News and notes from the Communication program @ Fairfield


Faculty Research Presentations Rescheduled

Wednesday, November 28 at 7:30 p.m. has been chosen as the new date/time of the faculty research presentations discussed in an earlier post. The venue has changed to the Dolan School of Business dining room.

Try to make it so you can have a better idea of what your professors spend their own time studying and how they approach the field of Communication!

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Get to Know a Professor: Luiz Duarte

To help with choosing classes, rather than waiting a week, here’s another adjunct professor profile. This time you’ll meet Dr. Luiz Duarte. He holds a BA in Journalism from the University of São Paulo, a MA in Telecommunication Managment from Michigan State University, and a Ph.D. in Mass Media also from MSU.

Why Communication?

Communication is what got us from the caves to today. If you ever visit Epcot’s first ride on the giant ball you got a a good sense of how Communications technologies are so relevant to everything we are and do.

What has been your favorite course to teach?

I liked teaching about the history of communication technologies because there are so many interesting anecdotes to tell.

What’s the best course you’ve ever taken in or related to the field of Communication?

My great professor Thomas Muth from MSU used to provoke some animated discussions on Telecommunication policies and that was very interesting and useful for learning the multiple aspects of legislation, with winners and losers.

Do you have any interesting hobbies?

I am traveling throughout Latin America extensively these days for work and there is no time for much else.

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Get to Know a Professor: Julie Scher-Smith

The next adjunct Communication professor in our series is Julie Scher-Smith. She holds a degree in Economics from Emory University and a MBA in Finance from the University of Chicago. Along with that background, she has this to say about her experience teaching:

Why Communication?

Teaching public speaking is a passion of mine. As a management consultant and manager of recruiting and training I realized that communication skills were paramount to being successful and being promoted. Analytical skills could get you answers but communicating them and attaining understanding and agreement required another skills set. Consultants often deliver presentations to share findings and to solicit new business; they lead team meetings and conduct informational interviews; yet they are seldom trained on the soft skills.  So—- while working at Bricker & Assoc in Chicago, I got certified in public speaking so that I could then create my own course and train my colleagues (the other consultants). I have also taught adult education programs.

What has been your favorite course to teach?

CO101 is my favorite course to teach as every student is capable of being a success. It is not uncommon to have real anxiety about public speaking and this class is a wonderful means for overcoming that and attaining real skills that are leverageable in one’s personal and professional life.  I like that although students might at first dread this course and enroll reluctantly to fulfill a requirement for the major, they soon come to enjoy class and embrace learning.  I am a life-long learner and this class offers opportunities for growth and success for everyone.

Do you have any interesting hobbies?

Outside of the classroom… I enjoy yoga classes, and long beach walks. Last year I trained and became a cyclist to bike the Pan Mass Challenge (200 miles in 2 days) to raise money for cancer. I have two daughters who have recently gotten me to test my fear of heights numerous times at the new Adventure Park at the Discovery Museum (zip lines in the trees).


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Learn about your professors’ research!

UPDATE: Due to the snow last night, this event was postponed. Keep checking back for the new date!

This Wednesday, November 7th, Drs. Ryan, Gudelunas, Zhang, and Pagano will be presenting their research to students to mark 25 years of Communication at Fairfield. They hope to create a dialogue between students and faculty and explain what each of them studies (and why). This is the first phase of a two-part series, with the next set being held in March and including Drs. Gil-Egui, Wills, Serazio, and Arendt.

The presentations for this week will be:

25 Years of Communication at Fairfield: A reflection – Dr. Ryan
Communication taboos: Media, culture, and sex – Dr. Gudelunas
Psychological reactance and verbal defensiveness in the workplace: The effects of perceived face threat and interactional justice in supervisor requests – Dr. Zhang
Getting interpersonal with simulation pedagogy: A collaborative approach – Dr. Pagano

The event will begin at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the DiMenna-Nyselius Library Multimedia Room.

