Every semester, the Bowers Writers House hosts a variety of lectures and panel discussions that are meant to give students the opportunity to engage with experts and to explore post-graduation career paths. Monday Sept. 26, the Bowers Writers House presented “Communications Challenges, Changes and Opportunities: A Panel Perspective with Etown’s Communication Dept Faculty,” which gave students the chance to hear communications professors speak about their current research interests in the field of communications.
The panel included associate professor and chair of the communications department and advisor to the Etownian, Dr. Kelly Poniatowski, professor Dr. Tamara Gillis, associate professor Dr. Kirsten Johnson and assistant professor Dr. Matthew Telleen. Each professor brought their own unique research interest to the table as they discussed topics ranging from sports coverage to the sustainability practices of businesses and corporations. The panel offered a chance for students to see that even in a broad major such as communications, scholars are able pursue research on very specific topics of interest.
Poniatowski presented “Bikinis vs. Burkas,” an examination of the sexist remarks made against women in the 2016 Olympics. The title of her research presentation references the focus that the media placed on the uniforms worn by the athletes in the women’s beach volleyball match between Germany and Egypt rather than focusing on the outcome of the actual match. Throughout her presentation, Poniatowski called attention to how these instances of sexist media coverage add to the numerous challenges that female Olympians face while pursuing careers in sports.
Gillis provided insight on her research on the impact of social media communications in investor relations. During her presentation, she addressed social responsibility practices of corporations and how the communication channels that they utilize influence their ability to reach and connect with the next generation of investors.
Johnson’s research examined the value of citizen journalism, which tends to deviate from the traditional journalistic norms that are usually considered important when reporting news. Over the course of her study, Johnson found that many citizen journalists still rely heavily on traditional media outlets for news coverage and access to new leads and information.
Telleen’s presentation, entitled “The First Amendment in the Digital Age,” examined the controversies surrounding the famous Citizens United case and its effects on political speech.
“I think tonight represents a fantastic practical and professional opportunity, to not only learn about our communications faculty but to engage with other communications majors and minors,” Director of Bowers Writers House, Jesse Waters stated at the beginning of the presentation.
Waters encouraged the students in attendance to reach out to each other and to start conversations about what it is like to pursue a communications major or minor at Elizabethtown College.
“I’m very interested in the field of communications, but I wouldn’t do it myself,” sophomore education major Amy Lieberman said.
Lieberman’s brother studied communications and journalism in college and is now working as a reporter at a small newspaper in Washington D.C. While Lieberman expressed that she has a close relationship with her older sibling, she admitted that she was not always sure what majoring in communications or journalism actually entailed.
“I wanted to come to this panel to learn about the things that he might be pursuing,” Lieberman stated. As an education major, she was surprised by the amount of other non-communications majors that attended the event.
“I thought I was going to be the only one,” she expressed. But after attending the event, it was easy for Lieberman to understand why it was important that people outside of the department attend this panel discussion.
“It focused on everyday topics and things that we all see, like the Olympics,” Lieberman said. She also liked that the panel consisted of four different professors who all spoke about different topics of study.
“Having four different speakers kept me engaged and interested,” she said.
Sophomore communications major Kristen Wade agreed that this panel discussion was just as beneficial for non-communications majors as it is for students within the department.
“I think that it helped people understand how research is conducted in the field of communications,” she stated. As Wade begins her second year in the communications department and begins considering post-graduation life, she was pleased to hear about the variety of ways that a communications degree can transfer into a career path.
“You learn a lot about your professors, their interests and their experiences in the communications field,” Wade said, in regards to the panel. “You get the chance to see how the skills that you learn in class can be applied to research and real life.”