstream newspapers,” Mourao said, “If it is, then there are different norms and expectations of social media. If you are producing a type of content for your employer, and then you are putting out something else for your personal brand, then there are some influences there. So that’s what’s next for me.”

Mourao’s studies focused on the mainstream press, elite journalists and big newspapers from the urban centers of Brazil. She hopes to expand her research by studying how journalists in the poor regions of Brazil cover protests.

“We don’t have a lot of access to [the journalists],”said Mourao. “I have a lot of access to them via survey, but the stories they write are harder to get.”

Mourao said she is still working on dividing the dissertation into smaller studies. She presented two of the papers at the 67th Annual Conference of the ICA. She will be presenting one more at the 2017 Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).

By Rianna N. Middleton

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ComArtSci Professor Researches Media’s Influence on Teens

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Morgan_Ellithorpe_WideMorgan Ellithorpe, assistant professor of advertising and public relations at ComArtSci, partnered with colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania to study how risky behaviors portrayed in the media, such as alcohol and tobacco use, sex and violence, are repeated by teenagers.

Take for example, shows like Empire, Narcos and Game of Thrones. Ellithorpe said teenagers see their favorite characters drinking alcohol, doing drugs and/or being violent in multiple episodes and come to think that this is normal behavior.

“My job is to figure out which adolescents are more likely to repeat the risky behaviors they see in the media, what kinds of media are more or less likely to influence behavior and what we can do to decrease the likelihood that these kinds of things will transfer from media to adolescent behavior,” Ellithorpe said.

Media Consumption Differences Across Racial and Ethnic Lines

Ellithorpe and her colleagues have published several research papers on the issue and she presented on the topic at the 67th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association (ICA). Ellithorpe said their research has shown that there are racial and ethnic differences in media consumption.

“We know that black, Hispanic and white adolescents watch different kinds and amounts of media, and the media they watch portrays different risk behaviors to different extents,” Ellithorpe said.

For example, Ellithorpe and her colleagues have found that black youth watch more media than their Hispanic or white counterparts and the shows they watch are more likely to include black characters, who are more likely to be involved in sex and alcohol use than white characters. Despite these facts, the team has found that black teenagers seem to be less influenced by media than white teenagers.

Ellithorpe said that, in the past, similar studies did not include media that was relevant to black teenagers, such as television shows with black characters. However, even with the inclusion of this type of media, she has found that black teenagers still show lower levels of media influence than white teenagers. Ellithorpe challenges future research to confirm these findings and help solve the puzzle.

Research Findings Consistent with the CDC

The researchers have also found that drinking alcohol before or during sexual intercourse is common among adolescents and young adults, which is consistent with similar findings by the CDC.

The combination of alcohol use and sexual behavior is the most common behavioral risk combination in television and movies,” Ellithorpe said. “We know that drinking alcohol before sexual behavior increases sexual risk taking and susceptibility to accidental pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, so it is really important to understand the who, when and why of this behavior.”

Hope for the Future

Ellithorpe hopes that her research will positively impact the lives of young people.

“I hope that stakeholders in adolescent health and wellbeing —  from policy-makers to health organizations to physicians and parents — will be able to use this information gleaned from our research to reduce the negative impacts of mediated risk on adolescent behavior,” Ellithorpe said.

In the future, Ellithorpe hopes to explore the role of social media on influencing adolescent behavior.

“Adolescents and young adults are very often posting on social media about television content and we are exploring the possibility that this social media posting could be a way to intervene in the negative influence of television risk behavior,” Ellithorpe said.

Additionally, Ellithorpe hopes to see more research in the area of media targeted at specific racial and ethnic groups, such as Spanish-language programming.

“This is a growing area of scholarship that really needs more research to understand how this media is different from mainstream media, who is watching these kinds of media and the influence exposure to this kind of media has on cognition and behavior,” Ellithorpe said.

By Rianna N. Middleton

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Media Sandbox Takes Students on Field Experience Trip to L.A.

Posted on: May 31, 2017

ComArtSci’s Media Sandbox took students from Advertising, Journalism, Media and Information and Communication on a Field Experience Trip to Los Angeles this May. The group of 21, led by Karl Gude and Payal Ravani, visited major media companies hosted by Spartan alumni.

“This was our inaugural Sandbox student trip to visit media companies in Los Angeles,” said Gude. “The role of Sandbox in our college is to mix students up from different majors and with different interests and get them collaborating on projects and activities. This trip did just that.”

