Dr. Jameson HayesDirector
Dr. Brian BrittAssociate Director, Data Analytics
Dr. Elliot Panek
Elliot Panek studies the uses and effects of digital media from sociological and psychological perspectives. He has published research in top-tier academic journals on the topics of social media and narcissism, texting while driving, media addiction, and media use and political polarization. In 2015, Dr. Panek founded the Alabama Reddit Research Group (ARRG), a research team at the University of Alabama dedicated to improving our understanding of the social dynamics and impact of Reddit. The team develops, tests, and implements tools for analyzing group and individual behavior on Reddit as well as characteristics of Reddit’s discourse. These tools are used to study a variety of outcomes, including health outcomes, civility in public discourse, and social dynamics in large groups over time.
Dr. Rebecca Britt
Dr. Gregory Bott
Dr. Gregory J. Bott, CISSP, holds the Marilyn Hewson Chair Professor of Cyber Security in the Department of Information Systems, Statistics, and Management Science at the University of Alabama. He is also a Cyber Nexus Distinguished Fellow and his primary research areas are cybersecurity, human trafficking, and information privacy. He has published in the Productions and Operations Management Journal, the Journal for Management Information Systems, Computers and Security, and Communications of the AIS, and several academic conferences. His research on sex trafficking has been directly applied by the West Alabama Human Trafficking task force help locate victims of sex trafficking and capture sex offenders who target minors. Dr. Bott and his colleagues work closely with other law enforcement agencies in the state of Alabama and with Homeland Security. He is a certified digital forensic examiner and serves as an expert witness in civil and criminal cases. Previously, Bott worked in technology for PwC, Microsoft Corporation and served as chief technology officer for three organizations.
Dr. Matthew VanDyke
Matthew S. VanDyke (Ph.D., Texas Tech University) is an assistant professor and graduate program coordinator in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations at The University of Alabama. His research examines processes, effects, and problems associated with the public communication of science and environmental risk information. Most often his projects seek to understand how organizations communicate about science and environmental risks, and the effects of science/environmental risk communication strategies on audiences. His research has been published in leading scholarly journals, including Risk Analysis, Environmental Communication, Science Communication, Journal of Risk Research, Public Relations Review, Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education and Politics and the Life Sciences.
Jay Waters is a senior instructor at the University of Alabama in the Advertising and Public Relations Department, teaching classes in media, strategic thinking, and agency management. This is his seventh year at the University of Alabama.
Jay joined the A+PR Department full-time in the fall of 2015 after 24 years with Luckie and Company, a full‐service advertising agency headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama. Just before joining the faculty, Jay’s most recent position at Luckie was SVP, Chief Strategy Officer, responsible for brand strategy, account planning, media planning, and media buying.
Jay has a B.S in Management and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Alabama in Birmingham. Jay is a life-long resident of Central Alabama, is married with one daughter and one grand dog.
Dr. Kenon Brown
Kenon A. Brown (Ph.D., The Univ. of Alabama, 2012) is an associate professor and director of online programs for the Department of Advertising and Public Relations at The University of Alabama. He is also the programming director for the Alabama Program in Sports Communication, responsible for stakeholder communications and event planning for the program. Prior to his academic appointment, Kenon worked for eight years in restaurant management and marketing. His research and consulting expertise lies in strategic planning, image and reputation management, and minority recruitment in mass communication. During his academic career, Kenon has worked with several organizations in consulting and advisory roles, including FOX Sports, Advocate Health Care and the Country Music Association.
Affiliate Graduate Students
Amy Ritchart (M.F.A. Murray State University, M.A. Bowling Green State University) is a doctoral student at The University of Alabama in the College of Communication & Information Sciences. Her research program is focused on developing a nuanced understanding of how the media shapes and aids in public understanding of discourse and policy on issues related to politics and health. She uses a variety of research methods, including quantitative, qualitative, and computational. In her work, she has examined how mainstream media (both news and social media) unpack disruptions in issues related to disability, vaccines, election reporting, and complex narrative frames in news coverage. Her current work focuses on how disability is framed in mass-mediated spaces. The goal is to better understand how highly misunderstood disabilities can be de-stigmatized through social media networks. At UA, Ritchart is also an affiliate of the Office of Politics, Communication and Media and is a Graduate Teaching Fellow with the Graduate School. Ritchart pursued her Ph.D. after serving as a tenured assistant professor at Austin Peay State University where she taught journalism. Before beginning her full-time work in higher education, Ritchart was a career reporter and editor.
Suyu Chou is a graduate student in the Department of Journalism and Creative Media. Her research interests lie in the intersection of public anxiety on social media, risk perception, and crisis management. Her current studies include observing the dynamics on subreddit related to losing weight topics during Covid-19, and influencers’ crisis management related to how they interact with people online and their image repair strategies
Khadiza Tul Jannat
Khadiza Tul Jannat is a third-year doctoral student in the College of Communication and Information Sciences at the University of Alabama, specializing in health and organizational communication, and public health. Jannat completed M.A. in Communication Studies at Minnesota State University- Mankato where her thesis examined the connections between doctors’ self-disclosure, gender, and patient satisfaction in doctor-patient interactions.
Josh Jackson (M.A., Louisiana State University) is a Ph.D. student at the University of Alabama in the College of Communication and Information Sciences. His research interests focus on the relationship between the use of social media in branding and activism by athletes and the response by the average user. He has used POL tools like Crimson Hexagon to conduct research on large data projects and looks forward to utilizing these tools for academic journals and conferences.
Courtny Franco (MA, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth) is a doctoral student in the Communication and Information Science program at the University of Alabama. Her research interests lay at the intersection of health communication, social perception, and new media. In the Public Opinion Lab, Courtny works with a research team to examine Twitter and Reddit data to understand discourse around and perceptions toward various stigmatized health topics such as end-of-life decision-making and mental health issues. Her research in the POL utilizes computational textual tools (e.g., LIWC and Leximancer) and social media scraping services (e.g., Brandwatch, Sprinklr). Courtny has articles under submission at Health Communication, Environmental Communication, and the Journal of Health Communication. She also has publications in the Journal of Nonverbal Communication and Frontiers in Psychology.
Yuanwei Lyu a Ph.D. Candidate from the College of Communication and Information Sciences at the University of Alabama. She received her master’s degree in public relations from Ball State University. Her research is at the heart of emerging media effects on strategic communication. She studies media technology effects in the context of public relations, how the emerging media affect polarization primarily through emotions and sentiment on social media, and how strategic communication plans should be designed to address these issues. Her work has been featured in the International Journal of Advertising, Journal of Media Business Studies. Several research projects collaborated with Public Lab team members Dr. Hayes and Dr. Britt include “The cause effect: the impact of corporate social responsibility advertising on cause consumer engagement behavior after brand affiliation ceases,” presented at the 22nd IPRRC annual conference and published in the International Journal of Advertising, and a leading research project “A Computational Analysis of Nike’s Colin Kaepernick Campaign.” Both research projects utilized social media data scraping services (e.g., Crimson Hexagon), and computational textual analyses tools (e.g., LIWC, Leximancer) offered by the Public Opinion Lab, which showed the insightful value and sophisticated understanding of big data and social media or online behavior data in public relations field.