If you’re a long-term Communication Studies alum, you may have noticed our annual alumni newsletter didn’t show up the past year or so. It wasn’t that we lost your email, or didn’t care or that I fell asleep at the switch (although I might have nodded off once or twice).
We made a conscious decision to revamp the newsletter, move it to a digital-only format and bring our communications forward into this century. After all, we are a communication department, so we should do better at it than most.
This new newsletter, then, is the first stab at doing just that. Here, we included some news about the department, especially the recent retirements of two of our most respected and, based on many comments on our Facebook page, beloved faculty: Dr. S. Catherine Foster and Dr. Charles J. Wigley, III. We highlighted last year’s recipient of the Marilyn G.S. Watt Alumni Award, Mr. Steve Boyd. We interviewed a few recent alums and updated you on some current goings-on here in the department.
Our goal is to move this from an annual newsletter to a semi-annual one, or maybe update you 3 or 4 times a year. That way we can keep the news newsy and more current. Some of that timing will come with the continued help of Professor Ben Dunkle, who redesigned this publication and Mr. Dave Goodwin, our fearless Graduate Assistant, who is acting as writer and editor for the department.
At the same time, you can always follow us on Facebook (link) or Twitter (link). Dr. Melissa Wanzer has grabbed them by the proverbial throat and plans to make our social media continually interesting and engaging. If you know Melissa, you know it will be engaging.
Finally a quick pitch to you, our alums, about your news. Let us know what you’ve been doing and, especially, if you have an old friend and Canisius classmate that you’d like to nominate for the Marilyn G. S. Watt Alumni Award (Link). Or nominate yourself. Either way, we’re always glad to hear from you.
I hope you enjoy this new look at your Communication Studies department.
On June 11, 1984, Department Chair, Dr. Marilyn G. S. Watt, sent a letter to several people, including Dr. D. Ray Heisey trying to find a person to apply for a full-time job teaching organizational communication. Dr. Heisey was Director of the School of Communication at Kent State. He said “Chuck, this sounds like you” and showed me the letter. I agreed, applied, interviewed, and joined the team by the end of June. My official start date was September 1, 1984.
What was your favorite class you taught at Canisius?
This is a tough question. I enjoyed research methods because of its precision, organizational communication because of its complexity, communication & personality because of its applicability, and training & development because it enhances employability. Theory is, as well, a great deal of fun because it is fun to see how we can study communication as if we were creating a jigsaw puzzle. So, my favorite class must have been one that I was teaching!
Do you think Canisius has changed in the time you’ve been here?
Yes, this great school became even better! One of the best changes at the college was establishment of the Digital Media Arts program. The highly credentialed faculty has done an excellent job at providing DMA students with a great education and solid foundation for moving forward. The future of digital media arts finds its seed at Canisius.
Another change of considerable magnitude was the dedicated approach taken by the college in strengthening the Public Relations track in our major. Already of some considerable strength, the college bolstered the program’s strength by hiring a dedicated professional, Dr. Catherine Foster. Dr. Foster’s tremendous lifetime work (17 years at Argonne National Labs) plus her sharp acumen and collegial nature have not only allowed but caused this program to flourish.
What did you enjoy most about teaching here?
One thing that I found very attractive was student willingness to take responsibility for their own successes and failures. I enjoyed the fact that so many students took initiative. For example, after I showed “The Prisoner (episode 1: Arrival)” in my organizational com. class (to teach about organizational cultures), two students (separately from each other) binge-watched the remainder of the 17 episodes!
What’s planned for you next?
Right now, I have taken a position at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, as Visiting Full Professor of Organizational Communication. I plan on continuing to research communication traits for the next 6 years. For example, I’m completing a publication on bosses use of praising comments in the workplace (with Dr. Chas. Koermer of West Virginia University). I’m just finishing-up a study on resistance to persuasion with Dr. Lynda L. McCroskey of California State University, Long Beach.
Any final parting words to share?
Studying only lasts a few hours, grades last forever.
I was working at Argonne when I got my MBA, and after I completed that degree, the person directing the MBA program at Lewis called and asked me if I would be interested in teaching the program’s Managerial Communication course while the regular instructor was on maternity leave. It was just the one course, and the adjunct pay was almost exactly the price I had just been quoted for new carpet in my home. So, naturally, I agreed to teach the class, and found that I really liked teaching. I decided to work on a doctorate and eventually look for a college teaching position.
