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Emmy-Winner Sarah Holt to Speak at 27th Hill Lecture

Sarah HoltEmmy Award-winning science and history documentarian Sarah Holt will deliver a presentation on “Turning Complex Science Stories into Compelling Television” at the 27th annual Alfred and Julia Hill Lecture at the University of Tennessee’s McClung Museum Auditorium on April 2 at 8 p.m.

Admission is free and open to the public. Free parking will also be available on Circle Park Drive and in nearby lots. Refreshments will be served before and after the lecture.

Holt has won three Emmy Awards for her scientific and historical film work: RX for Survival (2006), Shackleton’s Voyage of Endurance (2003), and MacArthur (1999). She has also received three Kavli Science Journalism Awards, presented by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and nine additional national honors. (A full list of her documentary awards is provided below).

Holt has produced, directed, written, or edited more than 30 hours of broadcast television. Her work regularly appears on the acclaimed PBS science series, Nova, where she has produced 18 episodes. She has also teamed up with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Education Resources Group to produce such films as The Day the Mesozoic Died and the three-part series, The Making of the Fittest.          

Holt’s latest Nova documentary, Addiction, first aired in October 2018 and explores the science of drug addiction in light of the national opioid crisis. In 2016, she produced, directed, and wrote, Can Alzheimer’s Be Stopped?, which followed patients attempting to slow or stop the disease after diagnosis.

Her production company, Holt Productions, is based in Boston.

The Hill Lecture series brings distinguished science journalists to campus to share their thoughts on science, society, and the mass media. The lecture series is made possible by an endowment created by Tom Hill and Mary Frances Hill Holton in honor of their parents, Alfred and Julia Hill, founders of The Oak Ridger. The Hill family’s endowment of the lecture series was a gift to the UT School of Journalism & Electronic Media in the College of Communication & Information.




2006 - RX for Survival, Outstanding Informational Programming, (PBS)

2003 - Shackleton’s Voyage of Endurance, Best Historical Documentary, (NOVA)

1999 - MacArthur Best Picture, Best Series, (American Experience)



2012 - Cracking Your Genetic Code

2010 - How Memory Works

2002 - 18 Ways to Make a Baby



2014 - The Day the Mesozoic Died, Finalist, Earth Science, (HHMI)

2012 - The Making of the Fittest, Best Short Program, (HHMI)



2012 - Cracking Your Genetic Code

2007 - Ghost in Your Genes

2004 - World in the Balance



2013 - The Day the Mesozoic Died (HHMI)

2012 - The Making of the Fittest (HHMI)



2012 - Cracking Your Genetic Code (finalist)

2006 - Rise of the Superbug (finalist)

Alumni Q&A: Jim Sexton

Tennessee RiverJournalism graduate Jim Sexton (’81) has described his evolving media career as “long and winding,” and that path has led him once again to his hometown and alma mater. 

At least for this week.

Sexton is now in his eighth year as vice president of digital for the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.) and is in town for Knoxville’s first hosting of the prestigious Bassmaster Classic, which will be held Friday through Sunday on the Tennessee River. He is in charge of generating and developing content for the organization’s website, mobile, and social platforms.

Jim SextonRapid changes in technology radically changed the media landscape since Sexton walked the graduation stage in 1981, but he has transformed his skill set over the years to meet those new challenges.

Outside of an unusual first job in which he played a “Bill Nye the Science Guy-esque” character giving science demonstrations to junior high and high schoolers on behalf of the Oak Ridge Associated Universities, Sexton has spent his career as a content creator. He worked in Chicago and New York before returning to Knoxville for Whittle Communications, rising to editor and chief. After the organization folded, he moved to Washington, D.C., to be an associate editor for USA Weekend.

In 1998, Sexton was back in Knoxville again to work with HGTV, where he pivoted from mostly print into digital production, helping grow the company’s fledgling online presence. He moved to Birmingham, Alabama, where he lives today, working with Time Inc.’s magazine division before his present job with Bassmaster.

After returning from his boat covering the anglers’ practice day, Sexton sat down to discuss his career, storytelling, and advice to students preparing to enter the media workforce. Here are excerpts from our Q&A:

Q: Where has your career taken you since graduation?

A: “I’ve got a journalism degree and have always been in content. I came up in the internet world when we were deciding, ‘Who do you put in charge of internet stuff?’ I made a case that it should be the editor instead of a technology person. I had to learn the technology. So I’ve always managed technology and content. I was there in the early days of HGTV and it grew and grew. I was there nine years and then went to Time Inc. in Birmingham, Alabama. At that time, it had eight magazine brands that also had websites. It had sort of been under paid attention to, so I came in to turn them into real websites with real content, not just remakes of the magazine. That whole operation was during the recession. Time Inc started cutting everything, so I lost my job there.

“At that time, Bassmaster moved to Birmingham. It was in Orlando and ESPN owned it, then three guys bought it, one of them being the retired chairman of Time Inc. I landed at Bassmaster doing the same kind of work, content for our website and social media. It’s been a wild ride. I’ve always been a sports guy. My father’s a coach and I loved sports, but I never worked in sports media. It’s really what this is. It’s the sport of fishing. The mentality left over from ESPN was to cover it like a traditional sport, meaning we do a lot with stats, we have a live leaderboard, we have live broadcasting and really treat it like baseball or basketball or football would be treated.”

Q: What’s it like being in Knoxville for the Bassmaster Classic, the biggest event on your tour?

A: “We announced it this time last year, so I’ve known it’s been coming for a long time. I’m the only person who works at Bassmaster who went to UT. I’ve got a freelance writer/photographer who went to UT. We have one of our tournament contractors who went to UT who was wearing the plaid orange and white overalls this morning at our practice launch.

