Confirmation: A Study in Sexual Harassment Communication

The Communication Department kicked off a trilogy of events this week by screening the film Confirmation. Partnering with Hope’s Women’s & Gender Studies council and the STEP program, the Communication Department is focused on processing the communicative dynamics of sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement.

The film is a provocative dramatization of the Clarence Thomas hearings by screenwriter Susannah Grant (famous for her Erin Brockovitch script). At no point does this film claim to know which testimony upholds the truth; rather, this film depicts how an entire political institution–the U.S. Senate–was brought to bear against Dr. Anita Hill. Indeed, true to its title, this film powerfully depicts a process that inexorably grinds toward confirmation.

Focusing on communicative dynamics draws our attention to a number of elements. First, the political manipulation of news media, such as the Senate’s staging of the proceedings so that Clarence Thomas’ testimony occurred during prime time and managing the 1-day news cycle. Second, the intersecting nature of sex and race as Clarence Thomas and Dr. Anita Hill faced discrimination and Thomas’ mobilizing of identity politics in his famous testimony that the hearings were a “high-tech lynching.” And third, this perspective highlights the ways in which sexual harassment happens through communication (verbal and non-verbal) and within communicative environments (the workplace, online platforms, etc.).

The Communication Department at Hope College helps students master the art and science of how humans create and share meaning, preparing them to responsibly engage in civil dialogue. We hope you’ll join us for this trilogy of events as we engage with the topic of sexual harassment. Our goal is educating students for responsible engagement, civil dialogue, and an ethic of love and humility. Join us next week for a panel discussion featuring Dr. Isolde Anderson!

Comm @ National Communication Conference

Each November, Communication faculty from across the country gather together to share research, teaching strategies, and commune together at the National Communication Association’s annual conference. This year the conference is hosted in Salt Lake City, UT, and Dr. Marissa Doshi,  Dr. Sarah Kornfield, and Comm Major Emily Wolfe are representing Hope College’s Communication Department!

Dr. Doshi rocked this conference with multiple sessions, events, and research presentations. For example:

  • Dr. Doshi co-authored award winning research with Josh Barbour and Leandra Hernandez. Their research, “Telling Global Public Health Stories: Narrative Message Design for Issues Management,” was selected as the winner of the 2018 Bill Eadie Distinguished Article Award by the Applied Communication Division of the National Communication Association.
  • Dr. Doshi led an intensive seminar for other faculty, “Revising the Playbook: Decolonizing the core Communication Curriculum,” which focused on how faculty can build courses that are more representative, globally engaged, just, and reflective of the mindful diversification in communication studies
  • Dr. Doshi presented her research. “Hybridizing National Identity: Reflections on the Media Consumption of Catholic Women in Urban India”
  • And Dr. Doshi presented her research, “How We Played with Food: Exploring Stories about Food and Identity through Performative Practices.

Additionally, Dr. Doshi presented her co-authored research with Comm Major Emily Wolfe. This research was funded, in part, through Hope’s Towsley Award.

  • Emily Wolfe and Dr. Doshi discussed the ways in which millennial women use Instagram to build, maintain, and reinforce friendships with one another.  They focused on women’s ingenious practices and media savvy in navigating this online platform, demonstrating how women harness this digital forum in meaningful ways.

Dr. Sarah Kornfield worked throughout this conference to represent Hope’s research-forward focus and Liberal Arts mandate. For example:

  • Dr. Kornfield presented her research on how television presents pregnant bodies in two different ways. First, Dr. Kornfield presented research, “Televisual Pregnancy Beauty,” featuring her recently published article in Feminist Media Studies.
  • The second way Dr. Kornfield presented her mediated pregnancy research was through her research presentation, “Performing Televisual Pregnancy.”
  • Dr. Kornfield also promoted excellence in the Liberal Arts through her forum presentation, “Faculty Labor at Liberal Arts Colleges,” in which she represented the unique role of the Communication discipline within a Liberal Arts undergraduate academy.

Follow us on Twitter @HopeCommDept and Instagram: HopeCommDept!



Happy Halloween!

Faculty and Staff from the Communication Department
Dr. Dibble carved a Hope College Comm Department Pumpkin!

The Communication Department meets regularly to plan upcoming curricula, to organize campus events, and to strategize how best to serve our students, college, discipline, and community.  And when our meeting falls on Halloween, there’s candy involved too!

Alumni Updates

Hope College celebrated its Homecoming and Alumni Weekend as One Big Weekend, Oct 19-21, 2018. The Communication Department was delighted to see alumni and reflect on the role that Communication and a Hope College education has played in graduates’ lives.

Our graduates are working around the world, fulfilling Hope’s mission of serving and leading in a global society and the Communication Department’s mission of creating and sharing meaning for the common good.