The goal of the L.A. study away was to introduce students to the variety of careers in the entertainment industry and Southern California job market, as well as give them the chance to network with professionals. According to Gude, this will be a yearly trip, and he hopes to extend it to new cities over time.

Monday, May 8 | Princess Cruises and AEG

Princess

Spartan alumnus Brian O'Connor (center back), VP for Public Relations for Princess Cruises with Sandbox students. O’Connor and others from PC’s integrated communications team spoke with the students about international PR, brand marketing, content strategy, special events and more.

Lakers

Spartan Vanessa Shay, Vice President, AEG Global Partnerships, far right, shows Sandbox students around the Staples Center. Shay and her colleagues talked about what it takes to run the world’s largest entertainment company — including corporate sales, a TV network, talent acquisition, broadcast/multimedia production, special events, employee engagement and diversity initiatives and more.

Tuesday, May 9 | Country Music Television and FOX Sports/Studios

CMT

Visiting with Spartan Matt Trierweiler (left), Senior Director of Development at Viacom's Country Music Television (CMT). Reality exec, Jayson Dinsmore, also popped in to talk with the students. They both shared their experiences of working their way up in development and management of the TV industry.

Fox

(Left to right at the end of the table) Spartans Lauren Ford, Senior Director, Digital Marketing at FOX Sports, Steve Van Wormer, Senior Producer at Fox Sports, Jeff Antlocer, Vice President for On-air Promotion for Fox Sports and Stacey Batzer, Senior Creative Director at Fox Broadcasting Company visit with the students.

Wednesday, May 10 | Univision, Fullscreen Studios and Deutsch

Univision

The marvelous Haz Montana (far left), Vice President of Content at Univision Radio and a Spartan, hosted our group at Univision. He and his team talked with students about what it means to be the leading multimedia company serving Hispanic America, with a mission to inform, empower and entertain the community.

FullscreenSpartans Matt Gatson (standing rear, with beard) and Korey Kuhl and Tyler Oakley (seated left and right) host Sandbox students at Fullscreen Studios. Kuhl and Oakley shared their thoughts on how to stay relevant and genuine in a time when how we consume entertainment is rapidly changing.

Deutsch

Students with Mike Sheldon, Chairman & CEO of Deutsch North America. Sheldon shared his story, offered tried and true advice, and had the students take an oath: swearing that they have what it takes to get a job after college.

Thursday, May 11 | Los Angeles Times and NFL Network 

LATimes

Students meet with Len DeGroot, director of data visualization, at the Los Angeles Times and sat in on a morning news meeting with the editorial staff to see journalism in action.

NFL

Spartan Richard Isakow, producer, hosted students for a studio tour, Q&A with executives and a live TV broadcast at the NFL Network.

Friday, May 12 | Freelance and mOcean

Nic Angell

Sandbox students visit with Spartan Nic Angell, a freelance film editor and post production supervisor. He conversed with students about life in Los Angeles and life as a freelancer in the entertainment industry.

MOcean

Sandbox students get comfortable with Spartan Craig Murray, founder of mOcean on their visit to Los Angeles. Murray and his team of MSU alumni talked with students about their creative process and how the worlds of production and marketing are intertwined in the entertainment industry.

By Kaitlin Dudlets

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From MSU to BCN: Retired Professor Calls Barcelona Home

Posted on: May 25, 2017

Cheryl Pell walked the halls of ComArtSci for almost 30 years before retiring in August 2015. Now she walks the cobblestone streets of Barcelona.

“It was a big decision to sell my house and my car, stash all my belongings in two storage units, bid friends and family farewell and take a one-way flight to live in a foreign country,” said Pell. “Now that I’m here, I know it was the right decision for me.”

An international educator

Pell and Mario at Parc de la Ciutadella

Pell and Mario at Parc de la Ciutadella

Pell was hired in 1987 as the executive director of Michigan Interscholastic Press Association (MIPA), an organization headquartered in the School of Journalism. Twenty-five years later, she stepped down from MIPA and continued to be a senior specialist, teaching journalism classes and leading study abroad trips.

“I always felt fortunate that ComArtSci was and still is a big supporter of study abroad programs, and I think that’s awesome,” said Pell. “They supported students with scholarships and encouraged faculty to plan quality programs for our students.”

Pell single-handedly led The Creative Journey study abroad program in the summer of 2016, taking 15 students from Barcelona to Berlin to embrace the art of visual storytelling.