… And remember to vote tomorrow!

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Important Advising Info

Hey Comm Majors-

Advising is upon us for the Spring 2013 semester.  Everything you could ever possibly want to know about advising can be found on this page.  Go on, click through and read BEFORE you email your advisor.  Good luck with the registration process!

Dr. Gudelunas

Chair, Department of Communication

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Need something to do Saturday night? Help this cause!

This Saturday (October 13th), Fairfield will host the second annual Cancer Crusher Hoedown, a fun twist on the fundraiser for a great cause. The square-dance event is sponsored and organized by the Cancer Crusher Club, a campus club with over 100 members and a mission to “crush” pediatric cancer by building community through collective effort and turning the spotlight on a disease which affects the lives of children from infancy to the age of 25.

The founder of this club, and the main organizer of the event, is Amanda McKean, a Fairfield student in Communication and Leukemia survivor, who chose to come to Fairfield University because of the “tremendous student involvement” on campus. Putting her communication knowledge and organizing skills in action, McKean notes that, “It was a HUGE hit last year with over 130 people in attendance. We were able to raise over $5,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society specifically towards their efforts having to do with pediatric cancer. We had a great group of volunteers who really helped to make the hoedown the success that it was.” She hopes to surpass last years figures on Saturday.

Tickets are now on sale at the info desk for $10 and will be on sale at the door the night of the fundraiser. The event is raising money this time around for the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “This is where I was treated,” McKean says, “so it is a cause near and dear to my heart.”

The Hoedown will be held this Saturday, October 13th, from 8-10 PM in the Oak Room. And, for the freshmen, this will be counted as FYE service!

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Get to Know a Professor: Steven Yavner

Steve Yavner is the next adjunct professor in Communication that we’ll be following. He received a BA in Psychology from Williams College and and a MSEd in Psychology from the University of Miami. Here’s more about his approach to the field:


Why Communication?

I spent 25 years in broadcast journalism – hence my interest in communications.  I started in production, moved to on-air news and sports, then moved to producing and management.  I left commercial TV to go to the University of Miami, where I ran its TV station and taught in the Masters Program at the UM School of Communication.  While there I earned my Masters in Psychology.  I left there to come to NYU for a PhD, where my goal is to blend journalism, psychology, technology and education.

What has been your favorite course to teach?

I love teaching the Mass Media and Society class because it mirrors those interests. While journalism is only one piece of mass media, technology and psychology are woven through everything — as are education, entertainment, and connection.  It’s really all about the transmission of information, and learning to think critically, process new information, and creatively express original thought… Media is a great tool for sharpening these skills, which are important for everyone, regardless of specific interest or major.

My experience allows me to bring a unique perspective to the class. For example, my class just read “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu.”  It was an essay about Ted Williams’ last game with the Red Sox written by John Updike in 1960. It may be the best piece of sports journalism ever written.  It may not be journalism at all — it may be literature. But whatever it is, I doubt it’s on the syllabi of very many other Mass Media and Society classes!  We spent a recent class talking about the latest Egypt/Libya crisis — ignited by one form of mass media (a YouTube video), the attempt to mediate the crisis through another form of mass media (Twitter), how it was covered by the mass media (TV networks), how the mass media reacted to the political spillover (Mitt Romney’s reaction), and the related issues of censorship, free speech, and hate messages (and Google’s blocking the video in several countries).

I will be teaching Mass Media and Society again next semester, along with American Media/American History.  Last semester I taught Sports Broadcasting.

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Get to Know a Professor: Chris D’Amico

Chris D’Amico is an adjunct professor in Communication. He holds a BA in Communication from Albertus Magnus College and a MS in Communication Studies from the College of New Rochelle. Here’s a little more about him and his approach to the field in his own words:

Why Communication?

