School of Communication hosts VACAS conference

Interim Dean of CHBS Matt Smith, left, Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill, Radford student Starr Woods and two members of the class that assisted with planning the VACAS conference.
Left to right: CHBS Interim Dean Matt Smith, Radford student Starr Woods, Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D. and two members of the class that assisted with planning the VACAS conference.

On March 29-30, 2019, the School of Communication at Radford University hosted the annual Virginia Association of Communication Arts and Sciences (VACAS) conference in the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences (CHBS).

A main goal of the conference is to increase undergraduate student’s participation in research opportunities, a goal that aligns with Radford University's critical mission and strategic plan.

“We believe that students have the opportunity to engage in meaningful research and this is one of those opportunities where our students will benefit greatly when you think about the purpose of this organization and the exposure that students have being able to engage directly in research with faculty,” said Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill. Ph.D. “You have some of our best and brightest engaging with you today.”

CHBS Interim Dean Matt Smith said the alignment between Radford University and VACAS is about the emphasis on quality of research, quality of thought, engagement and having conversations about issues that matter.

“That alignment made it a very comfortable fit to bring VACAS here and be on this campus,” Smith said. “We are receptive to that. We are champions of that. This underscores for our students that these characteristics are valued beyond the confines of campus.”

“Redrawing Boundaries,” the overall theme of the conference, reflects the desire to increase inclusivity, participation and engagement in the field of communication.

Interim Dean of CHBS Matt Smith delivers remarks at the VACAS conference.
CHBS Interim Dean Matt Smith delivers remarks at the VACAS conference.

“This is precisely the moment in which we should talk about how to re-draw boundaries and how to overcome division,” said Tim Gibson, president of VACAS and associate professor at George Mason University. “We are gathered here today to discuss how to use communication research to bring down barriers. Thank you for being here and bringing your work and your scholarship.”

City of Radford Mayor David Horton said, “As we move forward together as a society, we must find new ways to communicate, new ways to connect and new ways to grow.”

At the conference, participants heard from Stephanie Winebrenner ’06, the keynote speaker, about how it was important to ask why.

“I’m asking you to ask why. It’s important in everything that you do,” Winebrenner said. “You can’t assume that just because something has been done one way that that’s the way it should be done. If you think about successful people and companies, they are disrupters. They raise their hands and ask why.”

Conference participants attended a variety of panels over the two-day period, which included the sessions:

  • “The Changing Horizon: From China’s Mainstream Media to New Media”
  • “Redrawing Boundaries in Interpersonal, Organizational and Small Group Communication”
  • “Examining the Boundaries of Under- or Misrepresented Populations”
  • “Video and Communities”
  • “Under Attack: The Risks and Rewards in Reporting”
  • “Political Communication in Virginia: Making Sense of Scandals and Shifting Winds”
  • “Redrawing Cultural Artifacts through Rhetorical Critique”

Starr Woods, of Richmond, Virginia, transferred to Radford University and said that Radford has made her want to be a better person.

“VACAS was the perfect place for me to expand my knowledge,” Woods said. “I’ve never had the opportunity to cross those boundaries. I took a risk and crossed those boundaries to better myself.”

Apr 11, 2019
Max Esterhuizen