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Posdoctoral Teaching Fellow Awarded Student Academic Achievement Award

The Department of Communication Arts and Sciences would like to congratulate Jessica Kurr, CAS Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow, on being selected as the winner of the 2018 Student Academic Achievement Award by The Penn State President's Commission on LGBTQ!

To read more about the Student Academic Achievement Award and Penn State President's Commission on LGBTQ please click here.

Congratulations Jessica!


Speech & Debate Team - John Carroll University Results

The Penn State Speech and Debate Team competed at John Carroll University this past weekend.  The team placed second in sweepstakes.  Mia Han competed in semi-finals and won 3rd place novice speaker for both the tournament and the conference.  Sean Reilly placed 6th in impromptu speaking.  Seckin Kara placed 1st in informative speaking, 2nd in extemporaneous speaking and 4th in impromptu.

The regular season has now ended with the team qualifying eight of the nine active members to the NFA national tournament to be held in OshKosh Wisconsin in April.



Speech & Debate Team - PA Forensic Association Tournament Results

The team did well this weekend during the guidance of Jeremy Johnson.  Here are the results and attached is a photo of the team.

The 2018 Pennsylvania Forensic Association tournament at Bloomsburg University was a tremendous success for our team! Here are this last weekend's results:

Seckin Kara: 1st, Poetry Interpretation; 2nd, Impromptu; 2nd, Informative; 3rd, Individual Sweepstakes
Neema Esfandi: 3rd, Impromptu; 3rd, Parli Speaker
Elisa Vogel: 6th, Persuasive
Sean Reilly: 6th, Impromptu; 6th, Extemp; 2nd, Parli Speaker
Elisa Vogel & Sean Reilly: 2nd, Parliamentary Debate
Neema Esfandi & Lillian Schaeffer: 3rd, Parliamentary Debate

As a team, Penn State took first place in the President's Sweepstakes (for teams with small entries) and fourth place overall. 

Speech & Debate's First Tournament of Spring 2018

This past weekend the Penn State Speech and Debate Society competed in its first tournament of the semester in Ithaca, NY. The team won first place sweepstakes award based on overall team performance.


In addition, the following individuals received awards. 

Seckin Kara received first place in informative Speaking and Extemporaneous Speaking as well as second place in Impromptu speaking.

Sean Reilly received third place in impromptu speaking, qualifying him for the national tournament in April. In addition, Sean was top speaker in IPDA .

Chemiaomiao Han was awarded second place speaker in Novice Lincoln Douglas debate.

Joshua Kwak reached semifinals in Open Lincoln Douglas debate.

Elisa Vogel won second place in Open Lincoln Douglas debate and was awarded second place speaker.

CAS Student Recognized as Multicultural Student Leader

Communication Arts & Sciences undergrad, Afrah Rabia Alrusheidi, has been recognized as this week's Multicultural Student Leader in the College of Liberal Arts!

Afrah is a sophmore Schreyer honors student and Paterno Fellow, double majoring in CAS and Labor and Employment Relations. Being an international student, Afrah explains, comes with challenges - notably, having been a top student in previous school environments, but finding the university packed with talented scholars. To stay focused and structured in her work, Afrah has found it helpful to keep her schedule full, not just with classwork, but also with hobbies and volunteering. To read more, click here.


Associate Teaching Professor Mary High to Join CAS Faculty

The Department is delighted to announced that Dr. Mary High will be joining our faculty as an Associate Teaching Professor as of the fall of 2018.  Dr. High earned her PhD in 2009 from our department, and she has been a lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa since 2012. Dr. High’s expertise in organizational communication and rhetoric have contributed to her teaching of both residential and online courses for the University of Iowa. We are delighted to be welcoming Mary back to Happy Valley!

Assistant Professor Awarded 2018 Joyce & Aqueil Ahmad Endowment

Assistant Professor and CAS alumnus Brad Serber (Ph.D. 2016) has been awarded the 2018 Joyce and Aqueil Ahmad Endowment for the Promotion of Peace and Nonviolence from the University of North Dakota. This grant will support a public dialogue and deliberation series called Target: Nonviolence, which will be open to UND students, faculty, and staff and members of the local community. The project, which extends work from Serber’s dissertation, will focus on school shootings, sexual assault, hate crimes, and racism. It will consist of a film and guest speaker series loosely modeled after Penn State’s 2016-2017 series Talking Together about Guns, which Serber helped facilitate with Rosa Eberly, Peter Buckland, Matt Jordan, Jill Wood, and Morgan Nachman. He also plans to pair the series with a website archive of related deliberations from UND’s Public Speaking program, which he now directs. CAS alumnus Craig Rood (Ph.D. 2015) is also scheduled to make an appearance.

CAS Statement on Graduate Education

Graduate education can be mysterious.  Friends and family don’t always understand what people in graduate school are actually doing. “Why do you need to take more classes?”  “What does writing a thesis or dissertation have to do with anything in the real world?”  “When are you going to get a real job?”  These questions from personal acquaintances have long plagued students pursuing a graduate education – but when the public at large fails to appreciate the value of graduate education, the possibility that government action will limit access to a graduate degree looms as a threat. 

The Department of Communication Arts and Science unequivocally celebrates graduate students as vital to the mission of our department, our college, and our university.  We further recognize that graduate students – as students, instructors, researchers, and citizens with advanced degrees in the arts and sciences of communication – contribute to the good of our state and society.  Graduate students exist at the intersection of the university’s undergraduate mission and its commitment to research and the advancement of knowledge.