We do it all the time! I recall my first “Effective Communication” course as an undergrad, the professor opens the class by saying “We can not not Communicate!” —Most of the students in the room looked at him as if he had three heads but from that moment on, it just clicked for me.  We communicate all the time without even realizing it. I love the fact that we can communicate volumes without saying a single word!

What’s the most interesting thing to you about the field?

I love the diversity of the field. One can study a specific communication context or dig deeper and see how this affects “me” and the world I live in. It really can change a person’s attitudes and beliefs.

What has been your favorite course to teach?

My favorite course to teach is Gender and Communication. It is awesome to take a step back and really examine what men and women are all about. How women and men really do communicate differently! The similarities and differences are absolutely amazing to observe and study!

Another course I love to teach is CO 101: Argument & Advocacy. I remember that this class broke me out of my protective shell. I try to help those who may have a hard time speaking in front of others to overcome these obstacles and utilize what they are feeling and channel it and use it to their advantage.

What’s the best course you’ve ever taken in or related to the field of Communication?

Mass Media Law. It was the hardest class I ever enrolled in but it was worth it. The 1st Amendment is extremely powerful. Having the opportunity to examine past court cases, laws and the many ways it has impacted past and present day society is amazing.

Do you have any interesting hobbies?

I am a Canadian and U.S. coin collector. I am also a television game show fanatic. Current day shows are great but I love to watch older game shows such as “Match Game” or ” I’ve got a Secret.” Fun fact: the game show host of “Match Game,” Mr. Gene Rayburn and I have the same birthday!

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Welcome Back (and some Changes)!

Welcome back Communication majors!  We hope everyone is having a great start to the semester.  A few notes and changes as the semester gets underway that you may want to note:

New Chair

Dr. Wills has admirably finished her term as departmental chair and Dr. Gudelunas is now chairing the department.  Consequently, Dr. Gudelunas can now be found in DMH 227 and Dr. Wills in DMH 203.  Stop by and say hello to either!

Faculty on Research Leave

This semester Dr. Searzio and Dr. Arendt are both are both on pre-tenure leave.  They won’t be teaching this semester or available for regular advising/office hours.  Wish them luck as they set the research world on fire with some exciting new scholarship.  They’ll be back next semester, don’t panic.  In the meantime if either is your advisor, please feel free to see Dr. Gudelunas or any other full-time member of the Department that can help you out.

New Internship email contact

Dr. Gudelunas is no longer coordinating the undergraduate internship program die to his chairing responsibilities.  Dr. Serazio will be handling Fall internships (even while on leave), and Dr. Arendt Spring internships.  We know this may be confusing (not really) but we have simplified the contact information.  For any and all internship questions, just email  The right person will get back to you!  As a reminder, everything you could ever possibly want to know about internships can be found here.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @FairfieldComm and bookmark this blog for news and information that majors can use!  Have a great semester!

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Prof. Serazio Presents in South Africa

This summer, Assistant Professor Mike Serazio made the journey to Durban, South Africa to take part in the IAMCR‘s annual conference. The conference, which this year carried the theme of “South-North Conversations,” focused on communication between those empowered by their economic, social, racial, or gender-defined conditions and those who find themselves marginalized by them, all against the backdrop of globalization.

“IAMCR annually gathers together some of the most diverse and international media scholars of any conference around,” Serazio said of the event. “Personally, I was delighted to network with a few new contacts who work in the areas of political economy and global consumer culture and have some exciting upcoming projects planned that I’ll be keeping tabs on.  And Durban itself – and South Africa more broadly – is a rich, complex place for those who study and are fascinated by the intersection of culture and politics.”

