From Dr. Scott Eldredge, Communication Department Head


Greetings from the Communication Department here at Western Carolina University!

We are now coming to the end of the Spring semester and the 2023-2024 Academic year. One of my favorite things about this time of year is that I get to reflect on all of the hard work and accomplishments of our students and faculty and share it with you. Throughout the year, it can be easy to get caught up in the details of classes, assignments, deadlines, and other things competing for our time and attention. However, I continue to be so proud of what we are doing here at WCU, and I think it’s important for all of us to take a few minutes, look back and congratulate ourselves for the many exciting things the Communication Department has done in the last year.

As you read through the following, you will see all the hard work and accomplishments of our faculty and students. When we showcased our student work at the end of the Spring 2024 semester, I talked briefly about not only our successes, but also the importance of the work we do. I often tell my students that I firmly believe Communication is the most important major here on campus. I say this not to diminish the important work of my colleagues around the university; however, I also point out that without good communication skills, they cannot do their work effectively. Communication is the foundation of everything. In a world that is today experiencing epidemic levels of loneliness, it is the work of Communication to foster connection, champion inclusion, a facilitate relationships.

WCU Department of Communication Fast Facts*

  • Number of Students majoring in Communication: 153 (166)
  • Number of Students minoring in Communication and Journalism: 60 (58)
  • Number of courses offered during Fall 2023 & Spring 2024: 138 (137)
  • Number of students enrolled in Communication Courses for the 2023-2024 Academic Year: 2887 (2743)
  • Number of Communication Majors Graduating during the 2023-2024 Academic Year: 42 (54)

*A quick note on these numbers. As a comparison, I’ve included last year’s numbers in parenthesis. While we have less Communication majors, we have more Communication minors, and we continue to graduate some of our largest classes we’ve have ever had. I’d like to also call your attention to the other numbers. We enrolled 144 more students in communication courses after an enrollment jump of 331 last year!

Student Accomplishments

The Communication Department is extremely proud of our students and the work they do. On Thursday, May 9th, we held a Showcase of our Student work, recognized some of our outstanding alumni and their accomplishments, invited Communication Professionals from around Western North Carolina to a meet and network with the students, and we recognized and celebrated our scholarship recipients. The work presented included the following:

  • A community Crisis Communication Resources website produced by students in our Crisis Communication course.
  • PR Campaigns produced by our Public Relations Campaigns capstone course for six different Western North Carolina-based non-profits including Circles of Jackson County, Uncomplicated Kitchen, the Jackson County Public Health Department, the Mountain Heritage Center, Haywood Pathways, and the Center for Domestic Peace.
  • Digital Health Stories for six different health issues including wearable technology, body image, injury and recovery in sports, health inequity in Western North Carolina, negative aspects of sports, and women’s safety on college campuses.
  • Live productions of WCU School of Music performances, including a simulcast with WWCU-FM 95.3 of an electronic music performance.
  • A sampling or student electronic portfolios from the professional development classes.
  • Productions from our senior broadcast practicum course including a film studies podcast, a documentary of the WCU Marching Band’s trip to Ireland, documentaries for WCU’s Global Black Studies program, and a new Department of Communication promotional/recruitment video.

The following lists a few of the awards and accomplishments our students have achieved:

  • Veronica Newsome received the College of Arts & Sciences Dean’s Outstanding Scholar Award
  • Ashley Elliott received the Roy A. Taylor Communication Scholarship
  • Parker Metlick received the Patrick Lee Carmody Communication Scholarship
  • Theresa (Tess) Candow received the Kathleen Wright Communication Scholarship
  • Cora Haste, Sarah Pruitt, and Mykala Anderson each received the Curtis and Enid Meltzer Endowed Scholarship

