Two BYU Communications professors win prestigious awards from the School of Communications to support their research efforts
Professors Clark Callahan and Jessica Zurcher were recently selected as recipients of faculty awards from the School of Communications. Callahan has been selected as the David P. Forsyth Memorial Research Award recipient and Zurcher has been selected as a recipient of the Ruth S. Silver Award in Mass Media Ethics.
Clark Callahan | David P. Forsyth Memorial Research Award in Mass Communications
This award was established in memory of David P. Forsyth, chairman of the BYU School of Communications 1990–1995. The award recognizes and encourages faculty who have an exemplary record and an ongoing agenda in scholarly research and publication. Clark Callahan has been selected as the David P. Forsyth Memorial Research Award recipient for 2020–2023.
Callahan earned his Master of Arts at West Texas A&M and his doctorate at the University of Oklahoma. Callahan is a communications professor and the associate director for undergraduate studies in the School of Communications. Callahan has had work published in several journals, and he specializes in studying how minority cultures use social media to magnify their presence.
“I’m interested in how minority cultures use social media to take control and expand their identity,” said Callahan. “The people who speak the loudest usually have the biggest voice and are most listened to. With social media, minority cultures can carve out their own spaces for using their voice.”
One of the things Callahan is concerned about going forward is mentoring, researching and publishing with undergrad and graduate students. He hopes to use the reward to help include students in research.
He said, “It’s exciting to see students get involved in research, and the more we as faculty can publish with students in academic journals, the more they become engaged in research.”
Jessica Zurcher | Ruth S. Silver Fellowship in Mass Media Ethics
This award was established in memory of Ruth S. Silver, a long-time supporter of and advocate for the communications department. The purpose of the Silver Fellowship is to recognize and encourage faculty who have an exemplary record and an ongoing agenda in scholarly research and publication. The research and publication focuses on a broad spectrum of topics related to mass media ethics, including but not limited to moral values, press freedom and media responsibilities. This year, Jessica Zurcher was selected as the recipient of the Silver Fellowship for 2020-2021.
Zurcher earned her Master of Arts in mass communications from BYU and her doctorate from the University of Utah. Zurcher teaches courses in mass communications and her work has been published in several journals.
Zurcher came across an article in 2019 titled, “It is Time to Teach Safe Sexting” (published in the Journal of Adolescent Health) that concerned her and inspired her hopes for new research. As a children’s media scholar and advocate for regular and healthy conversations between parents and children, this article alarmed Zurcher.
“Admittedly, the article acknowledges a few of the harms of adolescent sexting participation, including an increased risk of cyberbullying victimization and participation in risky sexual behaviors,” said Zurcher. “Nonetheless, the research fails to outline literature that addresses individual harms of sexting — particularly those related to adolescent mental, physical and emotional health, as well as the roles parents can play in discussing sexting with adolescents.”
Zurcher believes it is incredibly important for parents to engage in healthy conversations about media with their children, including difficult topics such as adolescent pornography consumption, cyberbullying and sexting. She’s glad she’s had the opportunity to devote her time to studying these things. Zurcher is also grateful for the support she’s received from BYU throughout the years.
“BYU is my happy place. It’s the place I come to feel inspired and influence others for good, and I am grateful for the resources our school offers to help fulfill these goals,” said Zurcher. “I am also sincerely appreciative of Ruth S. Silver’s generosity and vision to support works that stand for moral and ethical education and actions.”