“Barcelona loves the arts and celebrates its area’s artists and architects, including Salvador Dalí, Antoni Gaudí, Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso,” said Pell. “It’s a very inspirational city, and I was thrilled to be able to share its beauty with students.”

With ten previous visits to Barcelona under her belt, Pell introduced her students to the Dalí museum, Park Güell, La Sagrada Familia and the Mingarro brothers’ Brosmind Studio. She encouraged her students to collect flyers, brochures and other artifacts they found along the way. The images and clippings would aid in the construction of various student assignments and projects. Pell was also eager to share her passion for typography and design, frequently pointing out -- with either admiration or disdain -- the logos of various businesses and restaurants.

“My passion is design, in any form, but mostly graphic design,” said Pell. “I’ve been known to walk out of a restaurant if the typeface on the menu is lousy.”

From MSU to BCN

Now that Pell calls Barcelona her home, she spends most of her time exploring the city with her constant companion, an 11-year-old Maltese named Mario.

“Nearly every day I try to go to an area I haven’t been to before just to continue to get a feel for the city,” said Pell. “I seek out markets, art installations, street musicians, festivals, parades and protests. Every week I try to see something I haven’t seen before.”

It’s likely that Pell would never have ended up in the Catalonian city if it wasn’t for the travel grant she received from the Society for News Design (SND) while working for ComArtSci in 1995. The grant allowed her to work with 12 college students from all over the country at SND's annual convention, which was held in Barcelona that year.

“This was the first time I had ever gone to Europe, and that is precisely when I fell in love with Barcelona,” said Pell. “It is a bit of an unusual twist that in 2017, I flew back to the U.S. from Barcelona to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from SND. None of this would have happened if I had not been on the faculty of the J-School in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences.”

Finding new hobbies

Pell at Guell New

Pell and Mario at Park Güell

Pell documents all of these experiences on her Instagram account, to which she posts daily. The retired professor’s account is filled with images and videos of city landmarks, store displays and, of course, the local cuisine. Each post is accompanied by the hashtags #myyearaway2017 and #photoadayfrombcn, as well as a short description.

“I’ve had fun with Instagram,” said Pell. “It’s a quick, easy way to document my time here. I’m honestly doing it more for my own record keeping than for the purpose of social media.”

Pell’s background in journalism can certainly be seen filtering into her account. There are very few photos of her, a testament of her dislike of the selfie stick. She wants to capture the moments of the places and people around her and share them with her followers.

“It’s not about me. Journalists inherently live this way, and they know the story is not about them,” said Pell. “My goal is to share the city’s greatness as well as its wonderful, small moments. Sometimes I am just compelled to add explanatory information to the Instagram posts, and that, of course, is rooted in wanting to inform, which journalists do every day.”

By Kaitlin Dudlets 

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Serious Games: Counterintuitively Delightful

Posted on: May 18, 2017

This content was originally published on gamedev.msu.edu

When you see the phrase, serious games, do you think of something educational and boring? Or do you think about games to teach college professors how use active learning approaches in their teaching?  Games to inspire computing teachers in Qatar about how algorithms help solve social problems such as traffic jams?  Games designed to encourage young learners of English as a Foreign Language to correct each others’ common grammar mistakes?

Do you think about games designed to cause game design students to think about why they play? Games to motivate todays’ youth in China to save the endangered Pangolin?  Games to raise college student awareness about the harsh challenges for civilians who live in war zones?

The coolest thing about Michigan State University’s serious game graduate certificate program courses is the students.  The second coolest thing is the projects our students create.  I offer you a quick tour of a handful of the many great spring 2017 serious game projects from MI830: Foundations of Serious Games.

ALL

Active Learning Land by Nick Noel, Instructional Designer, Michigan State University and MSU Educational Technology MA student

Audience: University faculty who teach undergraduate courses and are at a development workshop.

Serious Goals:

  • Introduce simple active learning activities to university faculty
  • Show that these activities can be implemented easily
  • Introduce the concept of synthesizing technology and class activities

trafficManager

Traffic Manager by Hanan Aishikhabobabkr, Computing Education support for middle and secondary school teachers and MSU Educational Technology MA student (who lives in Qatar)

Audience: Secondary school computer teachers in Qatar with ICT (Information and Computer Technology) background who will be trained to teach computational thinking.