Consider, first, what graduate students make possible for undergraduate education.  They independently teach classes offered by the research university; as a result, undergraduates benefit from more numerous and smaller class sizes.  Graduate students relate especially well to students who are learning a content area for the first time, because graduate students are closer to the initial learning experience than most faculty.  Graduate students are an innovative presence in undergraduate education; they bring new ideas and modes of pedagogy into the classroom.  Graduate students support faculty in large lecture courses, making it possible to design assignments and discussion activities that would be impossible otherwise.

Graduate students also are integral to the research mission of universities; they support and inspire faculty research, while, at the same time, they are developing into independent scholars in their own right.  Graduate students are focused on mastering contemporary ways of knowing, whether in the humanities or the social sciences.  Their emphasis on cutting edge theories, methods, and questions challenge faculty to expand and reconsider their own research agendas.   Graduate students publish their own research and thereby contribute to the discipline and their university’s reputation.   Great research and a great research university owe a debt of gratitude to the aspirations and abilities of graduate students.

Finally, graduate education transforms students who commit to the task of intellectual discovery.  Entering graduate school does not represent an avoidance of work; rather, it is a rigorous and admirable process of professional development.  Graduate students learn how to become experts in their field and leaders in higher education.  Overcoming the gauntlet of intellectual obstacles – from building an idea and defending it to developing the discipline necessary to pursue a substantial research agenda – fosters fortitude, resilience, and humility.  Research suggests that a graduate degree may lead to higher earnings and career advancement, but often the most significant benefit involves personal transformation and development.  

Graduate education is not an option for everyone; the selection criteria are demanding.  In 2012, the College of the Liberal Arts at the Pennsylvania State University enrolled only 5.5% of the applicants to its graduate programs.  The opportunity to pursue a graduate education is based on a careful review of each applicant’s past academic achievements and their potential as teachers, researchers, and citizens of a rigorous intellectual community.  When economic circumstances and taxation policies threaten to limit graduate education to a subset of our society, education suffers, the advancement of knowledge suffers, and our society suffers.  For this reason, the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences remains committed to a rigorous and equitable admissions process, to a demanding program of study, and to the highest standards of excellence.  These commitments exist alongside an equal commitment to the moral and intellectual health of our entire society.  When a first-generation college student forgoes graduate study because of its cost; when a student of any ethnic or national identity forgoes graduate study because they feel unwelcome; when a student of any gender or sexual orientation forgoes graduate study because of fear of harassment, then everyone’s future is limited. 

We support equitable access to education, for graduate students in all of their complexity and diversity, because we aim for an unbounded future.

Assistant or Associate Professor in Communication Arts and Sciences/ Co-Hire with the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences

Job Number: 76070

The Department of Communication Arts and Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University seeks to hire a tenure-track or tenured assistant or associate professor whose research advances communication theory, complements departmental strengths in interpersonal communication and social influence, demonstrates a sophisticated command of quantitative methods, and connects to the life sciences. We are particularly interested in applicants with expertise in lifespan, family, and/or small group communication.

This position consists of a full-time appointment as a Communication Arts and Sciences faculty member, which is co-funded 50% by the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences. The Huck Institutes’ mission is to catalyze and facilitate excellence in interdisciplinary research and education in the life sciences at Penn State. The Huck Institutes includes many research centers that promote cutting-edge, collaborative, interdisciplinary science, including topics such as neuroscience, the biological embedding of stress and trauma, ecological systems, genomics, motor function, and reproductive health.

In addition to conducting research and teaching in Communication Arts and Sciences, the successful applicant will participate in the intellectual life of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences. For this reason, the application letter should identify the research center(s) or institute(s) in which the individual could participate and elaborate on the applicant’s fit with that unit or those units. A list of Huck research centers and institutes, graduate degree programs, and core facilities can be found at

The successful applicant will have a demonstrated record of scholarly achievement, be well grounded in the communication discipline, complement and strengthen core interests of faculty in the department, and be willing to collaborate with the broader university community, especially as a co-fund of the Huck Institutes.

Candidates should provide clear evidence of scholarly and teaching excellence and service to the discipline. In addition to conducting research and teaching undergraduate and graduate courses, responsibilities include course development in the area of specialty, supervision of theses and dissertations, and involvement in other departmental activities. Additional considerations in reviewing candidates include interest in grant-based research, the desire to engage in interdisciplinary research, and an appreciation for working alongside diverse colleagues in the humanities, the social sciences, and the life sciences.

Applications must include a letter of application describing research, teaching, and any graduate mentoring experience, along with a CV, representative publications, a brief teaching portfolio, and the names of three references who may be contacted to provide letters of recommendation.

Inquiries may be sent to Professor Rachel Smith, chair of the search committee, at

Review of applications will begin January 15, 2018 and continue until the position if filled.  The start date for the position is August, 2019, with the possibility of a visiting position in the 2018-19 academic year.

Apply online at

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Penn State is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer, and is committed to providing employment opportunities to all qualified applicants without regard to race, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or protected veteran status.

Kellie Brisini receives RGSO Award

Kellie Brisini has been awarded a dissertation scholarship from the Research and Graduate Studies Office of the College of the Liberal Arts.  The funding she received will provide a course release in the spring semester so that Kellie can complete her dissertation on marital communication and relational turbulence between parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Congratulations Kellie!