He presented two papers that are summarized in the following abstracts, one of which he co-authored with a former Fairfield 2011 undergraduate, Wanda Szarek:

Crowd-Sourcing Consumer Governance:
Social Media Marketing and the Web 2.0 Populism of Viral Culture

This paper offers a production-of-culture exploration of the growth in social media marketing practices witnessed in the past decade.  Through a textual analysis of hundreds of articles in the popular and trade press and in-depth interviews with 48 agency CEOs, creative directors, and brand managers, this study goes behind the scenes to examine the tactics and processes informing this approach to consumer governance – an approach that assumes networked interactivity, as opposed to mass broadcasting, as the organizing principle for contemporary media ecology.  By highlighting a series of case studies drawn from viral and social media strategies, online self-publishing, consumer-generated video contests, and alternate-reality marketing scenarios, I identify a Foucauldian mode of power central to diverse crowd-sourced strategies: the effort to embed promotional messages in ostensibly amateur creative flows and voices so as to authenticate the collaborative, decentralized management ofconsumer subjects.  I further emphasize the presumed persuasive capacity of these new media enthymemes that rely upon a continuum of open-to-closed media content as a way of understanding how brands oblige that engagement.  The paper also represents an opportunity to update and adapt Marshall McLuhan’s taxonomy to reflect the advertising phenomena of our digital era (“the cool sell,” as I term it) and their capacity to conduct audiences through ambiguity, discovery, and engagement rather than that of the aggressively overt practices endemic to interruption marketing (“the hot sell”).  Yet the free labor interpellated that underpins this move toward populist credibility and “brand democratization,” as some have hailed it, equally heralds a dematerialization of the creative industries and a flexible, contingent, if not precarious instability that defines a more heterarchical media world.  In sum, the project contributes to anemerging school of research that seeks to critique both the marketing discourse and practices of “empowerment” and “participation” that function so commonly as buzzwords within the creative industries – and, more broadly, highlights how audience agency is increasingly co-opted by and coded into commercial structure.

The Art of Producing Consumers:
A Critical Textual Analysis of Post-Communist Polish Advertising
(co-authored with Wanda Szarek)

This paper offers a critical textual analysis of Polish advertising at a pivotal historical juncture: following the collapse of communism and at the rise of a capitalist market economy.  With its rhetoric and imagery about goods and services, advertising simultaneously summons into being, through competing parables of social ideology, loaded assumptions and expectations about the consumer subjects it seeks to cultivate.  By investigating the “secondary discourse” or “meta-narratives” that course throughout such textual material, we might better understand the larger cultural, political, and economic undercurrents of a given time and place.
Thus, by deconstructing hundreds of advertisements that appeared in Polish magazines in the late 1980s and early 1990s – an era of radical change – we argue that such commercial messages attempted to conjure a new sense of self for individuals living within an embryonic consumer society.  These messages thrust new demands of status envy upon the Polish psyche – seeking to engineer self-consciousness, to cast judgments about social differentiation, and to nurture elitist exclusivity in contrast to the egalitarian and collectivist exhortations that would have marked communist propaganda.  In a commercial act of strategic amnesia, that heritage of Soviet influence was elided behind a resolutely forward – and westward – looking entrepreneurial ethos, wherein English words tantalized with the cachet of triumph, power, and wealth.  At this critical transition in Polish history in which widespread advertising was effectively being invented from scratch, these daydreams invoked – of techno-capitalist opportunity exploited, post-rationing luxury and excess indulged, and borderless horizons with Europe and the West (indeed, a new sphere of interconnected solidarity) – sought to interpellate the prospective consumer in a “valuable” position.
In this paper, we decode these ideological premises by looking at the “common sense” advertisers attempted to instill through their visual and rhetorical data – excavating the subject advertising minted within an emerging hegemonic model of neoliberal popular discourse.  At that “end of history” moment, new ambitions, envies, and orientations were being inscribed upon these commercial subjects.  By studying the aspirations and apprehensions represented in this symbolic material, we might better understand how new consumers were ideologically shepherded through a moment of profound political transition.  This archival work represents a starting point for future investigations into how advertising “produces” its subjects in the aftermath of communism(s); moreover, it helps clarify the function of popular culture in post-socialist societies.

Congratulations to Mike and Wanda!