Serious Goals:

  • Experience some of the ways where algorithms can be used in solving problems in the real world
  • See how algorithms are executed
  • Notice some of the factors to consider when making up an algorithm

warzones

WarZones by AJ Moser and Bingzhe Li, MSU Media and Information HCI MA students

Audience: 18-24 year old college students who may be active voters, and care about the innocent people suffering from war and would like to know more about them

Serious Goals: 

  • Give players a sense of what it is like living in a war zone as a normal civilian
  • Show a variety of serious problems civilians might encounter
  • Demonstrate the cruelty of war on people living in the area

EFL

EFL Foundational Grammar Decks by Justin Thibedeau, EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher and MSU Educational Technology MA student (who lives in Taiwan)

Audience: English as a foreign language (EFL) students

Serious Goals: Motivate students to generate meaningful language as they recognize and practice grammar patterns to combat native language (L1) influence

pangolin

Pangolin! Protect or Poach? by Yiqing Ling, MSU Media and Information HCI MA student

Audience: Chinese teenagers

Serious Goals:

  • Evoke interests of pangolins
  • Enrich knowledge of pangolins
  • Raise awareness of their biggest threat – poaching

cloudwalker

Cloudwalker by Mars Ashton, Director of Game Art in the department of Art and Design and Assistant Professor at Lawrence Technological University

Audience: Budding game designers

Serious Goals: Teach players to question what games are asking them to do and why on a critical level

In MI830, students begin by completing a series of short “gamelabs” to  learn the serious game design process. Then they embark on a 10-week “epic quest” to create a serious board or card game. They create a prototype, playtest the prototype, and iterate the design.

More than half of students in the graduate certificate program are full time working professionals, including K-12 teachers and university professors, corporate trainers, museum professionals, outreach professionals, fortune 500 employees, IT workers in the healthcare industry, game designers, and more.

The graduate certificate program also serves MA and PhD students in Media and Information, Educational Technology, other MSU departments, and other universities.

The deadline for applying for admission in Fall 2017 is June 15.  All three courses can be taken online. For more details, visit the SGD site.  Or email professor Carrie Heeter, director of the serious game graduate certificate program (heeter@msu.edu).

By Carrie Heeter, Professor of Media and Information, Michigan State University

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Professor Constantinos Coursaris Awarded the IIE Fulbright Greek Diaspora Fellowship

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University of the Aegean top image

Dr. Constantinos K. Coursaris, associate professor for both the Media and Information and Advertising and Public Relations departments of ComArtSci, has been awarded a fellowship by The IIE Fulbright Greek Diaspora Fellowship Program.

As part of his new role, Coursaris has traveled to Greece for two months to collaborate with the University of the Aegean’s Department of Information and Communication Systems Engineering on curriculum co-development, collaborative research on digital entrepreneurship and to assist with the professional development and mentoring of graduate students in digital entrepreneurship and electronic government.

Working abroad

From April 24 to June 24, Coursaris will work with Dr. Dimitris Drossos to create a new exchange program that would allow MSU students to spend a semester studying in Greece, while MSU would host Greek students from the University of the Aegean.

Coursaris will also explore new research projects with Greek scholars in the area of digital entrepreneurship and mentor graduate students on topics ranging from creating a professional portfolio, to designing rigorous research studies and using advanced statistics to analyze data.

“My interest in this project primarily stems from my passion for supporting MSU’s World Grant Ideal,” said Coursaris. “This is enacted, in part, through a greater internationalization of our East Lansing campus, the provision of study abroad opportunities to MSU students and the bilateral mobility of teacher-scholars.”

The Greek Diaspora Fellowship Program

Constantinos Coursaris

Constantinos Coursaris

Coursaris is one of 21 Greek- and Cypriot-born scholars, from 16 prominent U.S. and Canadian universities, traveling to Greece in order to conduct academic projects with their peers at Greek universities. They are working in areas such as public health, chemical genomics research, urban food security and a variety of others. Twelve Greek universities were selected by the GDFP to host the fellows for collaborative projects that meet specific needs at their institutions and in their communities.

The Greek Diaspora Fellowship Program is designed to help avert Greece’s brain drain and develop the long-term, mutually-beneficial collaborations between universities in Greece and the United States and Canada. It is managed by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in collaboration with the Fulbright Foundation in Greece, and funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

“Having been born and raised in Greece, I was also personally motivated to explore opportunities to support higher education in Greece, particularly during this difficult time period,” said Coursaris. “Investing and transforming Greek higher education in such a way as to support entrepreneurship and innovation is arguably the most effective approach in overcoming an increasing brain drain coupled with ever-diminishing resources.”