“It’s been so much fun. For one, I get to brag a lot about Knoxville and UT. It’s been really fun to see the reaction from our events people who’ve been back and forth here a lot over the last year. It’s really unique. For the seven classics I’ve been to before this, everything has been spread out. We were in Tulsa, Oklahoma, twice. The weigh-ins were downtown. The expo was downtown. The lake was 90 minutes away. Last year, we were in Greenville, South Carolina. The weigh-ins and expo were downtown and the lake was 45 minutes away. That’s typically what we’re doing. Here, you could walk from the weigh-ins at Thompson-Boling (Arena) to the launch at Volunteer Landing to the expos at World’s Fair Park. Everybody’s been really excited about it.

“Knoxville has become what I always thought it could become. When I worked downtown at Whittle, it was a very sleepy downtown. Nobody lived downtown. The only places to eat were lunch places and maybe Regas on the far end. Now, it’s a cool downtown. Lots of people live downtown, and there are cool restaurants and bars. It’s beautiful looking. I’m just very proud of it as much as anything. Being on campus this week, same thing. There’s been so much construction over the last five years that showing someone through campus on Monday, I thought, ‘Wow, it’s all come together.’”

Q: As a journalist and content creator, what makes a good story?

A: “In covering fishing and covering sports, you’ve got to cover the game and tell the score and who did what and who won and those kinds of things. You’ve got to keep the record. I had this conversation recently with my son, who is 24 and is a video editor. He asked how do you determine what makes a good story? And I said, ‘If I’m interested in it.’ I’ve always just felt, if I’m interested in it, other people will be too. That’s not enough of a good answer, but it’s a good story if it’s got a personal angle to it.

“With Bassmaster, we have to do the how-to stories: how to fish, how to catch bigger fish, how to use the equipment. We even tell the stories about the different species and the conservation. The really interesting stories to me and that the fans like are personal. All of these professional anglers that we cover, they’ve all got an interesting life story, right? Going from growing up to becoming a person who relies on fishing for a living, there’s an interesting story there somehow. There was a parent or a spouse who was encouraging. We’ve got an angler from Arizona, in college, he told his professor he wanted to be a professional angler. The professor laughed at him, and that really motivated him to pursue it because that was his passion. … Everyone has personal stories and struggles. Everyone has successes. Everyone has family inspiration. Those personal stories I think are the most interesting.

Q: What are some of your big takeaways from journalism school that you’ve used in your career?

A: “One of my first professors said, ‘Act like you know what you’re doing.’ He meant that as a reporter or editor, you’ll be involved in topics you don’t know that much about. If you approach it like your audience, who also might not know much about it, it’s okay to ask the basic questions and the things an experienced reporter or editor might not ask because they know the topic so well. That’s one thing I took with me.

“I got the sense of possibility in journalism school that you can do anything, whether that be writing or photography or videography or getting into technology. I worked at The Daily Beacon as a photographer, and we developed our own photos in a lightroom. That was the technology. A typewriter was the technology. Somehow, I’ve never been afraid of the technology. I’m 60 now. I’m going to say it’s not rocket science, but it kind of is. You don’t have to understand how it works, but you have to be able to use it. We do some crazy stuff at Bassmaster. We have an app called BASSTrakk. We put it in the hands of the marshals who ride the boats, and they log in every fish and every weight and it shows up instantly on the website. Stereotypically, you may think of a fishing website as simple, but it’s not for us. We do a lot with technology.

“Those are a couple takeaways from my time at UT. It was a mind expanding experience, partially from the people and partially from the subject. My career has been all learning all the time. I never learn enough. After eight years at Bassmaster, there’s a ton I want to learn. Learning’s fun for me.

Q: What is some advice you’d give to CCI students preparing to enter the media field?

A: “I’ve thought about that a lot. I’ve got kids and one is in a similar field. Would you recommend someone go into the field of journalism these days? There are probably more reliable job paths to stay employed with as much change as there has been in the media world. The thing is, people are consuming more media than ever. So there is always a need for people who can communicate well. I still think it’s a great career path and an interesting career path.

“My advice is to learn the basics really well. Be a Swiss army knife where you can do writing and photography and video and podcasts and play with all those platforms where they are all telling stories. Learn those basics really well, and they’ll set you up for any number of directions to go in where you can respond to the marketplace. If podcasts can continue to grow and you’ve done a few, you can do podcasts. If it’s all blogging and photography, you can do that. Learn the basics well. In my time on the Board of Visitors, it was their approach. They wanted kids to be able to come out with a broad skill set so they can take on anything.”

Roessner Wins National Journalism History Award for Ida Initiative

Amber RoessnerAmber Roessner, associate professor of journalism and electronic media at the University of Tennessee, has won a new national award recognizing excellence in journalism history education.

She is one of five winners in the inaugural Transformative Teaching of Media and Journalism History teaching idea competition sponsored by the History Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. 

Roessner won for her work around the Ida Initiative, a permanent website dedicated to Ida B. Wells-Barnett. It is a product of the School of Journalism and Electronic Media.

“The Ida Initiative class project was inspired from a conversation with Wells-Barnett’s great-granddaughter Michelle Duster, who shared information about an effort to construct a monument to the memory of Wells-Barnett in Bronzeville, the South Side Chicago neighborhood where the social justice crusader had lived and worked after 1895,” Roessner said. 

“While developing the Ida Initiative as an interdisciplinary project to foster research about the life, work, and legacy of Wells-Barnett and other like-minded social justice crusaders by scholars and students of communication and history, the idea to involve undergraduate JEM students took root.”

Roessner said students developed historically informed journalistic-inspired content for the website in advance of a one-day academic conference, Ida B. & Beyond, held in March 2015. 

“Since then, many JEM 367 History of Mass Communication students have participated in the Ida Initiative student project,” she said.