For example, Will DeBoer celebrated the Alumni Weekend at Hope this past weekend. He graduated in 2014 and went on to complete a Master’s in Public Administration from the Columbus State University. He now works as the Director of Broadcasting at two companies, the Delmarva Shorebirds Baseball and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore Basketball.

On October 15th, Dr. Mpine Makoe returned to Hope’s campus for the first time since she graduated in 1990. After majoring in Communication and English at Hope, Dr. Makoe completed a Master’s in Journalism from the University of Michigan, a Master’s in Research Methods for Educational Technology from The Open University in the United Kingdom, and a Ph.D. in Educational Technology from The Open University. Dr. Makoe currently serves as the President of the Distance Education Association of South Africa and has won multiple awards in journalism and research. Dr. Makoe was on campus to discuss student activism in post-apartheid South Africa.

The Communication Department is committed to students’ scholarly, moral, and professional development, preparing students to be agents of change around the world. By mastering the art and science of communication, Hope College’s communication graduates responsibly engage in civil dialogue throughout their lives, communities, professions, relationships, and service. We are delighted to graduate alumni known for their excellence and commitment to the common good.

Advising Season! What you need to know about Majoring in Communication

During the next two weeks or so, Hope College faculty and students meet together for advising. During advising sessions, faculty and students discuss students’ progress toward their degrees, what courses to register for next semester, and how their Hope College education is preparing students for their futures.

Dr. Choonghee Han describes his approach to advising, saying,

My motto in advising, as the chair of the Communication Department in particular, has been to enable students to see where they are heading and what they need to do now when it comes to their plan of study. Whether it be Major/Minor requirements, off-campus study, credit transfers, or something else, please stop by anytime when you’re in doubt.

In addition to the courses required for a Communication Major (Comm 101, 140, 151, 160, 260, 280, and 399), the Communication Department is offering these electives in Spring 2019.

Dr. Hearit Presents Media Bias

Dr. Lauren Hearit recently led the HASP community in an educational discussion, “Bias and the Media.” HASP (the Hope Academy of Senior Professionals) is a lifelong learning and service community for retirees in West Michigan. Dr. Hearit focused on the evidence for how, when, and if bias manifests itself in the media.

Dr. Hearit states, “I had the opportunity to discuss bias in the media with HASP, a topic I’ve delved into while teaching an introductory crisis communication class here at Hope College. I discovered when teaching crisis communication that my basic assumptions — that the media seeks to tell the truth, and that the media is an important aspect of democracy — were not necessarily held by my students. Therefore, I spent some time researching why my students were having difficulty separating being critical of the media from having a basic trust in the watchdog function of our media. I learned that a huge casualty of our increasingly polarized electorate and a major increase in fake news has been a decline in trust in our media system, and was able to take what I learned to HASP.

Speaking with HASP was like teaching my dream class. We had a great discussion about the role of the media in a democracy, the importance of local news, how media bias shows up in our news, and how we can critically evaluate the quality of news reporting. Additionally, we talked about how reading around an issue (in other words, reading about one news source from multiple, printed news sources) can allow one to have a better sense of an issue, and how oftentimes by reading the news from a high quality national news source like BBC or PBS, you’re able to avoid a lot of the commentary and analysis you run into with TV news.”





Dr. Johnston Appointed to Interim Associate Dean of Global Education

Hope College’s Mission: To educate students for lives of leadership and service in a global society through academic and co-curricular programs of recognized excellence in the liberal arts and in the context of the historic Christian faith.

Hope College is committed to the internationalization of our curriculum and to providing students with a global education. The Communication Department is excited that our own Dr. Deirdre Johnston has been appointed to oversee Hope’s next stage in the internationalization process!

Dr. Johnston is appointed as the Interim Associate Dean of Global Education. She leads Hope’s faculty-focused global efforts by spearheading the faculty development for global education, leadership in developing a global curriculum, faculty-led off campus study programs, faculty exchange programs, and the development of intercultural competencies across faculty, staff, and students. Dr. Johnston’s research, teaching, leadership strengths, and expertise in globalized curricula make her uniquely qualified to lead Hope forward, preparing students for lives of leadership and service in a global society.

Reflecting on her appointment, Dr. Johnston stated, “I have a passion for global learning and diversity education. I am excited to work with students, faculty and staff to promote understanding of intercultural communication and ethical global engagement. Global learning experiences both on-and off-campus will better prepare both students and faculty in fulfilling Hope’s mission to be critically reflective and ethically responsible global citizens.”

Dr. Doshi Publishes Study on Women’s Health Apps

Women’s health apps continue to conceptualize a healthy woman in terms of narrow, traditional archetypes: Barbie, Earth Goddess, and Entrepreneur.

Health apps may be the latest tool women use to manage their health, but the messages women receive about their health through these new tools are hardly new or revolutionary. According to these apps, a healthy woman looks like a Barbie, is fertile, and invests in her health with the dedication of an entrepreneur.