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Graduate Student Work Accepted for Publication

The Department congratulates Andreea Maier and Alina Cark, who recently received word that a paper they co-authored with Dr. Qin Zhang (“Self-Disclosure and Emotional Closeness in Intracultural Friendships: A Cross-Cultural Comparison Among U.S. Americans and Romanians”) has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Intercultural Communication Research!  This research came out of course taught by Dr. Zhang, CO420 (“Communication Research Design and Methodologies”) and was also accepted for presentation at this year’s National Communication Association in Orlando, FL, in mid-November.  The abstract for this research follows:

“This study investigates the cultural differences in self-disclosure and emotional closeness in intracultual friendships in U.S. and Romanian cultures. Results show that culture has a significant effect on the intent of self-disclosure and emotional closeness. First, Americans are found to disclose in a greater intent than Romanians to their friends, but the two cultures do not differ in other dimensions of self-disclosure. Second, Romanians are found to perceive a greater level of emotional closeness in intracultural friendships than Americans. Last, honesty/accuracy and intent of self-disclosure predict emotional closeness in Romania, but none of the dimensions of self-disclosure predicts emotional closeness in the U.S.”

Congratulations, Andreea, Alina, and Dr. Zhang!

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Prof. Gudelunas Honored at ICA

Our congratulations go out to Associate Professor David Gudelunas, whose work presented at this year’s International Communication Association conference in Phoenix was named a top faculty paper in the “Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies” Interest Group. The paper was titled, “Generational Differences Among Gay Men and Lesbians: Social and Media Change.”

Abstract: This essay looks at generational differences in the gay and lesbian community and specifically looks at how technology serves as a point of distinction in the coming out and socialization process of younger and older sexual minorities.  Drawing on generational cohort theory, this essay begins with a review of literature related to ageing in the gay and lesbian community and then looks at qualitative and quantitative findings to establish key points of difference between older and younger cohorts of sexual minorities. Ultimately, the availability of technology including social media, online communities and other new media tools in the lives of gay men and lesbians is positioned as a critical distinction in the understanding and acceptance of an abstract notion of gay and lesbian community.  While older gay men and lesbians sought out images of sexual minorities in media, younger respondents were more likely to create these images themselves and were thus less concerned about traditional questions of representation.

Bravo, David!

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Lambda Pi Eta – Class of 2012

On May 12, 2012, the Department proudly welcomed 14 new members to Lamda Pi Eta, the international undergraduate honor society in Communication:

Kristen E. Bona

Briana F. Cronk

Margot P. da Cunha

Nicolette Ficchi

Stephen Fiorentine

Alice F. Guglielmoni

Michelle R. Haag

Amy C. Ingrilli

Amy H. Keiser

Ashli L. Kravarik

Nicole M. Laskowski

Courtney A. Monaghan

Julianna N. Sabra

Mikaela A. Tierney

Dr. Sallyanne Ryan, who inaugurated our chapter in 1997, hosted the ceremony and reflections were offered by Nicole M. Laskowski, Briana F. Cronk, and Mikaela A. Tierney. Congratulations to our accomplished graduating seniors!

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Communication Students Honored at CAS Awards Ceremony

The Department of Communication congratulates the following students honored at this year’s College of Arts and Sciences Awards Ceremony, presented by Dr. Maggie Wills and Dr. Michael Pagano:

