Ideas do exist: A look into conferences sponsored by the Department of Communication

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Rochester Institute of Technology
College of Liberal Arts
Department of Communication
Ideas do exist: A look into conferences sponsored by the Department of Communication
by Nicolette Lewis


We have all heard the classic riddle—“If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Until this day, the answer is debatable. However, what if the riddle was altered a bit to ask, “If students have ideas, but no one is around to hear them, are the students truly having ideas?” What would be the answer here?

Fortunately, the students enrolled in the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) do not have to question if their ideas truly exist, because they are given opportunities to have their ideas acknowledged–and heard–by others both in class and out.

This spring, the Department of Communication invited students to participate in both the William A. Kern Conference and the Conference for Undergraduate Research in Communication (CURC). At both functions, which have been held in previous years, students networked with scholars who possess similar academic interests as well as gained recognition for their hard work.

Kern Visual Communication Conference:

This year marked the fourth biennial William A. Kern Communication Conference in Visual Communication—an area of great interest to its host, Dr. Diane Hope, who also teaches the Visual Communication course.

Since 1999, Hope has been the Kern Professor, thus allowing her to select the central theme for each Kern Conference. Similar to the past three conferences in Visual Communication, this year’s Kern Conference was geared toward visual rhetoric and visual media technologies.

According to Hope, Visual Communication is a significant topic to explore because “as individuals, we live in a visual culture in which technologies such as the Internet and film makes the reproduction and circulation of images so fast.”

Hope expressed that students were encouraged to bring innovative ideas to this year’s conference as well as convey how visuals influence and/or persuade society, which is indicative of the visual rhetoric aspect.

An exemplary student who took advantage of this year’s Kern Conference was Amanda Wade.

Amanda Wade

As a graduate student pursuing a Master of Science degree in Communication & Media Technologies (CMT) with a concentration in Marketing, Wade presented her paper in which she investigated the portrayal of female athletes in Sports Illustrated and Sports Illustrated for Women. In her paper, Wade was interested in discovering if there was any difference in the representation of women based on the intended reading audience as well as the ethnicity of the featured female athletes.

As Assistant Producer for RIT’s SportsZone, Wade has had the opportunity to research information dealing with RIT’s various sports teams. She has conducted interviews with the members of RIT’s Indoor Track and Field teams.

“I am extremely interested in the representation of females within the sports field, “stated Wade. “I hope to open peoples’ eyes to the racial depiction of female athletes.”

Since next year is Dr. Hope’s last as Kern Professor, this was the final conference in Visual Communication. The Kern Conferences will continue though, with the central theme based on the interests of the newly selected Kern Professor. Students will have to lookout for and hopefully participate in upcoming Kern Conferences.

Conference for Undergraduate Research in Communication (CURC):

The fifth Conference for Undergraduate Research in Communication (CURC) was held on April 18, 2008. Students from nine universities/colleges including RIT, Villanova University, Ithaca College, and Utica College gathered to share their work, converse with their peers, and of course, gain acknowledgement for their noteworthy endeavors.

According to Dr. Patrick Scanlon, Professor and Coordinator of Undergraduate Degree Programs in the Department of Communication, what makes the CURC a magnificent opportunity for students is that “they gain valuable practice in oral presentation skills [as well as] get to see their work in print.”

In fact, as organizer of the conference, Dr. Scanlon explained that “last year for the first time, and then again this year, we published all the student papers in a book, using”

Ryland Bacorn, a 4th-year student enrolled in the Advertising & Public Relations (APR) program in pursuit of a Bachelor of Science degree with a minor in Economics, was one of RIT’s students who showcased his work at the conference.

His presentation titled “Personal Online Advertising Strategy” depicted his approach to creating a personal online brand in a professional manner.

“Two of the key points,” stated Bacorn “deal with driving traffic to your website as well as protecting your work.”

When asked about his experience with the conference, Bacorn explained that “I had fun presenting my work, and it was a great opportunity to network also.”

As a highlight to his experience, Bacorn gave an outstanding poster presentation that won Top Poster award.

Although the CURC brought numerous schools together, Dr. Scanlon hopes that future conferences will include more schools.

“More than anything else,” stated Scanlon, “I’d like to see more submissions from more places, including schools throughout the Northeast. Our goal is to make the conference a well-known regional event.”

Collectively, the Kern Conference and CURC afford students the opportunity to hear others and to be heard; moreover, students have the opportunity to gain knowledge as well as be acknowledged for the knowledge they produce.


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