Dr. Marissa J. Doshi, assistant professor of communication, makes these claims about women’s health apps in a study recently published in Women’s Studies in Communication.

“While much of the debate centers on whether or not these apps work well, I was intrigued by another aspect of women’s health apps: how do these apps conceptualize a healthy woman? In other words, what version of health for women is being promoted as achievable and desirable by these apps?” Doshi said.

To answer this question, Doshi along with Communication major, Noah Jurik (’16), created a repository of women’s health apps. Doshi then qualitatively analyzed the descriptions and icons of the apps and identified three idealizations of the healthy woman: Barbie, Earth goddess, and Entrepreneur.

The presence of these archetypes is not necessarily new information—in fact, previous research confirms that women are often encouraged to embody the Barbie and Earth goddess archetypes. Previous research has also critiqued these archetypes for promoting narrow understandings of women’s health by conceptualizing healthy women primarily as white, middle-class, skinny, fertile, heterosexual women. What’s interesting is that even newer technologies (such as apps) perpetuate these traditional ideas about women’s health.

Another interesting aspect is that because women presumably choose to download and use these apps, this mode of delivery uses the rhetoric of choice to implicate women in perpetuating these narrow ideas about women’s health.

Technology offers women new ways for managing their health, but Doshi’s study suggests that we also need to pay attention to the range of health outcomes available to women.

Noah Jurik (’16) presents his research titled “Exploring Visual Appeal of Women’s Health Apps” at Hope’s Celebration of Undergraduate Research. The analysis used a preliminary subset of health apps. Poster also presented at NCUR 2016.

As apps become normalized for health management, the burden of managing health increasingly shifts to patients. This opportunity for increased health management might be perceived as empowering, but this brand of empowerment is accessible to only a small subsection of women—mainly middle-class women who have surplus time, money, and energy to invest in their health

Doshi says that technology has the potential to help women, but for that potential to be realized, we need apps that are better designed and conceptualize health in dramatically expanded terms. Perhaps the results of this study can aid in that process.

Communication Student Research

In April, two Hope College seniors, Kelly Arnold and Karey Frink, traveled with Dr. Lauren Hearit to present their paper at the annual DePauw Undergraduate Honors Conference. Kelly and Karey had developed a project in Dr. Hearit’s Research Methods course that examined how organizational identification is impacted by different types of on-campus student groups. Their paper was competitively selected for presentation. Kelly said:

The DePauw Undergraduate Conference was useful in that it allowed me to talk about my research with other undergraduate researchers from a variety of backgrounds and interests. We were able to talk about what worked, what didn’t work, and ways to improve all of our projects.

As the conference was a working conference, after Kelly and Karey presented their research project, they received feedback from scholars at Auburn University, The  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Michigan. Karey said:

DePauw’s Undergrad Conference paired me with a fantastic peer group and mentor who provided constructive criticism that will help me with future research papers.

Kelly and Karey had the opportunity to hear research presentations from students at other Liberal Arts institutions, as well as keynotes from scholars in the fields of film and media studies, and practitioners. A highlight for both students was a keynote address from Anne Helen Peterson of BuzzFeed News. Dr. Hearit said:

It was very rewarding for me professionally to bring Kelly and Karey to DePauw University, and we greatly appreciated the monetary support from both DePauw University and the Communication Department at Hope College to make this conference possible at little cost to our students. Presenting their work at DePauw’s Undergraduate Honors Conference was an excellent opportunity for Kelly and Karey after a semester of hard work in Research Methods. I am eager to see what is next for both these bright, hardworking students.

Stories Make the Future

Dr. James Herrick was recently featured on Mars Hill Audio, a radio/podcast program that hosts conversations with scholars and artists, and focuses on Christian faith and faithfulness in contemporary culture.

Dr. Herrick discussed his recent book, Visions of Technological Transcendence: Human Enhancement and the Rhetoric of the Future (2017). Specifically, Dr. Herrick described transhumanists’ aspirations for how humans can meld with technology and become “post-human.” Dr. Herrick focused on how these aspirations are rendered plausible through stories. While uploading human consciousness into a computer may seem (and be) impossible,  technofuturist stories shape how laws, policies, industries, aspirations, and everyday technology use play out. Indeed, technology increasingly shapes our work environments, children’s educational environments, the medical treatments we undergo, the homes we live in, the relationships we value, and the military and security systems we champion.

Dr. Herrick explains how technofuturist stories combine the myth of progress and story of evolution. These stories promise that technology will save humanity from disease, poverty, despair, and death. As such, technological progress becomes an end in itself since it is featured as humanity’s salvation. These stories are optimistic, but falsely so: they promise that technology will save humanity and provide humans with ultimate control over their environment and bodies. However, technology is only a tool, it cannot offer meaning, purpose, or salvation. Yet these technofuturist stories are persuasive and comforting, and they are fundamentally shaping our cultural practices, laws, and regulations, creating a future in which technology operates as a god.