Looking ahead

Over a period of two years, the program will award fellowships to 40 U.S. and Canadian based academics to collaborate with universities throughout Greece to develop curricula, conduct research and teach and mentor graduate students in priority areas identified by the Greek universities.
“I feel honored to have been selected in the very first cohort of scholars selected for IIE’s Greek Diaspora Fellowship Program,” said Coursaris. “It’s an ambitious agenda, but given the faculty and student talent at the University of the Aegean, along with the hosts’ warm and engaging personalities, I am confident in the successful completion of this undertaking.”

By Kaitlin Dudlets 

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ComArtSci Researchers Receive Grants to Fund Environment and Breast Cancer Projects

Posted on: May 16, 2017

Breast Cancer Header

For 14 years, researchers from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences (ComArtSci) have partnered with the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program (BCERP) to study the effects of environmental exposures on breast cancer risk.

In March, that partnership grew when a team of ComArtSci researchers, led by Kami Silk, associate dean of research and director of the Health and Risk Communication M.A. program, received two grants totaling nearly $500,000 to facilitate their on-going research in the field. The grants are co-funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Tailoring educational and outreach materials
The first project to receive funding, led by Silk and her research partner Richard Schwartz, professor and principal investigator of the BCERP at MSU, aims to better understand public perception of breast cancer and the environment. The team was awarded an Opportunity Fund Grant of $70,286 from the BCERP Coordinating Center.

For this project, titled “Cross-site Formative Audience Analysis Research to Facilitate Effective Outreach Efforts and Communication Strategies," the duo has partnered with community advocates across the U.S. to conduct focus group sessions with individuals from varying geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds to better understand their needs and risks.

“Partnerships are important for receiving Opportunity Funds due to the transdisciplinary nature of the BCERP. So a multi-site project with advocates across the country made a lot of sense, especially because most advocacy groups do not have resources to do this level of formative research with their communities,” said Silk.

Findings from this research will also be used to help create a national survey to gather information about breast cancer and the environment from a wider and more diverse group, ultimately helping to better tailor education and outreach materials to the needs of different audience segments.

Training pediatric healthcare providers
The second project to receive funding aims to design and deliver advanced training to pediatric healthcare providers on the topic of breast cancer and the environment. This type of training will help facilitate increased communication with patients and caregivers about adopting breast cancer risk reduction practices, particularly for adolescents.

silk-cami-20130912-

Kami Silk

The project, titled “Training Pediatric Health Care Providers as a Primary Information Source for Communicating Environmental Risks for Breast Cancer," received an NIH R21 grant for $414,367 and is being developed by Silk, Sandi Smith, from the Department of Communication, and Stacey Fox, from the School of Journalism. The funding will provide the means for the team, joined by the Michigan State Medical Society and Michigan Hospital Association, to create a program that will build continuing education units for doctors.

“One of the things that emerged over our 14 years with the BCERP is the need to reach beyond the lay public as a primary target audience for information about breast cancer and the environment. We need to include health care providers in the conversation because they are trusted sources of health information and they can help parents and caregivers understand how to reduce early environmental exposures,” said Silk.

With this training, doctors will use continuing medical education units to become better informed on the risks associated with exposure to certain chemicals – such as PFOA and BPA – as well as learn the results of BCERP research, including both epidemiology and biology studies. The training will focus on helping pediatric health care providers translate BCERP research into actionable recommendations for parents and caregivers, such as what chemicals to avoid whenever possible.

“There is a window of susceptibility for girls as they go through puberty. Reducing environmental exposures during this critical time frame is a precaution that makes sense based on BCERP emerging science,” said Silk. “There was a genuine interest in the idea of training pediatricians about environmental exposures as a strategy to reach parents and caregivers with BCERP findings and recommendations. We are excited to be able to develop communication training that is evidence-based and useful for pediatric health care professionals.”

More information
For more information about the BCERP and the ongoing research of its investigators, please visit bcerp.org.

By Nikki W. O'Meara

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Studies in Interpersonal Communication Result in Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award

Posted on: May 8, 2017

The interest to pursue a career in interpersonal communication started at a young age for Samantha Shebib, whose ultimate goal was to be accepted into MSU’s Ph.D. Communication Program. Tracing back to personal experiences, Shebib connected immensely to the field of communication because it is relatable to every demographic.

Unknown“It has always been my dream to be a Spartan,” said Shebib. “I have been lucky enough to get the opportunity to work with the impeccable faculty and students in the Department of Communication. It’s crazy to look back on all those years I put into it and to see my hard work pay off. It’s an extremely rewarding feeling.”