2012 Outstanding Academic Achievement in Communication Award – Nicole Laskowski

“Nicole is a double major in Communication and English, and a minor in Marketing and Women’s Studies with a GPA of 3.98—the highest of her class, for which she was awarded The Lieutenant William Koscher Award in the Arts earlier in this ceremony.  Nicole was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa as a junior. She’ll be inducted into the Comm. Honor Society this May, and as previously mentioned, she and her co-authors’ senior capstone research project was recognized as distinguished work in the Social Sciences.  Beyond the gates of Fairfield, Nicole was a marketing intern at the Central CT Coast YMCA, and a Production intern for the Maury Povich Show—a great conversation starter for any job interview.  In the classroom, Nicole elevates every conversation and exceeds expectations on every assignment with her brilliance, kindness, and great humility.  Where some search for the narrow path to a topic that gets them from point A to completed project point B, Nicole enjoys contemplating many ideas, and then, almost magically, she’s able to sift through the literature to arrive at a  do-able, important project every time. Well suited to the life of the mind, Nicole hopes to pursue a graduate degree that will no doubt result in her becoming our esteemed colleague. Today, we’re very proud to call her our top student.”

2012 Distinguished Work in the Social and Behavioral Sciences

“As these students’ research capstone project advisor, I’m pleased to present the award for distinguished work in the social and behavioral sciences to communication seniors Anthony Corso, Christie Fogelstrom, Nicole Laskowski, and Chelsea Pabon.  Their project, entitled, “I love the Ladies but they don’t belong in the newsroom: Gender Biases in Male and Female Anchor Teams” offers an in-depth content analysis of twenty newscasts along with a survey of 78 undergraduates. The content analysis in particular was very thoughtfully designed and labor intensive, and yielded some important insights into lingering gender biases in the television news industry. The project was also competitively accepted for presentation at the 38th National Undergraduate Honors Conference at DePauw University.  The Selection Committee cited the work’s clear hypothesis grounded in a substantive review of existing literature, originality of ideas, clear writing, and contribution to the advancement of knowledge in the study of gender, media, and communication.  The committee viewed the research teams’ acknowledgment of research limitations as a strength because they did not attempt to make claims that couldn’t be supported by the data.  Also, having previously recognized the achievement of individual students, the committee noted this year they were honoring group scholarship, as “collaborative research efforts” are increasingly typical in the social and behavioral sciences, with collaborative work being the kind of work that most researchers in our disciplines do.  We honor the group effort here, and wish all the best to this outstanding group of young scholars.”

2012 Professor James J. Keenan Award – Kara M. Meagher

“Ms. Meagher earned a 3.88 g.p.a. in her graduate work here, but she has distinguished herself in many other ways.  Kara used her experiences in one grad course and expanded on them in an Independent Study to co-author a paper, “Tackling death and dying: A service-learning approach,” that was presented at, and is being published by, the Vatican/Marquette University, “Power to Transform the World Conference.”  In addition, her interests in health, interpersonal, and organizational communication led her to develop a unique Thesis project that explores how an urban hospital collaborates with, and encourages, its health care providers to disclose medical errors and adverse events to the patients and/or families who suffered negative consequences.  This groundbreaking research is titled, “Disclosing bad outcomes: Implications for patients, providers, and interpersonal relationships.  Kara’s exploration of dying patients’ communication and the disclosure committee’s efforts, mirror her commitment to improving the lives of her fellow human beings.  These values are consistent with Professor Keenan’s that he exemplified in his 40+ years of teaching and scholarship at this institution.  For all these reasons and more, the Department of Communication faculty selected Kara M. Meagher the recipient of the 2012 Professor James J. Keenan Award for Outstanding Achievement by a Communication Graduate Student.”

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The 2012 Keenan Award Winner is…

It’s one of our favorite times of year around the Communication Department – award season!  And kicking things off, we’re delighted to announce that the 2012 recipient of the Professor James J. Keenan Award for Outstanding Achievement as a Communication Graduate Student is Kara Meagher.

Kara is the second graduate student to receive the award, which is named after Dr. Keenan, a leader in graduate communication at Fairfield University for more than four decades.  This award is given annually to a Communication graduate student who “demonstrates excellence in academic achievement, outstanding personal growth through the scholastic experience, and exceptional commitment to our field.”  The recipient should also possess “a spirit of good humor and collegiality,” in the tradition of Dr. Keenan.