As I got close to finishing my doctorate, I started looking at ads for teaching positions, and saw an opening for an assistant professor to teach public relations courses at Canisius College. I was not familiar with Canisius, but had had a good experience at Lewis, which is a Christian Brothers school, and I thought a Jesuit college would be pretty much the same thing. (I was wrong about that.) I applied, I liked them, they liked me, and I decided to move to Buffalo.
What was your favorite class you taught at Canisius and why?
In a way, they’re (almost) all my favorite, but certainly the one that I enjoyed most, and had the best time with, was a class called Health Campaigns that I co-taught with Dr. Wanzer. Just being in her class and watching her interact with students made me a better teacher.
But the class itself, which was an experiment to introduce the idea of developing and running a PR campaign in the health arena, was great fun, because we were on the same journey as the students – we didn’t know where we would end up!
The premise of the course was to develop a PR campaign to raise awareness about the issue of testicular cancer, which strikes primarily between the ages of 18-30. College students are the prime audience for this message, which is that testicular cancer, when caught early, is highly curable, so young men should self-test.
The class developed the campaign, called Check Yo’ Nuts, and the campaign lives on in Dr. Wanzer’s Health Communication class, which makes me very happy. It also made me very happy when the campaign itself won first place in the campaigns category at the Buffalo/Niagara PRSA chapter, because we were competing against campaigns developed by local companies and PR agencies. We also won first place for our campaign tactic, which was a shower card illustrating the proper way to check for possible tumors. The students learned a lot, and the instructors did as well. And we won two prizes!
Do you think Canisius has changed in the time you’ve been here?
Canisius welcomed me with open arms. People I’ve encountered on the job are consistently pleasant to deal with, and that part has not changed at all.
Perhaps the best, and to me most important, change has been the addition of a Journalism degree to the Communication Studies department. Having the opportunity to lead that program for a couple of years, and to see the addition of the sports broadcast and journalism concentration to an already strong set of opportunities for students, was a great thing. The control room and studio in Science Hall provides a wonderful learning opportunity for students interested in live broadcast production, and we’ve also been able to add some great new adjunct professors to the program. That’s been an excellent change, I think.
It’s also been great to watch the Creative Writing program grow and develop, and I’m so grateful that Dr. Cochran allows our students into his courses, and that the Creative Writing major accepts Journalism courses for credit. It’s meant that students in both majors get to interact and contribute to each other’s learning.
Canisius seems to be a place that is open to change, to offering new opportunities for students. There are many examples of that – ABEC is probably the most prominent example.
What is your favorite memory from teaching at Canisius?
The answer to the question about a favorite memory at Canisius for any faculty member is always going to be the students. They’re what we’re here for, they are why we teach.
There’s an old saying that the best gifts that parents can give their children are roots and wings – roots so that they know where they came from, and wings so that they can fly wherever their bright futures take them. We’re not their parents, but to a great extent, that’s our job as faculty as well, and I hope that they know that is our aim.
Their wings come from the talents and abilities that they develop here at Canisius, and those wings will take them far. But they also have roots here. After they’ve gone, we still think about them, and wonder how they’re doing, and take delight in hearing of their accomplishments and progress.
After ten years at Canisius, I have several hundred “children” out there in the world, and I continue to wish them all much success and happiness. They are, and will continue to be, my favorite memory at Canisius.
What do you have planned for retirement?
First, I plan to keep teaching. Dr. Dahlberg has kindly offered me the opportunity to teach two courses each semester as an adjunct until the college fills my position. I also have the opportunity to teach a course or two each semester at UB, so that will help keep me busy.
I hope early in the new year to move to Florida to be near family, so fortunately I can teach those classes online.
I have also recently begun to learn to quilt, and this hobby is rapidly taking over my life. I no longer have a dining room – it is now a sewing room. I finished my first full-size quilt earlier this year, and it is now on the guest room bed. Now that I’ve made all my mistakes with the first quilt, I’m hard at work on my own bed quilt. So quilting classes, quilt shows, lots of sewing time – those are my idea of a good time, and I’m looking forward to more of them.
What advice would you offer to any past and current students pursuing a Communication Studies degree?
Don’t ever think you’re finished with learning. New knowledge is being created almost every day, and we need to keep up with change, and continue to learn new technology.
“It was a very unique scene where I was. It’s not often where a television station has to be relocated and rebuilt in another city.”
