ComSHER Teaching Panels

by Chris Clarke

I am delighted to announce two interesting and insightful Teaching Panels for AEJ 2017 that ComSHER will either lead or co-sponsor.

Panel #1: Teaching Controversy in the Classroom: Best Practices for Engaging Students about Politically Contentious Science, Environmental, Health, and Risk Issues 

Organized by ComSHER, co-sponsored by the Political Communication Interest Group

From climate change to stem cell research to nuclear power, there is no shortage of contentious science, health, environmental, and risk issues that divide Americans along political lines. As these issues become more connected to ideologically divisive debates over government regulation, individual liberty, and other topics, science communication in effect becomes political communication (and vice-versa) as scholars seek to understand how this divisiveness emerges, how motivated reasoning shapes people’s reactions to information, and how to engage in public conversations across these fault lines. A related challenge is how to train the next generation of political and SHER scholars (both undergraduate and graduate students) to do the same. In this panel, junior and senior scholars with expertise in political and/or SHER communication will address this topic by drawing on their own course experiences and best-practices. Discussion topics will touch on must-have course readings, must-cover topics, and must-do class assignments and activities.

Panelists TBA: Stay tuned!


Panel #2: Public Relations, Public Health, Public Good: Preparing a New Generation of Nonprofit and Public Sector Communications Professionals

Organized by the Public Relations Division, co-sponsored by ComSHER

In recent years, public relations has become more focused on doing public good. The areas of health, science, and environmental communication have been recognized as growing areas within public relations and concurrently, the number of nonprofits that address these issues continues to increase. While public relations, science, and health are often considered separate domains, education in these areas overlap, particularly related to strategies and tactics that nonprofit organizations use to reach audiences and motivate actions. In response to student interest in these careers, sector demand for trained communicators, and the service-focused missions that many universities are adopting, numerous colleges are experimenting with varying pedagogical approaches. For instance, numerous public relations programs have been enhanced with courses focused specifically on nonprofit organizations. Health, science, and environmental communication courses and certificate programs are proliferating across the country. Still other colleges and schools are experimenting with preparing students through special topics and skills courses, and service and experiential learning.

This panel will demonstrate how varying approaches can be used to prepare students to work in nonprofit public relations with a special focus on health, science, and environment. Panelists will share their experiences from classroom innovation including examples of effective activities and case study suggestions that will help prepare students for the unique challenges that face them in their chosen career paths.

Panelists include: Brooke McKeever (University of South Carolina); Geah Pressgrove (West Virginia University); Katherine E. Rowan (George Mason University); Autumn Shafer (University of Oregon); and Christopher Wilson (Brigham Young University)