Kara’s scholarship in the program has notably included paper presentations at Marquette University and the International Communication Association’s “Instructional & Developmental Communication” Division.  Her thesis undertakes a participant-observation ethnography of an urban hospital committee tasked with disclosing adverse treatment potentials to patients and their families.  Congratulations, Kara!

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Congratulations Graduate Program Alumna!

The Department of Communication extends a hearty congratulations to Barbara Puffer, an alumna of our graduate program who has been selected as one of this year’s International Association of Business Communicators Fellows – the highest honor that organization can grant to its members and an acknowledgment of her “outstanding leadership, professional accomplishment and service to IABC and the profession.”  Puffer, who is also a member of Fairfield’s College of Arts and Sciences Board of Advisors, has professional experience with numerous organizations, including the Special Olympics, the United Way, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and Connecticut Race for the Cure.  She will receive the IABC award at the association’s international conference this June in Chicago.  Congrats!

For more information, please see:

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In Memoriam

On March 30, at the Fairfield University General Faculty meeting, Dr. Michael Pagano delivered the following remarks:

Dr. James J. Keenan Jr.

Professor Emeritus, Communication

We wanted to have Jim’s picture here and share his wonderful smile at one last faculty meeting.  Dr. James J.Keenan, Jr., our colleague and friend, died March 1, 2012 in Malmo, Sweden after a prolonged battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was surrounded by family and friends, including two of his sons and his second wife, Dr. Maria Aggestam, who has taught here at Fairfield and shared Jim’s passion for global education, international travel, and intercultural research.

Jim was born October 13, 1931, in New York City. He obtained his undergraduate degree from Manhattan College, a master’s degree from Fordham University and a Ph.D. in Industrial Psychology from Columbia University.

Jim was a father of five – four sons and a daughter, some of whom are graduates of this university – and a grandfather of three. He often spoke fondly of the many adventures he and his first wife, Bett Keenan, shared with their children as part of his international research projects.  He is survived by his many relatives, here and in Sweden, as well as legions of both graduate and undergraduate students who worked with this true renaissance man during his 42 year-long career at Fairfield University.

Jim joined our faculty in 1967, first serving as a core faculty member in the Graduate School of Corporate and Political Communication, then embraced interdisciplinary collaboration by teaching in the Dolan School of Business and the College of Arts and Sciences, offering both Psychology and Communication courses.  In the early 1990s, Jim joined the College’s Department of Communication, and we gratefully acknowledge his many valued and creative efforts to help the then newly-established department flourish.  In early 2002, Jim partnered with Dean Edna Wilson of University College to create our off-campus graduate cohort program that helped 64 working men and women over a six-year period earn a Master’s Degree from Fairfield University. His entrepreneurial spirit contributed to the university’s income, but also to our commitment to serving a diverse student body.  The success of this collaborative, innovative effort at graduate education provided the stimulus for the current on-site graduate program in Communication.

In addition to teaching undergraduate and graduate students here for 42 years and promoting the institutional mission in varied ways, Jim lectured internationally and published extensively on communication, psychology, organizational management, intellectual capital, ekistic ergonomics and business leadership topics.  He also consulted for some of the major corporations of the 20th century and contributed to many historical achievements.

An accomplished industrial psychologist and consultant, Jim’s work and clients reflected his diverse interests. He chaired the Board of Scientific Advisors for Muzak and consulted for IBM, GE, Xerox, various Catholic agencies and Atari. He worked with the U.S. Navy, NASA and the White House on a number of projects. His work at Dunlap Associates in Darien included both commercial and government assignments, notably development work for the Minuteman missile system, pre-manned space missions, the design of the DC-10 cockpit and the commercial barcode. Jim was also a very talented wood worker and built a motorized, miniature carousel that Neiman Marcus considered manufacturing.

In 2009, the Department of Communication recognized Jim’s life-long commitment to teaching and scholarship by creating the annual, Professor James J. Keenan Award for Outstanding Achievement by a Communication Graduate Student.