In addition, Roessner co-edited and helped write Political Pioneer of the Press, a book about Wells-Barnett that was published last summer.


ADPR Students Take Home ADDY Awards

Addy AwardsTwelve students from the School of Advertising and Public Relations earned 43 honors at the Knoxville American Advertising Federation (AAF) awards Saturday night.

Hannah Lagoski took home a Gold ADDY Award for her work with Inuksuit. She also earned a Silver ADDY Award, as did three other students: Madison Duncan, Ashley Hendrix and Lukas McCrary. Hendrix earned a school-leading three Silver Addys for her advertising work on The Brown Girls Guide to College, KOKOA and BLKGRLPWR.

All 12 ADPR honorees collected at least one Bronze Citation of Excellence. Additional bronze medal winners included: Matthew Art, Joan Hargett, Brooke Heinsohn, Yulisia Lopez, Nicole Maestri, Bailey Morris, Noah Shirley and Jake Wade. Heinsohn earned nine total bronze citations.

University of Tennessee Student Award Winners

Matthew Art
Bronze Citations of Excellence (3)
- Goosewood Brewing Co. Outdoor Board
- Phoenix Pharmacy and Fountain
- Disney Single Ticket Magazine

Madison Duncan
Silver Addy Award (1)
- Madison’s Portfolio
Bronze Citation of Excellence (1)
- Madison’s Portfolio

Joan Hargett
Bronze Citations of Excellence (2)
- Yes To
- WISEACRE Craft Beer Company

Brooke Heinsohn
Bronze Citations of Excellence (9)
- Jelly Photographs: eCommerce site
- Elevation Peak
- Camp Tellico T-shirt (2)
- Sounds Zesty
- Into the Abyss
- Mountain Drizzle
- Heavenly Cheers
- Aqua Goat

Ashley Hendrix
Silver Addy Awards (3)
- The Brown Girls Guide to College
Bronze Citations of Excellence (4)
- Saint Indigio
- Kelis – Harlem
- Kelis – Harlem (artist renovation)
- Bounty & Full

Hannah Lagoski
Gold Addy Award (1)
- Inuksuit
Silver Addy Award (1)
- Dizzy Bat

Yulisia Lopez
Bronze Citations of Excellence (6)
- Pearls Olives Print Ad (2)
- Quaker Oats Print Ad (3)
- Pearls and Quaker Oats Ads

Nicole Maestri
Bronze Citations of Excellence (4)
- Godiva Chocolate – You Deserve This
- Phoenix Pharmacy & Fountain Outdoor (3)

Lukas McCrary
Silver Addy Award (1)
- The Room
Bronze Citations of Excellence (3)
- Cumberland Streptease Improve
- Big Hair Night of Comedy
- Godiva Chocolate Ad

Bailey Morris
Bronze Citations of Excellence (2)
- Cross – Give ‘Em Your Jane Hancock
- Bass Pro – Family Style

Noah Shirley
Bronze Citation of Excellence (1)
- UnwarranTed Commercial

Jake Wade
Bronze Citation of Excellence (1)
- Phoenix Pharmacy & Fountain Outdoor Billboard

Photo Credit: Colby’s Photography

Comm Studies Students on SEC Honor Roll

Paul BainThe School of Communication Studies was well-represented with seven students listed on the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Fall Academic Honor Roll. The list recognizes fall sport student-athletes who achieved a 3.00 grade point average or greater for the academic year.

Vols from Communication Studies to make the honor roll include five members of the football team: Paul Bain, Zac Jancek, Riley Lovingood, Chip Omer and Austin Smith. Lovingood is currently working toward his master’s degree in Communication and Information with a concentration in Communication Studies.

Bunny Shaw and Riley O’Keefe from the soccer team also made the honor roll. During the fall, Shaw was the SEC Offensive Player of the Year and led the Jamaican soccer team to its first berth in the FIFA Women’s World Cup hosted by France, which begins in June.

The SEC also has a winter and spring academic honor roll, in addition to a first-year academic honor roll for freshmen and first-year transfers. 

February 2019: Faculty/Staff News

HALEY NAMED AAA PRESENT-ELECT: ADPR Professor Eric Haley was chosen President-Elect of the American Academy of Advertising (AAA), the leading international organization for the advancement of advertising scholarship, education and practice. He is currently serving as Vice President and will assume his new role during AAA’s annual conference, March 28-31 in Dallas, Texas. Haley will serve as AAA president in 2020.

BROTMAN NAMED LEONARDO da VINCI RESEARCH FELLOW: Howard Distinguished Endowed Professor of Media Management and Law and Beaman Professor of Journalism and Electronic Media Stuart N. Brotman was selected as a 2019 grantee and a Leonardo da Vinci Research Fellow at the Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School. His study will focus on the intersection of copyright law and communications law. Click here for more information on the Leonardo da Vinci fellowship program.

SCHOLAR IN RESIDENCE: ADPR Professor and Director Maureen Taylor served as a Scholar in Residence at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, Feb. 4-8.

Cohen Honored with 2019 CCI Diversity Award

Arnold Cohen - Diversity AwardLongtime Knoxville social justice and civil rights pioneer Arnold Cohen was presented with the CCI Diversity Award at the 11th annual CCI Experience Diversity Banquet on February 22 at Bearden Banquet Hall.

The evening’s theme, “We Are the World, We Are the People,” was captured throughout the evening with dramatic performances, dance, music, and talks by both Cohen and keynote speaker Stan Bowie, associate professor from the College of Social Work.

The banquet was hosted by the CCI Diversity Student Leaders Society (DSLS), led by Communication Studies Lecturer and DSLS Director Alice Wirth. A total of $6,500 was raised to support DSLS networking trips and scholarships through table sponsorships and silent and live auctions.

