Statewide Communication Society Brings Annual Conference to Mississippi College
Dozens of communication faculty and students from colleges and universities across the state will descend upon Mississippi College on Friday, Feb. 18, to exchange information about the latest industry innovations in communication studies, mass communication, and journalism while taking part in the 2022 Mississippi Communication Association annual conference.
Mary Margaret White, chief executive officer of Mississippi Today, the only member-supported, digital-first, nonprofit newsroom serving the state, will deliver the keynote address at the conference, which will carry the theme, “The New Normal in Communication.”
The event will include research paper and discussion panel presentations; a “student showcase” of speeches, performances, and other non-research communication-related exhibitions; and Great Ideas for Teaching Students (GIFTS) classroom innovations.
Dr. Reid Vance, MC assistant professor and chair of communication, said this year’s conference marks the first time in recent memory that Mississippi College has hosted the annual event.
“Since COVID-19 has upended things a little bit, industry trends are changing, and job expectations are different than they used to be,” said Vance, who also serves the MCA as first vice-president. “Mary Margaret White will address that from her perspective as CEO of Mississippi Today.”
Vance said as the leader of a nontraditional online startup model of journalism, White is uniquely positioned to provide conference attendees a valuable perspective on the state of the communication industry today.
“It’s a different way of doing journalism,” Vance said. “Mississippi Today is trying to cover the state and cover issues that are sometimes hard to get an audience for, and other news outlets are not putting a lot of effort in. It’s a public service on one hand, but information people should be interested in.
“In the past, we’ve had Marshall Ramsey and Rick Cleveland speak in our journalism lectures in the spring. They both used to work at the Clarion-Ledger, but now they’re both employed at Mississippi Today. There are connections there, and we thought our conference attendees – the people training the journalists of tomorrow – need to know about the different industry models that are out there.”
An advisory board member for the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, White has a bachelor’s degree in English and journalism and a master’s degree in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi. She served in leadership positions for the state of Mississippi at Visit Mississippi and the Mississippi Arts Commission before joining Mississippi Today.
A fellow in Columbia University’s Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program and the Online News Association’s Women’s Leadership Accelerator, she has contributed to the Listening Post Collective, the New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, and Mississippi Public Broadcasting Radio.
The MCA is a scholarly not-for-profit organization that promotes the study, criticism, research, teaching, and appreciation of the artistic, humanistic, and scientific principles of communication. The organization also seeks to create a sense of unity among high school, community college, and university communication departments in Mississippi.
Vance said MC faculty members have enjoyed a long track record of leadership within the organization. Dr. J. Mignon Kucia, MC assistant professor of communication, currently serves as MCA executive director. Dr. Merle Ziegler, MC professor of communication, preceded her as MCA executive director, and Dr. Cliff Fortenberry, MC professor of communication, has served as an MCA officer as well.
“I think it’s important to MC for faculty and students from all over the state to come to our campus,” Vance said. “We have a robust Department of Communication with over 100 undergraduate students and a healthy graduate program as well. This conference can serve as a recruitment tool – undergraduate students who join us for the conference will be able to see we would be a good place for them to go to graduate school.”
Along with being a showcase for the Christian University, Vance said the MCA conference will provide the opportunity for MC students to exercise their communication abilities.
“It’s also important from a scholarly perspective,” he said. “Students have the ability to submit papers and give presentations at the conference. They can learn how to use their skills in the classroom, and put their public speaking and writing skills to good use.
“They also get to meet people from other colleges and universities and make contacts with people who may help them further their careers or if they decide to go to graduate school. It’s a resume builder as well.”