It was not an ordinary day for WGRZ Producer Sarah Zamer (COM ’10) when she was asked to travel to Texas to help rebuild another news station during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
“Unfortunately during Hurricane Harvey, our sister station, KHOU, completely flooded in Houston, Texas. Therefore, their control room and master control had to be relocated to WFAA in Dallas in order for the station to stay on the air. I was asked to go to Dallas to assist in KHOU’s newscast productions as a director and audio operator,” said Zamer.
Hurricane Harvey was a destructive hurricane that made landfall in Texas in early August. Some areas saw more than 40 inches of rain. During her time in Texas, Zamer was the technical director and audio operator in the control room. A technical director’s job is to operate the switcher in the control room when we are on the air while an audio operator’s job is to control the audio board during newscasts.
“What was unique about my time in Dallas was seeing so many people come together from all over the country to keep KHOU on the air. I met so many great people and having everyone come together as a team to operate in a new environment was amazing,” Zamer said.
As a student at Canisius, Zamer participated in the Canisius College Video Institute, worked in the Media Center, and was co-president of the campus television station. She credits Canisius for giving her the tools and skills to successfully navigate a situation like this.
“Canisius prepared me so well for an experience like this. I would not have my job at WGRZ if it wasn’t for the preparation that Canisius gave me. The real world opportunities such as internships, studying abroad, and the Canisius College Video Institue certainly helped me prepare for my experience in Dallas. I would say to any student at Canisius today to take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities that Canisius offers.”
The Communication Studies Department is sad to announce the retirement of two of our beloved professors, Catherine S. Foster, Ph.D. and Charles J. Wigley, Ph.D. We are so grateful for their service to Canisius and wish them all the best in their retirement.
Both professors reflected on their time at Canisius. Read their interviews below.
Dr. Foster joined Canisius in 2007 after 16 years at Argonne National Laboratory, where she was the manager of media relations. Prior to that, she spent six years as the managing editor of The LaFollette Press another six years as a science reporter for the Oak Ridger. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and a master’s in communication from UTK, and an MBA from Lewis University in Illinois. Her doctorate is in Organization and Management from Capella University in Minneapolis.
Dr. Wigley joined Canisius in 1984. He obtained a law degree from the University of Akron and his Ph.D. from Kent State University. After finishing his bachelor’s degree in 1975, he taught college on a part-time basis from 1976-1984 at the University of Akron, Youngstown State University, and Kent State University. Before teaching at Canisius, he also practiced law for five years, serving as a state and federally appointed criminal defense attorney.
Canisius alums Erin Gaddi (’14) and Chris Collins (’14) returned to Canisius this past November for a screening of their short film “Gym Jones.” The film premiered in the Canisius Science Hall to a packed group of students, faculty, and staff.
The comedic film follows a confused gym rat named Phil, who owns a fitness brand that makes and sells instructional videos. But after his boss pushes him in a different direction, Phil starts to wonder why he got into this mess in the first place.
“In Los Angeles, people take the fitness culture really seriously and it’s a little too serious sometimes. It’s great to be healthy, but it’s also great to just live your life,” said Collins.
Collins moved to Los Angeles after working full time as a graphic designer in the NFL for two years. He realized he wanted to be in the tv and film industry. Chris learned he could advance the fastest by making his own content, which is what the business is yearning for in 2018. So he teamed up with Gaddi to make an original film, showcasing both of their talents.
“I was kind of the realist and he was the idealist. He wanted to get the idea done, and I was like ‘Eh, it might be a little tough.’ But we met in the middle and I think we made something whole,” said Gaddi.
The award-winning Canisius College Video Institute provides students with opportunities to put their classroom lessons to work on projects that enrich their learning and benefit the greater community. Students produce social documentaries and service-oriented videos – all connected by the theme of social justice – to promote discourse on ethical, social and cultural issues relevant to the world today. It provides students with a context for real-world learning and for doing social justice.
Steve Boyd (COM ’83), principal attorney at The Law Offices of Steve Boyd, is the 2017 recipient of the Marilyn G. S. Watt Award. The award was presented to Boyd at the Department of Communication Studies Senior Awards & Honors Event on Tuesday, April 25th.
“I have great memories of the personal and professional support Marilyn gave me and my classmates. She was passionate about helping us find the best in ourselves. It was a great honor to receive an award in her name,” said Boyd.
The award, given annually since 1996, is granted to a graduate of the Canisius communication studies program, “For sharing a sense of community and values through communication.” Dr. Marilyn G. S. Watt chaired the department from 1982 until her passing in 1993.