Cohen, a practicing attorney in Knoxville since 1967, has been one of Knoxville’s leading voices for racial justice for decades and sees fighting discrimination as a moral obligation and strategic necessity.

His racial justice work over the years includes serving as: a member of the board of directors of the Race Relations Center of East Tennessee and participating in the Center's Undoing Racism workshops; a member of the Knoxville Jewish Alliance board of directors and chairing its Community Relations Committee; a member of the University of Tennessee Chancellor’s Task Force on Civility and Community; vice president and board of directors member of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center; past chair of the National Conference, Knoxville Roundtable of the National Conference of Christians and Jews; a member of Knoxville’s Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Commission; and chair of the board, president, treasurer and longtime member of the board of trustees of Heska Amuna Congregation. He has been a leading voice in fostering a stronger relationship between a variety of groups to fight discrimination in Knoxville. Knox County honored Cohen for his racial justice work when it named him as an East Tennessee Civil-Rights Pioneer as part of its Presidential Inauguration Celebration in 2009.

In addition to his racial justice and civil rights work, Cohen has served as an officer/leader/board member on a large number of Knoxville civic and community organizations including: City People, the Development Incentive Committee of Knoxville’s Central Business Improvement District, the Tanasi Counsel of the Girl Scouts of America, the East Tennessee Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, the UTK Chancellor’s Associates and the UT Department of Religious Studies.

Bowie, who delivered the keynote speech after Cohen accepted his award, has taught in the UT College of Social Work for 20 years and has served in numerous capacities in the Knoxville community. He has won many awards which include: the UTK Chancellor’s Citation for Excellence in Teaching; the UTK Chancellor’s Citation for Extraordinary Community Service; the UT National Alumni Outstanding Teacher Award; the UT Commission for Blacks Hardy Liston, Jr. Symbol of Hope Award; the Community Shares, Inc., “Gardener of Change” Excellence in Teaching Award; and the Council on Social Work Education Feminist Mentor Award.

He is an active member of the Knoxville Community and serves on many boards of directors including: the Knoxville Area Urban League, the United Way of Knox County, the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, and The State of Higher Education in Black America.

Entertainment for the evening included performances by the UT Ballroom Dancers, UT VOLT A Capella Team, UT Strange Fruit, and DSLS members Annie Ankamah-Asamoah and Taylor Moore. DSLS also performed dramatizations on issues focused on immigration, homelessness and Knoxville heroes.

A Look Back at 2019 UT Social Media Week

Leo MorejonMore than 420 students attended panels at the eighth annual UT Social Media Week, which was held February 26-28 in CCI’s Scripps Lab Theater and Patrick Auditorium. #UTSMW2019 also generated 59,000 impressions and over 2,000 engagements on Twitter over a two-week period.

This year’s event featured 21 guest speakers over eight sessions, including one that involved a hands-on workshop. Eight CCI classes served as official anchor classes with 14 total classes attending. Topics ranged from incivility and politics on social media to the business of running social media accounts for companies and events, to social marketing and influencers.

Leo Morejon, an adjunct instructor at West Virginia University, served as the spotlight speaker at this year’s event. His presentation focused on the much-hyped and failed work of Fyre Media, “The Fyre Festival—They Couldn’t Even Spell Fire Correctly.”

The Fyre Festival was a 2017 “luxury music festival” founded by Billy McFarland, CEO of Fyre Media Inc., and rapper Ja Rule. It was heavily promoted by celebrities who are social media influencers. The festival ended up being indefinitely postponed, and the organizers have been sued multiple times.

This year, documentaries on Hulu and Netflix have rekindled conversations about the festival fiasco.

Morejon said he sees teaching lessons in the festival’s marketing.

“The Fyre Festival has brought a lot of attention to influencer marketing and online marketing in general—and not all of it good,” Morejon said. “As a marketer, I want to shed light on the positive side of things and give people a different perspective for them to think about.” UTSMW19

Morejon is an award-winning sales leader, speaker, content creator, and educator known for his work as a pioneer in real-time social media including the Oreo Super Bowl blackout tweet and a campaign for the most likes on Facebook in a 24-hour period. After his presentation on the Fyre Festival and the importance of being honest with consumers on social platforms, he fielded questions from students about social marketing trends and platforms. 

UT Social Media Week was made possible through the generous financial support of Dan and Melanie Peterson (pictured right with UT Social Media Week student ambassadors). CCI’s four schools sponsored at least one session, as did the Ad Club and the UT chapter of PRSSA. A summary of UTSMW 2019 sessions and speakers is provided below.


Session Topics and Speakers

Session 1 – “I’m Right, you’re wrong—you stupid jerk.” Incivility toward Journalists on Social Media

Speakers: Jack Lail, Heather Harrington, Mark Harmon


Session 2 – Getting Social @ AC Entertainment

Speakers: Rhett Talbert, Luna Brewer, Emily Harenza


Session 3 – The Role of Social Media in an Evolving Political Landscape

Speaker: Michael Sullivan


Session 4 – Social Media: Nurturing Connections with Retargeting

Speaker & Workshop Leader: Joe Pecor


Session 5 – Library, Museum, and Science Organizations Social Media Innovators Panel

Speakers: Mary Pom Claiborne, Zack Plaster, Jenny Woodbery, Sarah Zimmerman


Session 6 – MELT Culinary: Social Media Influencers in the Age of Sports

Speakers: Jenna Cook, Tristan Watson, Snigdha Dhar


Session 7 – Influencing Tennessee: The Life of a Social Media Influencer

Speaker: Marianne Canada


Session 8 – The Fyre Festival – They Couldn’t Even Spell Fire Correctly

Speaker: Leo Morejon

February 2019: Class Notes

Alice Chapman (BA/CS ’94) is a managing partner of MP&F Strategic Communications, a communications firm in Nashville, Tennessee. She had been a partner at the agency since 2011.