Jim dedicated his life to helping students become successful, self-directed, life-long learners.  He was a colleague and a friend and he will be missed. But Jim was truly a gifted storyteller and his ability to enthrall students and colleagues with his tales of adventures with Margaret Mead and Buckminster Fuller, or of contributing to NASA’s early designs will be long remembered. We hope that as you think of Jim and his contributions to our students and this institution you’ll remember his infectious smile – and the kind, generous, intellectually curious and good-humored spirit it reflected.

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Department Alumni on the Secrets of (Post-Graduation) Success

It was a full house in the Kelley Center on Monday night as six of our proudest alums returned to share their tips and thoughts on navigating life beyond the campus gates.  Generously organized by Ms. Sue Quinlivan, associate director at the Career Planning Center, and Dr. Sallyanne Ryan and charmingly moderated by Dr. David Gudelunas, the panel offered advice on subjects ranging from internships and networking to the potentials and perils of professional life and the opportunities Fairfield provides.

The impressive group included: Ms. Keegan Vance Forte (’07), chief-of-staff for AOL Ventures; Ms. Kristin Genovese (’08), music coordinator for MTV’s News & Docs division; Ms. Jill McLaughlin (’09), global communications for M-A-C Cosmetics; Ms. Jenna Nolan (’10), graduate student in Fairfield’s M.A. program in Communication; Ms. Jennifer Gregory Pierce (’03), director of production for the History Channel’s On-Air Promotions; and Ms. Wanda Szarek (’11), associate project manager at Story Worldwide.  Our thanks go out to these inspiring young women for sharing their time and experiences!

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Congratulations, Capstone Researchers!

Two student-authored capstone research papers have been competitively selected for presentation at the 38th Annual DePauw Undergraduate Honors Conference in Communication at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana (April 12-14).  These papers were completed in fulfillment of “CO309: Senior Research Projects in Communication.”  Given the conference’s 50 – 75% rejection rate, our students clearly rank among the best and brightest undergraduate communication scholars in the nation today.  They are now invited to present their work at this prestigious conference alongside fellow undergraduate communication scholars from across the country.  This year’s visiting scholars for the conference are Sandra Petronio of Indiana University/Purdue Univ. Indianapolis, Judy Sebesta of Lamar University, and Matthew Solomon from University of Michigan.

The original CO309 research projects and authors selected this year include:

Anthony Corso, Christie Fogelstrom, Nicole Laskowski, and Chelsea Pabon

“I Love the Ladies… But They Don’t Belong in the Newsroom”

(produced in Dr. Wills’ fall capstone)

Caitlin Fitzpatrick, Amy Ingrilli, Ashli Kravarik, Kenneth Muti, and Anthony Raymond

“Traditional Media vs. Digital Media: Effects on Short Term Memory”

(produced in Dr. Zhang’s fall capstone)


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In the beginning…

We’ll admit that we’re a little partial to words around here: Communication is, after all, at the heart of what we do as human beings.  It defines and maintains our realities, identities, relationships, communities, and cultures.  In our teaching and research, we construct, measure, critique, and analyze communication in all its glorious (and, all too often, not-so-glorious) forms.  Whether it be spoken, written, or broadcast, we’ve got a collective mind for messages and the gift of gab to go along with it.  So you can see why a blog might be an enticing outlet for departmental goings-on.

Thus, we give you: CommBlog, a running record of notable news in and around Fairfield University’s Department of Communication.  Whether it be research publications and conference presentations from our dynamic faculty or student accomplishments in and opportunities for our undergraduate and master’s programs, count on this to be your one-stop shop for all things Fairfield Communication.  If there are events or stories you’d like to see highlighted or linked, don’t hesitate to pass along your tips to: mserazio at

We’ll do our darnedest to run all the news that’s fit to print.  Welcome to CommBlog!

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