After graduating from Canisius in 1983, Boyd spent many years in Buffalo as a local television reporter. During that time, he obtained a law degree from the University at Buffalo Law School. Since 1999, he has been practicing personal injury law focusing on representing survivors of serious injury accidents.
“Marilyn Watt lived her life consistent with the Jesuit mantra of living as men and women for others. Hers was a life of service to her family, her students and our community. She will always be one of my heroes,” Boyd remarked.
Many of our Communication Studies alums have soared since graduation and Gabrielle Walter (COM ’15) is no exception. After being crowned Miss New York in May, Walter went on to compete in Miss America this past September.
“If I could describe the moment I won Miss New York, I’d say ‘magical.’ Never in a million year would I think I would be blessed with this opportunity, and now that I have this I am forever grateful,” said Walter.
It took a long time for Walter to get to this point. The journey to Miss America started years ago in Buffalo, where she came in second place.
“I had so much fun competing and performing on stage, I met such amazing women, and I walked away in second place with $2500 in scholarship money to go towards law school. Little did I know, that was just the beginning of this whole journey, and two years later I would be crowned Miss New York,” she said.
Fast forward to 2017 and several pageants later, Miss Walter was crowned Miss New York.
“I think that life has prepared me for the title of Miss New York– all of the experiences I have had, choices I’ve made, people I’ve met have helped me become the best version of myself and prepared me well to take on this year of service. It was during my senior year at Canisius that I got involved with the Miss America Organization. Miss Buffalo was my first local competition. From there I was hooked,” said Walter.
Walter recalls the grueling, yet rewarding Miss America experience. She flew to Atlantic City earlier this fall to compete with the rest of the states in the official Miss America pageant.
“I still can’t believe I was competing for Miss America in September with 50 other amazing women across the country. It’s like the Super Bowl in pageantry.”
Although she did not win, Walter is completely overjoyed with her Miss New York duties.
“I can honestly say I love my job as Miss New York. One of the best parts is meeting new people each and every day. I am a people person and super bubbly, so the role really goes well with my personality. Plus who doesn’t love the occasional gowns and make-up,” she said.
Currently, Walter is spending the fall semester doing a Finance and Law Program in Manhattan. She will be finishing up her third year of law school and will return back home to Buffalo in the spring. She hopes by the end of August I will be moving to Manhattan for a full-time job.
Congratulations to CJ Gates (JRN ’16) and Tori Claflin (COM ’14) who competed and won first place in the Buffalo 48 Hour Film Project. Their team “Partially Submerged Elephants” had 48 hours to conceptualize, shoot, edit, and produce a short film. Claflin and Gates recall the grueling process.
“If you weren’t behind a camera or acting, you were communicating with the team on where to go and when, securing a film location, gathering props, or telling people to sit down for a few moments to take care of yourself and eat,” said Claflin.
On Friday, all of the film festival participants convened in the Parkside Lodge in Delaware Park, where the genre and elements were assigned.
“We were assigned drama or fable. In addition to the genre, you have to include three elements: a prop, a character, and a line of dialogue to ensure that the film was actually made on the weekend of the event. The line of dialogue was ‘who said that?’, the prop was an extension cord, and the character was Lloyd or Laurie Tantalon,” said Gates.
After being assigned the genre and the elements, they regrouped and started brainstorming ideas for the film. It was their director, Travis Carlson, who came up with the idea for the “Ride of Your Life” where you would relive experiences and memories on an amusement park ride. After conceptualizing the idea, the group stayed up until 4 a.m. on Saturday working on the script.
On Saturday, they spent the day filming.
“We spent the weekend visiting about 13 sites across town including Sanborn, West Seneca, downtown Buffalo and the Erie County Fair in Hamburg, which was no easy feat,” said Claflin.
“We regrouped at 9am on Sunday and began working more extensively on the edit. Travis took over the role as one of the main editors, I was working on the sound of the film and others were working on graphics and credits,” said Gates.
The group submitted their film on Sunday at 7:29, one minute before the deadline. A week later, a screening was held at the North Park Theatre where the group learned they won Best Film, Best Acting, Best Editing, Best Special Effects, and overall Audience Favorite. Next up, they’re off to Paris, France for the international festival.
“To say that it was rewarding to see the finished product come to life in the North Park Theater is an understatement. To win was just an added bonus,” said Claflin.
Next March, the group will head to Paris for Filmapalooza for a screening of their film. You can watch their film here.