Jeremiah Muhammad (BA/CS ’13) is a policy associate for Little Village Environmental Justice Organization in Chicago, Illinois. He previously worked for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy. 

John Troutman (BS/JEM ’82) recently received his Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) specializing in leadership for sales and marketing alignment from Argosy University in Atlanta. In November 2018, he joined the staff of Western Governors University as a marketing professor. 

Dr. Shali Zhang (MS/IS ’88) started her new position as dean of Auburn University Libraries this month. She was previously the dean of libraries and professor at the University of Montana. She is currently a member of CCI’s Board of Visitors and a former member of the SIS Advisory Board.  


February 2019: Alumni News

Tom Ballard (BS/JEM ‘69) was honored by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) with the first-ever Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award. The honor is named after Ballard for his contributions to TAEBC and will be awarded annually for exemplary leadership and success in championing, connecting, and strengthening Tennessee’s advanced energy economy. Ballard was a former board member and founding president of TAEBC. Click here for more information about the award and Ballard's career accomplishments.

Charlie Tombras’s (BS/ADPR ’64) company, the Tombras Group, was named the 10th most innovative company in the social media sector in the 2018 Fast Company World’s Most Innovative Companies List

Isaac Wright (BS/JEM ’03 & CCI Board of Visitors member) and his organization, Forward Solution Strategy Group, won six honors and were finalists for 10 more accolades at the Reed Awards by Campaign and Elections for their work during the 2018 election cycle. ForwardSSG’s winning categories included: Best of the Best Direct Mail named by USPS, Best Use of Online Targeting for Gubernatorial Campaign, Best Use of Online Targeting for Ballot Initiative, Best Direct Mail Piece for Bootstrapped Campaign, Best Web Video for Gubernatorial Candidate, and Best Website for State Legislative Candidate. Click here for the company's full list of honors from the awards show. 

February 2019: Student News

NATIONAL RADIO HONORS: Journalism and Electronic Media major Levi Johnson tied for 19th in the 2018-19 Hearst Journalism Awards Program National Radio Competition. The national collegiate journalism awards program is now in its 59th year and added broadcast news to the categories in 1988. Johnson is a correspondent for WUOT 91.9 FM. 

MORNING JEM: The School of Journalism and Electronic Media has started a daily online video show called “The Morning JEM.” Each weekday, a JEM student takes the host’s chair to provide a 60 second campus news summary.  Shows are posted to Twitter (@MorningJEM) and to The Volunteer Channel on YouTube. 

ALL-STAR COVERAGE: Damichael Cole, a senior JEM student, covered the NBA All-Star Weekend for The New Tri-State Defender of Memphis. The 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend was held Feb. 16-17 at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. Read his column about the opportunity the trip presented for him. 

COMM STUDIES TRAVELS TO D.C.: The Communication Studies Club traveled to Washington, D.C., Feb. 2-6, to meet with alumni working in communications in the nation’s capital and learn about job opportunities in the field. The students toured The Ingram Group, Toyota Government Relations and PhRMA in addition to visiting with Tennessee’s Congressional representatives. The itinerary also included time spent at the Smithsonian museums and national monuments. Ashley Jones Slayden (CS '12), who is now an event manager for Leading Authorities Inc, invited the group to a men's basketball watch party with the UT Alumni Chapter in D.C. Read more about how the College of Communication Studies shaped her career. 


Hendrix Lands Art Director Internship Through National Program

Ashley HendrixUntil she received her official letter, senior advertising major Ashley Hendrix had no idea where her summer internship might take her.

As it turns out, that place was Los Angeles County.

In February, Hendrix received an art director internship with the global advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi through the Multicultural Advertising Internship Program (MAIP), a fellowship sponsored by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A). Now in its fifth decade, MAIP helps place students in internships all over the country; in 2017, the program assisted 211 fellows to gain job experience in 19 different media markets.

Hendrix discovered her love of painting and creation by taking a basic art class during her senior year of high school. Two years later, she found her career passion in Advertising Principles (Advertising 250), taught by Professor Eric Haley. From that point, she knew she wanted to be an art director.

“Art direction combines creativity and conceptualization,” Hendrix said. “I realized I liked coming up with my own ideas, and that led me into advertising.”

Hendrix applied for MAIP last year but only reached the semifinal stage. This time around, she knew there were no guarantees that she would land an internship even after she was named a finalist.

“It was a long wait with existential moments of ‘I can’t wait to find out,’” Hendrix said.

Nearly four months after applying, she received a letter from MAIP and learned her internship destination: the Saatchi & Saatchi offices in Torrance, California. The communications and advertising agency, founded and headquartered in London, has 114 offices in 76 countries worldwide.

Hendrix was born in Oakland, California but calls Memphis, Tennessee her hometown having lived there since she was three. This summer will be the first time she has ever visited – let alone lived – in the Los Angeles area.

Like all students, Hendrix does not know where her career path will lead, but she is happy to be taking her first steps into the world of advertising agencies.

“(Working at an agency) was one of my goals after graduating and something I see myself doing for the next five years or so,” Hendrix said. “Eventually, I might go into the client side, or I might take my creative or art direction skills and use them on my own.”

In addition to majoring in Advertising, Hendrix is also on track to minor in Business Management, Art, and Africana Studies. She said painting is still a hobby, but it also serves as a practical foundation for art direction and a counterbalance to the logic and problem solving of her other courses.

Hendrix said the business-minded focus of the School of Advertising and Public Relations, which stresses account management and strategy, has been crucial in preparing for a career following graduation.

“Especially in the creative side of advertising; they talk about how competitive the creative side is,” Hendrix said. “They might source people from graphic design, but they don’t have that strategy side and can’t connect with a client. This school helped a lot with that.”