The Department of Communication celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the university’s radio station, WWCU-FM 95.3 during homecoming weekend. As part of the celebration, over 30 communication department alumni met with students at a day-long networking/mentoring event providing career advice. In addition, we held a radio station open house for folks to see the new, upgraded, all-digital control room, and enjoyed a tailgate celebration at the TV Studio. During the weekend, alum Chris Faw (’84) also announced a donation of $100,000 scholarships to communication students. One scholarship is a needs-based scholarship named for Chris Faw, and the other, a merit-based scholarship, is named for one of Faw’s faculty mentors from when he was a student at WCU, Richard Gainey. These scholarships will be given to incoming freshmen interested in a career in communication. Our inaugural winners of each scholarship are:

Chris Faw Scholarship

  • Luke Black, Asheville, NC
  • Shedrick Addison, Kings Mountain, NC
  • Joshua Jordan, Wilson, NC
  • Rebecca Taylor, Elkton, MD

Richard Gainey Scholarship

  • Allie Parson, Watkinsville, GA
  • Luke Bullins, Pfafftown, NC
  • Logan Erby, Cherryville, NC
  • Ella Syken, Kennesaw, GA

The staff of our student-run newspaper, The Western Carolinian, was also recently recognized for their efforts producing this year’s newspaper. Led by Editor-in-Chief Liam Bridgeman, the Western Carolinian was a finalist for Best All-Around Student Newspaper at the Society of Professional Journalist’s Region 2 District Conference.

The Western Carolinian the staff were also recognized by the WCU Celebrate Excellence Awards. The Western Carolinian was named the Most Innovative Program, Liam Bridgeman received the Catamount Leadership Award, and Cora Haste received the Catamount Spirit Award. We are so very proud of the entire Western Carolinian Staff:

  • Editor-in-Chief: Liam Bridgeman (Communication: Journalism & Broadcasting)
  • Lead Designer: Aubrey Sanderson (Art: Graphic Design)
  • Assistant Designer: Leah Marshall (Art: Graphic Design)
  • Senior Reporter: Abigail Quinn (Communication: Journalism)
  • Senior Reporter: Mackenzie Atkinson (Communication: Journalism; Political Science)
  • Senior Reporter: Marrah Ste. Maire (Communication: Journalism)
  • Junior Reporter: Marie Spencer (English: Literary Studies)
  • Junior Reporter: Mattilynn Sneed (Communication: Journalism)
  • Junior Reporter: Max Poku-Kankam (Communication: Journalism)
  • Junior Reporter: Rylee Guess (English: Creative Writing)
  • Copy Editor: Callia Addikis (Communication: Journalism)
  • Copy Editor: Stewart Butler (Communication: Journalism
  • Digital Media Coordinator: Cora Haste (Communication: Journalism)
  • Cartoonist: Landon Farmer (Marketing)

Communication students are also using the skills they have learned to excel in areas outside of traditional communication fields. Public Relations Student Kaitlyn Burns was recently named Miss North Carolina Collegiate USA and will represent the state of North Carolina in the national Miss Collegiate USA competition.

Faculty News & Accomplishments

The Communication Department Faculty continue to be the heart and soul of the work we do to connect and provide meaningful educational experiences for our students, setting them on the path to professional success. Our faculty continue to win awards, conduct important research and community engagement projects, and continue their own educations! The following lists just few of the faculty’s accomplishments:

Faculty Awards & Continuing Education

  • Andy Gambill earned a certification in the Prepare/Enrich pre-marital counseling program is a Prepare/Enrich facilitator.
  • Matt Binford successfully defended his dissertation to complete his PhD program at the Grady College of Journalism and Communication at the University of Georgia.
  • Nora Radway-Moore participated in the Mental Health First Aid training provided by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing
  • Candy Noltensmeyer
  • Betty Farmer
  • Vincent Russell
  • Tamera Cole completed a variety of training programs related to Artificial Intelligence and Inclusive teaching. Those trainings included:
    • Inclusive Teaching with Dr. Viji Sathy and Dr. Kelly Hogan 2023
    • Digital Teaching Symposium – Distance Learning 2023 (Riding the Tsunami: ChatGPT, Generative AI and Digital Ed.) MacMillan AI Seminar 2023
    • When AI is a Liar and a Cheat: Re-Imagining Authentic Assessment in the Age of Open AI 2023, Pearson AI Panel of Voices 2023
    • MAGNA Professional Development for Higher Education – AI Eroding AI? A New Era: Artificial Intelligence and Academic Integrity 2023
    • Data Privacy Basics and 2023 Danger Zone Trainings