Shebib identifies herself as a post-positivist researcher who studies interpersonal/family communication, nonverbal communication, physiological responses, social support and most importantly, quantitative research methods. She has bounced around several different regions of the world to endure rigorous academic success, beginning with her Bachelor of Science from Arizona State University in May 2014, followed by her Master of Science in Communication Studies from Illinois State University in May 2016.

Most recently, Shebib received the Outstanding Master's Thesis award from the School of Communication at Illinois State University on April 17, 2017. The award is given each year to one student only and was designed to promote a high-quality master’s thesis. Shebib’s thesis was titled "Financial Conflict Messages and Marital Satisfaction: The Mediating Role of Financial Communication Satisfaction."

“At Illinois State, my advisor was Dr. William R. Cupach and my former committee member was Dr. Kevin Meyer, both who nominated me for this award,” explained Shebib. “My thesis was interested in examining the proposed mechanisms through which different financial conflict messages influence marital satisfaction, specifically through the mediating variable of financial communication satisfaction. This empirical work, and the work I continue to do at MSU, is aimed at constructing a theory in marital conflict.”

Shebib believes that marital conflict is an important area to study because of its impact on children that become exposed to it.

“Since conflict is inevitable in all relationships, a theoretical framework to understand why people engage in destructive and dysfunctional strategies when conflict occurs would be extremely beneficial and would add important insight when trying to make sense out of marital discord,” explained Shebib. “Not only do children exposed to marital conflict have a greater risk for a host of behavioral and emotional problems, but it also socializes children to handle conflict the way their parents handle conflict. If I can disentangle and make sense out of marital conflict, well, then I think I can tackle conflict in other relationships, too. Fingers crossed.”

By Emmy Virkus

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The Link Between Brain Activity and Social Networks

Posted on: May 4, 2017

This story was originally published on MSU Today

The structure of the social network to which a person belongs could shape how their brain responds to social exclusion, according to a new study led by a Michigan State University researcher.

Ralf Schmaelzle, assistant professor of communication, poses on Tuesday April 14, 2017.

Ralf Schmaelzle, assistant professor of communication, poses on Tuesday April 14, 2017.

The study is authored by assistant professor Ralf Schmäelzle, from the College of Communications Arts and Sciences, and published together with a team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the Army Research Lab in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers looked at the brain’s response to social exclusion under fMRI, particularly in the so-called mentalizing system, which includes separate regions of the brain that help consider the views of others.

“The finding here is that these regions, which are in different places in the brain, show greater connectivity in response to social exclusion,” Schmälzle said. “They go up and down together, almost as if they’re dancing together, doing the same moves over time, and this ‘coupling’ of their activity increases during social exclusion.”

To create the experience of social exclusion, the researchers used a virtual ball-tossing game called Cyberball with 80 boys ages 16-17. While in the fMRI machine, each participant saw a screen with two other cartoon players — who they believed to be controlled by real people — and a hand to represent themselves. All three participants in the game take turns tossing a virtual ball to one another.

For the first phase of the game, the virtual players include the test subject, tossing him the ball frequently. The game then shifts to exclusion mode, and the virtual players stop throwing the ball to the participant.

“During exclusion, people might begin to ask themselves, ‘What might that mean when people are excluding me?” Schmälzle said. “They may ask, ‘Have I done something wrong?’ or ‘Why are they doing this?’ and such kinds of thought might engage mentalizing processes.”

The researchers also were able to access, with permission, the test subjects’ Facebook data, giving them a snapshot of their friendship networks. They found test subjects who showed a greater increase in brain connectivity during social exclusion were those in sparse networks. In sparse networks, the friends of a person tend to not know each other. In dense networks, by contrast, many of a person’s friends are also friends with each other.

“Social network analysis and thinking about social networks has been around a long time in sociology,” said Emily Falk, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School and director of its Communication Neuroscience Lab. “But it’s only recently that these kind of quantitative measures of social networks have been combined with an understanding of the brain. How do your brain dynamics affect your social network and how does your social network affect your brain? We’re at the very tip of the iceberg right now.”

In addition to Schmälzle and Falk, study authors include Matthew Brook O’Donnell, Christopher Cascio and Danielle Bassett, all from the University of Pennsylvania; Javier Garcia and Jean Vettel from the U.S. Army Research Lab; and Joseph Bayer from The Ohio State University.

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