CCI Holds 41st Research Symposium

CCI Research Symposium

The College of Communication & Information held its 41st Annual Research Symposium on Monday, February 11 in Patrick Auditorium, highlighting research work from CCI graduate and ungraduate students and faculty.

This year’s symposium featured more than 20 presenters in sessions, panels and poster presentations. The Center for Information and Communication Studies (CICS) staff coordinated the event with help from professors and graduate students throughout the college.

Research Symposium award winners included:

Best Poster Presentation:

Leah Cannon, Brianne Dosch, & Dr. Hannah Gunderman – Preparing, Not Repairing:  A Case Study and Best Practices in Proactive Link Management

Best Undergraduate Research:

Kane Smith – Coming Out: Do Imagined Interactions Affect the Process?

Best Graduate Research:

Kylie Julius – Bullies, Browbeaters, and Bulldozers: Emotional Cognitive Response to Workplace Bullying

Alexander Carter & Nicholas Sarafolean – Applying Taylor’s Message Strategy Model to Smart Speakers

Best Faculty Research:

Dr. Mariea Hoy – Sharenting and Children’s Online Privacy Risk: Implications of Mothers’ Consumer Vulnerability

Land Grant Films, Students Receive Emmy Nomination

Welcome Home BrotherWelcome Home Brother, a film created by two recent UT graduates as part of Land Grant Films’ Defender of Dreams documentary series, received a nomination in the topical documentary category of the Midsouth Regional Emmys.

“The news of our recent Emmy nomination is very exciting. I am so thankful for those who appeared in our film and everyone at Land Grant who helped us along the way,” said Tim Morris, who along with Isaac Fowler directed Welcome Home Brother. “When we made this documentary, we never expected it to go as far as it has gone. We are just extremely blessed.”

The eight-minute documentary, created in 2017, tells the story of three Vietnam veterans as they find their voice in East Tennessee through the help of the Bill Robinson Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Association. The series was produced in collaboration with East Tennessee PBS.

“The award is a huge compliment to the work Tim and Isaac put into this project. While it is their first Emmy nomination, I’m sure it won’t be their last,” said associate professor Nick Geidner. “The success Tim and Isaac and the rest of the Defenders of the Dream series wouldn’t be possible without the support of our donors, project mentors, and producing partners, Nolpix Media and East Tennessee PBS. Filmmaking is a team sport, and we are so grateful for the team that supports Land Grant Films.”

Welcome Home Brother has shown at the Nashville, Knox, Full Bloom, and College Media Association Film Festivals. The documentary took first place in the short documentary category at the CMA festival and third place in the Tennessee film documentary category at the Knox festival.

Geidner created Land Grant Films in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media in UT’s College of Communication and Information to give students hands-on experience in documentary storytelling while providing no-cost video services for local nonprofit organizations.

CCI Honors School/Program Alumni and Faculty

CCI presented five school/program alumni awards and five faculty awards during its annual Awards and Scholarship Donor Appreciation Banquet on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the Holiday Inn World’s Fair.

“We are proud to recognize these alumni for their outstanding career accomplishments and service to their respective communities,” said CCI Dean Mike Wirth. “It is a privilege to welcome them back to campus to acknowledge and honor them for everything they have achieved. Congratulations to Curtis, Heather, Sandra, Frank and Rebecca!”

The 2018 CCI school/program alumni award winners were:Dean Wirth, Curtis Rose, Heather Fasano, Frank Gibson, Rebecca Huckaby

Advertising Alumnus of the Year
Curtis Rose (’03)

Communication Studies Alumna of the Year
Heather Fasano (MS ’15; BA ’12)
Associate Sales Representative, Medtronic – Carolinas Region

Information Sciences Alumna of the Year
Sandra Treadway, PhD (MS ’07)
Librarian & State Archivist of Virginia, Library of Virginia

Journalism & Electronic Media Alumnus of the Year
Frank Gibson (’76)
Public Policy Director, Tennessee Press Association (retired)

Public Relations Alumna of the Year
Rebecca Huckaby (MS ’03)
VP of Public Relations, Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority

Five CCI faculty were also honored for their accomplishments at the banquet. CCI’s 2018 faculty award recipients were:

Dean Wirth, Nick Geidner, Moonhee Cho, Courtney Childers, Megan Fields, Laura Miller

Faculty Teaching Award
JEM Associate Professor Nick Geidner

Faculty Research Award
ADPR Assistant Professor Moonhee Cho

Faculty Service/Outreach Award
ADPR Associate Professor Courtney Childers

Lecturer Teaching Award
CS Distinguished Lecturer Megan Fields

Bud Minkel International/Intercultural Award
CS Associate Professor Laura Miller

The evening concluded with the presentation of the 2018 CCI Donald G. Hileman Distinguished Alumni Award to Stephen Land, CEO and founder of Jupiter Entertainment.

“This annual event is always a  highlight for CCI because we get to recognize and thank some of our outstanding faculty,” said CCI Dean Mike Wirth. “Congratulations to Nick, Moonhee, Courtney, Megan, and Laura!”

In addition to the award winners, CCI scholarship donors are honored at the annual banquet  and given the opportunity to meet their scholarship recipients. For many CCI students, it is the first opportunity to meet and thank their donor face-to-face.

Jupiter Entertainment CEO Stephen Land to Receive Hileman Distinguished Alumni Award

Stephen Land

Stephen Land, founder and CEO of Knoxville-based Jupiter Entertainment, will receive the 2018 Donald G. Hileman Distinguished Alumni Award from UT Knoxville’s College of Communication & Information at the college’s awards and scholarship donor appreciation banquet on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the Knoxville Holiday Inn Downtown.

Land is among America’s most prolific television creators and producers. During his career, which spans over two decades, he has developed and executive produced series and specials for virtually every major media company.

