2013: The year in (highly selective) review

A Bunch of Stuff that Happened in the Department of Communication
Rochester Institute of Technology



Keith Jenkins celebrated his first Father’s Day.

Ki-Young Lee took a leave of absence to spend the year in Korea.

Mike Johansson exemplified the department’s high seriousness when interviewed by local media on matters related to social media.


Bruce Austin was named director of the RIT Press.

Tracy Worrell was awarded tenure, at the very moment this photo was taken.


The Upside Down Book, a documentary film by Hinda Mandell and Matthew White, premiered and was named “Best Documentary” at the 2013 SNOB (Somewhere North of Boston) Film Festival.

Kelly Martin won the Richard and Virginia Eisenhart Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Among many other accomplishments,  Jonathan Schroeder, the William A. Kern Professor in Communications, hosted the Kern Symposium on Liberal Arts and Business and published, with Samantha Warren and Emma Bell, the Routledge Companion to Visual Organization.

Thanks to the hard work of Elizabeth Reeves O’Connor and Keri Barone, we were a hit at Imagine RIT, with the finals of the Public Speaking Contest


and the wildly successful impromptu speech contest “RIT Communicate This!”

Ammina Kothari spent a good portion of the summer in her native Tanzania studying the use of text messaging to raise awareness about AIDS.

Helen Adamson


helped see to it that a gaggle of graduate students made it out of here alive.

Grant Cos continued his work with the Golden Link Folk Singing Society and thinks he’s secretly playing guitar in his office.

Lori Marra and Kari Cameron joined the department as lecturers.

We welcomed the two newest members of the DOC family:





We also welcomed a new student assistant


Heather Chambers

and we welcomed back the indispensable


Hayley Stauss

The department hosted the Conference for Undergraduate Research in Communication for the tenth consecutive year, coordinated by Rudy Pugliese.  Since 2004, the conference has drawn more than 300 speakers from 27 colleges and universities from across the U.S.

David Neumann scored tickets for Phish at Madison Square Garden on New Year’s Eve.


Andrea Hickerson, with Vic Perotti of the Saunders College of Business, received a second grant from the Knight Foundation to fund a Digital Journalism Incubator at RIT starting in Spring 2014.

Xiao Wang continued an impressive output of publications on the role of cognitions and emotions in guiding one’s intentions to perform social and health behaviors.

Melinda Beyerlein


continued to help keep at least one faculty member sane.

That is, your harmless drudge, who spent much of the year adjusting to a new role.


Happy New Year to a truly remarkable group that makes it a pleasure to come to what only we could call work.


Reading Day


We are enjoying our first “Reading Day” at RIT now that we’ve transitioned to semesters.  This is a single day without classes or exams before finals week begins on Friday the 13th.  Right now, at 9:44 a.m., out my window I see students trudging to the library, perhaps to study.  The building I’m in is pretty empty and very quiet.

At many colleges and universities in the U.S., reading days bleed into a longer period of stress prior to exams, variously known as “Hell week” or “Dead week.”  Rather than sleep, students cram for finals, write papers, complete projects, and most likely down quarts of energy drinks or other stimulants.  They also get a little weird.

My own reading this morning is on Wikipedia’s “Dead week” page, where I’ve learned what goes on during this time all over the country.  For instance:

  • Students on many campuses participate in primal screaming to relieve stress.  At Columbia, this takes place at midnight when they open windows and howl.  Carnegie Mellon adds a barbecue to the yelling.
  • Getting naked seems an important element at some schools.  For example, at Brown students charge nude through libraries handing out doughnuts.  At Penn State they run through town.
  • Longwood University kicks off finals week with a midnight breakfast served by faculty and administrators.
  • At Purdue—no kidding—they have a week of quiet.

The University of Colorado at Boulder got rid of reading days after they realized students weren’t studying after all but partying.  Maybe they had caught wind of what goes on at Pacific Lutheran University, which notwithstanding the church connection, drops all pretense and calls dead week “Drinking Time.” 



Semesters–what a concept


We are nearing the end of the first semester at RIT after many years on a quarter calendar.  For me, anyway, this inaugural term has been a delight.

I taught Professional Writing, a course focused on writing for magazines.  With 15 weeks to work with, students were able to tackle a major project, a feature article of 2,000 to 2,500 words, along with a complementary online piece of around 500 words. The work included secondary research and interviews and—the real benefit—three drafts with two weeks between each, something practically impossible under 10-week quarters.

This final week I’ve been meeting individually for a half hour with each of the students. I find I know their subjects thoroughly now, so we have substantive conversations that are much richer than what was typical in the past.  That is, I’ve also had time to learn.

The class meets Monday, Wednesday, Friday for 50 minutes.  At RIT for the past 25 years I’ve taught classes that met twice a week in two-hour blocks, which were especially good for in-class activities, and I miss that option now. But the 50-minute class has its strengths:  my energy doesn’t flag, for one thing, and the shorter time span focuses the mind.

There was one big challenge for fall.  After a second three-day weekend (we had none of these under quarters) we were instructed to follow the Monday schedule on Tuesday.  That is, Tuesday was Monday.  This led to all sorts of hilarious discussions.  I even resorted to a short PowerPoint presentation to work out the details with the class.

Aside from that hiccup, I’d say our switch to semesters has been a success.