Faculty Presentations and Publications

Our faculty continue to impact the field of communication through their scholarly activities, consulting work, and community engagement programs. Here are some of those highlights:

  • Grace Cheshire
    • Published the article, “Supporting Students on the Academic Margins: An Equity Driven Framework” in the Journal of College Academic Support Programs.
    • With Mr. Gabriel Wisnieski-Parks and Dr. Candy Noltensmeyer presented “Communication and Community: Exploring Peer-to-Peer Reciprocal Self-Disclosure for Fostering Resilience and Belongingness for Undergraduate Students” at the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Commons Conference in Savannah, Georgia.
  • Betty Farmer
    • Provided a variety of communication consulting, training, and coaching activities for both regional and state-wide entities, including North Carolina Public Health (Regions 2 and 5), North Carolina Nurses Association, North Carolina School Public Relations Leadership Academy, the Cherokee Tribal Gaming Commission, and Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos.
    • Had the article, “AI Ethical Issues in Communication and Public Relations: Undergraduate Case Study” was accepted for publication in the book Social Media Measurement and Management: Entrepreneurial Digital Analytics.
    • Presented, “The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Crisis Communications” at the International Crisis and Risk Communication Conference, March 11-14, 2024 in Orlando, FL.
  • Candy Noltensmeyer
    • With Mr. Gabriel Wisnieski-Parks and Dr. Grace Cheshire presented “Communication and Community: Exploring Peer-to-Peer Reciprocal Self-Disclosure for Fostering Resilience and Belongingness for Undergraduate Students” at the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Commons Conference in Savannah, Georgia.
  • Katerina Spasovska
    • Was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in Kosovo for Spring semester 2024.
    • Received a grant to continue and extend the collaboration with the Sylva Herald and provide content for the paper and hands-on experience for the students.
    • Received a grant from the College of Arts and Sciences on research in collaboration with Dr. Ingrid Bego from Political Science Department.
    • Presented a panel with Dr. Matt Binford based on experience working with students covering local elections in 2022.
    • Was a panelist organized by the SPJ Journalism Education Committee on The Adaptation of International Graduates in the Journalism Industry in the U.S.A.: Natural and Legal Challenges.
  • Matt Binford
    • Presented a paper at the AEJMC Southeast Colloquium at Middle Tennessee State University. The work is about the imagery associated with the 2022 midterm election for governor and senator in Georgia.
    • Presented at the AEJMC national conference and won top faculty paper in the Visual Communication Division.
    • Presented in the Visual Communication Division at AEJMC’s national conference about misinformation in images about potential food crises.
    • Organized a panel presentation about student media coverage of elections for the 2023 Broadcast Education Association conference in Las Vegas.
    • Over the summer in 2023, worked as the video director of the Sam Hunt Summer on the Outskirts country music tour. This tour went to 27 cities across the United States.
  • Mindy Weathers
    • Published the book chapter, “Sport organizations and sexual harassment.” In J. Sanderson (Ed.), Organizational Communication and Sport: Connections, Applications, and Opportunities. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books
    • Presented the paper, “Assessing college students’ perceptions of digital dating abuse and associated correlates” at the Social Media and Society Conference, London, United Kingdom.
    • Presented the paper, “News coverage of climate change as a public health issue: A decade-long analysis of news in the US, China, and India” at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Gold Coast, Australia.
    • Presented the paper, “Social media and environmental communication: Framing climate change as a public health issue on Facebook” at the International Communication Association regional conference Human Tech Transitions, Warsaw, Poland.
    • Presented “From room to Zoom: The future of a post-pandemic classroom” at the annual conference of the Southern States Communication Association, St. Petersburg, FL.