With offices in New York, Los Angeles and Knoxville, Jupiter is actively engaged in developing and producing a broad mix of award winning programs for a host of cable television groups. Among its highly rated series are “Sons of Guns” (Discovery), “Snapped” (Oxygen), “Wild West Alaska” (Animal Planet), “Homicide Hunter” (ID), “Biography” (A&E), “Welcome to Myrtle Manor (TLC), and “Modern Marvels” (History).

Land is also involved with the Knoxville Museum of Art (past member of the Board of Trustees/Executive Committee), the University of Tennessee College of Communication and Information (emeritus member of the CCI Board of Visitors), the Tennessee Music, Film and Entertainment Commission (past commissioner), Church of the Ascension, and Knox Heritage. 

Upon graduating from UT with a communications degree in 1976, he went to work for the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce where he held a number of positions, eventually serving as General Manager. “I was so fortunate to work for the Chamber during the World’s Fair.  The atmosphere in the community was just electric,” said Land. 

While working at the Chamber, Land met Ross Bagwell who had been hired to produce several videos for the Chamber and formed a lifelong connection.  Bagwell hired Land for Cinetel Productions, placing him in charge of creating shows and pitching them to networks.   Over time, Land began to write, produce and oversee shows for Cinetel and later for Scripps Networks. In 1996, he started Jupiter Entertainment to pursue his passion for storytelling through film.

 “Stephen Land is one of the most talented and prolific individuals in his field,” said CCI Dean Mike Wirth. “He’s had a remarkable career and generously supports our students, through such initiatives as the CCI Land Ambassadors Program. The Hileman Award is fitting recognition for everything he has accomplished and all he has done for CCI, UT and the Knoxville community.”  

Stephen and his wife, Nancy, are also strong supporters of the Knoxville Museum of Art and other civic groups including: the YWCA, Knox Heritage, Ijams, and St Jude Hospital.

Knoxville Central High School, from which Land graduated in 1971, named him as an honored graduate in 2013.

The Donald G. Hileman Distinguished Alumni Award is named for the first permanent dean of the College of Communications, forerunner to the College of Communication and Information. The award was established in 1994 in celebration of the college's 25th anniversary. It is awarded to college alumni who have made notable contributions to the fields of communication and information.

Past recipients of the Hileman Award include Mark McNeely, founder and senior partner of McNeely Pigott and Fox; Sharon Price John, CEO and president of Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc.; Charles Tombras Jr., CEO of the Tombras Group; Alexia Poe, principal at Poe Consulting and former director of communications for Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; Alan Wilson, McCormick & Company Inc. chairman (retired); Alan N. Greenberg, president and co-founder of Avenues the World School and former Esquire magazine publisher; John Noble Wilford, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times science journalist (retired); and Peyton Manning, former NFL and UT quarterback.



Information Sciences Former Director Ed Cortez Dies at Sixty-six

Ed Cortez

Ed Cortez, professor emeritus and former director of the School of Information Sciences in the College of Communication and Information, died on Saturday October 6, 2018 at his home in Tucson, Arizona (see his obituary below).

“Ed was a champion of the information sciences profession and dedicated to supporting the next generation of leaders," said Mike Wirth, dean of the College of Communication and Information. "He played an important role in leading the School of Information Sciences and in guiding its integration into the college. He will be greatly missed!”

Edwin Michael Cortez Obituary
(1951 – 2018)
Dr. Edwin M. Cortez “Ed”, age 66, of Tucson, AZ and Waynesville, NC, passed away Saturday, October 6, 2018 in the comfort of his Tucson home and surrounded by loved ones. He was born December 16, 1951 in New York, NY and was the son of Cecilia Maria and Miguel Angel Cortez. He was preceded in death by his parents.

Dr. Cortez received a BS in History from Wagner College, a Master’s in Library and Information Science from the University of Arizona and a PhD in Information Science and Management Communication from the University of Southern California.

He taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Catholic University of America (where he served as acting dean), the Pratt Institute and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He recently taught an online course in collaboration with Wayne State University. He served as chair of several American Library Association (ALA) committees, particularly relating to accreditation. In the 1990s he was appointed as a Regent to the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Cortez was a Professor Emeritus in the School of Information Sciences at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville where he served with distinction as Professor and Director for 11 years and retired at the end of 2016.

From a scholarly perspective, Dr. Cortez wrote books and peer reviewed journal articles that describe and evaluate the management of information systems and technology from a variety of organizational perspectives. He was also a frequent presenter at national and international conferences in the fields of information science and technology.

Ed’s true passion was to teach, to impart and share knowledge for the betterment and empowerment of others. While demanding, he was caring, generous, and committed. He was very influential in the professional and personal success of many students, colleagues, friends and family.

A great talent in the kitchen with exquisite taste, Ed loved to entertain and share this talent and taste. Over the years, there were many dinner parties lasting late into the night, accompanied by hearty laughter, wit and perhaps a bit of wisdom.

Ed loved to explore the world and the world of ideas. He was quite well travelled throughout the US, Europe, Africa, and Asia. With passion and opinion he would engage one or many in discussion ranging from food and culture, people and countries, politics and business, even decorating and needlepoint.

Ed’s ready smile, infectious laugh and giving spirit continue to give back to those who knew and loved him.

Dr. Cortez is survived by his partner of nearly thirty years Kenneth Dunn of Greenville, SC, brother Alberto Cortes of Raleigh, NC, brother Herman Cortez and sister-in-law Leslie Cortez of Largo, FL. Other survivors include niece, Pilar Fonseca, nephews Julian Cortes, Luis Cortes of New York City, and nephews Marcus Cortez, Alexi Cortez, and Christopher Cortes of Florida. He is also survived by numerous extended family members and special friends.

All services will be private.

Memorial gifts may be made in Ed’s memory to the ASPCA at

Luther to Participate in Prestigious TV Academy Foundation Program

Catherine LutherCatherine Luther, director of the School of Journalism and Electronic Media in the College of Communication and Information, is among 25 professors nationwide chosen to participate in the Television Academy Foundation’s 2018 Faculty Seminar Program.

The faculty fellows will gain the latest information on the television and content development industries from top entertainment professionals during a weeklong seminar in Southern California in November.

“It is such a privilege to have been selected for this wonderful program,” Luther said. “I hope to gain insight into the current undertakings in the entertainment industries and bring that knowledge back to my unit.”

The seminar will include panel discussions with broadcast and cable network programming and scheduling executives, legal experts, and cutting-edge content creators. Private studio tours and trips to top Hollywood production facilities to meet with producers, observe production, and get firsthand updates on television technologies are also part of the program.

Before entering academia, Luther worked in the United States and Japan as a television news producer. She is the author of three books, the most recent being the second edition of Diversity in U.S. Mass Media, published in 2017. She conducts research on the intersections of media, gender, and race and ethnicity as well as issues involving global communication. Luther has received several awards including the UT Chancellor’s Award to attend the HERS Institute at Bryn Mawr; the UT Notable Woman Award recognizing excellence in administration, research, and teaching; and a Fulbright grant to conduct research in Japan.

Established in 1959 as the charitable arm of the Television Academy, the Television Academy Foundationis dedicated to preserving the legacy of television while educating those who will shape its future through an oral history program, faculty seminars and student internships, and awards.

Three with Ties to CCI Receive UT Alumni Awards

2018 UT Alumni Award Winners

The UT Knoxville Alumni Board held its annual Alumni Awards celebration on Friday, September 7. Among the 2018 UT alumni award recipients were three with ties to CCI.

  • Chris Grabenstein (BS/JEM ’77 & an emeritus member of CCI’s Board of Visitors) received the Distinguished Alumnus Award.
  • Erin Hauck (BS/AD '07) received the Alumni Promise Award.
  • Gregory Cox (BS/BA ’95; MS/Acct. ’96 & a current member of CCI’s Board of Visitors) received the Alumni Service Award.

Chris Grabenstein is a New York Times bestselling author and a 2010 UT Accomplished Alumni Award recipient. He is a prolific writer who has won an Anthony Award for “Best First Mystery” and is a four time Agatha Award winner for Best Children’s/Young Adult Novel. Grabenstein is a former advertising executive with Young & Rubicam in New York City where he worked with author James Patterson, and he has written several screenplays including The Christmas Gift.

Erin Hauck is founder and senior director of digital investment and senior director of audience planning for Hearts & Science in New York City. She developed the first US digital team for the ad agency. She received the inaugural Cynopsis Media’s Top Women in Digital Award Mentors Category and was selected for the Omnicom Global Talent Exchange Program. Hauck has won numerous awards for her advertising work and was the 2017 CCI Advertising Alumna of the Year.

Gregory Cox is a senior analyst for Georgia-Pacific’s North American Consumer Business in Atlanta, Georgia, and he is a member of the UT Foundation Board of Directors. He received the 2010 UT Alumni Promise Award and was a UT Torchbearer in 1995. He served as volunteer chair of the Hands on Atlanta Day in 2008. From 2011 to 2013 he was president of the UT Black Alumni Council and was a member of the UTK Alumni Board. He also served on the UT Department of Accounting Advisory Roundtable from 2006-2013.

“We congratulate these outstanding alumni and thank them for their willingness to give back to UT and CCI,” said CCI Dean Mike Wirth.


Peyton Manning’s Gift Establishes the John Haas Student Experiential Learning Endowment

Manning HaasPeyton Manning (BA/CS ’97 and an honorary member of CCI’s Board of Visitors) has donated $1 million to UT to establish the John Haas Student Experiential Learning Endowment.

The gift honors John Haas, a longtime director and associate professor in the College of Communication and Information’s School of Communications Studies. As one of Manning’s professors and his UT faculty advisor, Haas played an instrumental role in Manning’s college education.

“Exceptional teachers transform your way of learning by challenging and motivating you while teaching more than just a subject,” said Manning. “For me and so many others, that teacher was Dr. John Haas."

“Dr. Haas’ passion for his students and their success makes him one of those remarkable teachers who change how you experience the classroom. I’m very proud to establish the John Haas Student Experiential Learning Endowment in his honor.”

The endowment will support student trips, study abroad learning, internships, and other opportunities for students in the Communication Studies program to grow and develop outside the classroom.

The $1 million gift adds to the significant donations Manning has made previously to UT.

“Peyton continues to give back to the university both with his valuable time and with significant gifts,” said Chip Bryant, UT vice chancellor for advancement. “The profound impact he has made on this campus will continue to support current and future Vols for years to come.”

Following the announcement of the endowment, Haas was both surprised and honored by Manning’s gift as it was given to him during a special faculty retreat.

“Students learn so much outside the classroom and the experiences they have change their views of the world,” said Haas. “These experiences are key to getting them ready for success and this gift reflects Peyton’s commitment to educational experiences for our students. His pursuit of excellence has also inspired me. He’s served as an example for all of us.”

Haas joined UT in 1989 and currently teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in organizational communication, interpersonal communication, and research methods. His work has appeared in many academic journals. In addition, Haas has served as principal investigator or co-principal investigator on research grants from agencies such as the US Department of Energy, the US Department of Agriculture, and the Engineering Information Foundation.

Manning, who graduated from UT in 1997 after leading the Vols to an SEC football championship and went on to a storied NFL career, remains steadfast in his dedication to the Volunteer community, providing opportunities for the next generation of students.


John Haas with Comm Studies Faculty & StaffPeyton expresses thanks to John Haas

John Haas