    • Awarded the Provost Scholarship Development to further develop a project Assessing College Students’ Perceptions of Digital Dating Abuse and Associated Correlates with Dr. Megan Gangle, in the WCU Psychology Department.
  • Scott Eldredge
    • Published, “Between the Facts and a Hard Place: Trust Judgments and Affective Responses in Information-Seeking Processes during Early COVID-19” in Health Communication – Taylor & Francis.
    • Presented at the Western Carolina University Department of Human Resources planning retreat, “Resolving Conflict in the Intergenerational Workplace.”
    • Developed and Presented a workshop for the Natahala Outdoor Center Leadership Staff, “Communication & Leadership: Giving and Receiving Feedback,” through WCU’s Educational Outreach and the Natahala Outdoor Center, Bryson City, NC.
    • Developed and Presented a workshop for the Natahala Outdoor Center Leadership Staff, “Resolving Conflict in the Intergenerational Workplace,” through WCU’s Educational Outreach and The Natahala Outdoor Center, Bryson City, NC.
    • With Dr. Matt Binford, develop the grant proposal, “Communicating the Impact of Research Projects in North Carolina,” in pursuit of a grant sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (Not Funded).
  • Vincent Russell
    • Published “Teaching social justice activism through radical community-based learning” in
    • Published, “Communicating about social justice in participatory budgeting in the United States: ‘Coming together’ to benefit communities” in the Journal of Applied Communication Research.
    • Published “Radical community-based learning: Tapping into students’ sense of justice” in the International Journal of Research on Service-learning and Community Engagement.
    • Presented “Democratic education through public speaking: A review and advance of citizenship preparation for public speaking pedagogy,” at the National Communication Association’s annual conference with Mr. Gabriel Wisniewski-Parks, National Harbor, MD.
    • Published the book chapter, “Warm Cookies of the Revolution: A case study of democratic culture through the framework of civic health.” In Borrup, T., & Zitcer, A. (Eds.), Democracy as creative practice: Weaving a culture of democracy.
    • Published the book chapter, “Democratic education through public speaking: A review and advance of citizenship preparation for public speaking pedagogy” in Munz, S. M., McKenna-Buchanan, T., & Wright, A. M. (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Public Speaking Research and Theory with Mr. Gabriel Parks-Wisniewski.
  • Gabe Wisniewski-Parks
    • Through WCU’s Educational Outreach, developed and facilitated multiple communication skills workshops for the Natahala Outdoor Center’s managers and supervisory staff.
    • Presented research with Dr. Vincent Russell on democracy and civic engagement in public speaking curriculums. This work will be published as a book chapter in the Routledge Handbook of Public Speaking Research and Theory.
    • Published a column in the Flow Journal, a critical forum on media and culture published by the Department of Radio Television and Film at the University of Texas at Austin. The column was in support of a special issue on the social media app, BeReal.
    • With Dr. Grace Cheshire and Dr. Candy Noltensmeyer presented “Communication and Community: Exploring Peer-to-Peer Reciprocal Self-Disclosure for Fostering Resilience and Belongingness for Undergraduate Students” at the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Commons Conference in Savannah, Georgia.

Faculty Personnel Changes

  • New Faculty
    • The department hired Dr. Mindy Weathers as an Associate Professor teaching courses in Health Communication and Interpersonal Communication.

As you can see, the students and faculty have been busy! It’s been a great year, and we are proud to share all these accomplishments.

If you would like to help support the department as we continue to develop and offer these kinds of opportunities to our students, visit the links below.

To support the overall work of the department and donate to the general department fund:

To support the specific mission of the Shannon Christie Memorial Scholarship Fund and help us get the scholarship fully endowed:

For more information about Shannon Christie and the scholarship established to honor her:

ALUMNI: We’d love to hear from you! Follow us on FaceBook and Instagram, and send us a note to Dr. Scott Eldredge at!

Thank you for supporting the work of the Department of Communication and our students here at Western Carolina University.


Scott Eldredge

Associate Professor

Department Head – Department of Communication