Moody College of Communication

Photo Credit: Jeb Milling | Daily Texan Staff

The relaunched Center for Media Engagement hopes to learn how audiences interact with media in fields outside journalism, center director Talia Stroud said.  

The Moody College of Communication announced last Monday that the Center for Media Engagement, a research initiative that studies media and audience engagement, will succeed the Engaging News Project, which launched in 2012. Stroud said she hopes the center will broaden its research beyond the news media and look at other fields such as advertising and health care. 

“Our hope is that we can think about media engagement in all the places that media engagement could happen,” Stroud said. “Engagement means working with your audiences and thinking about how you’re serving them in different ways.”

Stroud said she sees media engagement as a necessary tool in today’s changing media environment, where news organizations still need to learn the best ways to engage with audiences. 

“There’s so much work that needs to be done to find out what the best practices are,” Stroud said. “They’re going to change over time — what works this year might not work two years from now. There’s a tremendous need for organizations like this that can help news organizations navigate these new techniques and what works and what doesn’t.” 

Communication studies junior Alex Purcell, an undergraduate research assistant for the center, said she looks forward to researching new technology.

“If we’re going to promote being progressive on campus, we should definitely be reading the news and keeping up with what’s going on,” Purcell said. “I’m also interested in how people get the news, especially in this era of fake news.”

Undergraduate research assistant Brooke Decker said her knowledge of news engagement has helped her explain to those around her how to interpret news.

“I think it’s your civic duty to inform yourself and others around you and be really mindful of what news sources you’re seeking out,” journalism junior Decker said. “I think it’s very crucial for everybody to engage with news whether you’re a journalist or not.” 

Decker said she hopes the relaunch will cause more people to be aware of the center and its research.

Research conducted by the center will remain relevant for years to come, Stroud said. 

“Relaunching as the Center for Media Engagement demonstrates that this is an established entity and that it has some long-term plans,” Stroud said.

Students play “The Calm Before” at a release party hosted by The Denius-Sams Gaming Academy in the Moody College of Communication. “The Calm Before”, a first-person shooter computer game, was created by a team of 20 video game students from across the country.
Photo Credit: Chris Foxx | Daily Texan Staff

The one-year-old Denius-Sams Gaming Academy in the Moody College of Communication released its first video game Friday.

The academy, composed of 20 video game students from across the country, hosted a release party during which attendees could play the game “The Calm Before.” The game took nearly seven months to develop, according to academy participant Zachary Lubell.

“The Calm Before” is a first-person shooter computer game inspired by the games “The Legend of Zelda” and “Deus Ex,” according to the game’s website. Players must fight beasts and solve puzzles to save an island from an impending storm. 

Academy students pose with Roderick Hart, dean of the Moody College of Communication. Chris Foxx | The Daily Texan

The academy focuses on teaching leadership and management skills within the video game industry because the participants already understand the basics of development, according to program coordinator Joshua Howard.

“The participants experienced going through the process of concept and pre-production green light, presenting to potential clients or a board of directors, then journeying though the different phases of game production, all while building an actual product for release,” Howard said. 

Howard said graduates of the academy will have an advantage over video game developers who follow traditional career paths.

“Having the simulation of a working studio allows us to pull the participants out of difficult situations as they are happening [and] then examine the circumstances, repercussions and solutions from both the inside out to see what they can learn from it,” Howard said. “The results leads to graduates of the program having knowledge and experiences that it would take years to develop in a traditional career path.”

Lubell said presenting the game in March at the Game Developers Conference, the largest event for video game developers, proved to be the toughest challenge in the development process.

“We had to make some really tough decisions in that very short window to prepare and to polish and to do all sorts of things that we would not have traditionally done during the middle of development just to prepare for [Game Developers Conference],” Lubell said.

A student plays "The Calm Before." Chris Foxx | The Daily Texan

Gerard Manzanares, an employee at Cloud Imperium Games, said “The Calm Before” has some impressive qualities but could use additional features that would help improve its overall quality.

“The art style and environment is great, and there was no lag at all,” Manzanares said. “[The game] has a good basis but needs something more like a compass, or objective marker, or any type of direction.”

“The Calm Before” is free to download on the game’s website,

Editor's Note: Jan Ross Piedad, the Moody College of Communication candidate, has written the following column on a topic of the her choosing relating to her campaign. She agreed to forgo print space.

In a recent job interview, I was asked to describe myself in three words. At the time, it felt like a moment of cosmic karma. I had asked the same confusing, oddly personal query to my fellow colleagues about a year ago while working at the University Interscholastic League, featuring students assistants across all departments and backgrounds. Thoughtful expressions and a brainstorming session tended to follow, but I didn’t have the same luxury when put on the spot this time. Here’s where I eventually arrived: hardworking, flexible and visionary.

This season of campus-wide elections, I am on the ballot to represent the Moody College of Communication on the Texas Student Media Board of Operation Trustees and it is my heartfelt belief that the same qualities will embolden success for the position. As a third-year journalism major, student life isn’t just about assessments and the next student organization meeting, there’s stories and group projects too. It’s a personal truth that I work much harder and better when the effort is for a group, when the product is a direct reflection of more than just me.

Whether it stands for three people, five TSM properties, all of the University and beyond, I will commit to benefit the many. My flexibility in what I am able to do as a multimedia journalist, as well what I am willing to do as a leader, are assets to the responsibility of representing the diverse departments of the Moody College. Visionary is less of a prophecy but more of a purpose. Last summer, I was the sole student representing the University at the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change, a three week seminar with students, professors and media professionals belonging to all parts of the world. From the experience, I grew to appreciate the gift of education and an understanding for media literacy: the practice of analyzing, evaluating and creating messages through an assortment of mediums for a critical and culturally competent outcome. Media literacy is lifelong discipline and I believe the practice is where the future of these media entities can be.

My greatest connections to TSM are my two semesters on The Daily Texan editorial staff and three years volunteering for Texas Student Television. Now working primarily on social media for Good Morning Texas, I see the potential we have to connect as a community. There’s a need to recognize that yes, we do have a radio station, TV studio and satirical publication working right here on campus. And you can join as well. Promotional efforts are one a few things I will work to address during my term, along with greater interconnectedness between the five entities and appeals for updated equipment. Because yes, I work with those cameras, soundboards and computers too.

Service is at the center of my values and it is my deepest hope that I could be of help to a greater cause. In the past few years, I have been involved with a variety non-profit organizations for a range of purposes, from college scholarships to child advocacy to hosting globally-focused events. One similarity between all these efforts is effective communication, and everyone needs a little more of that in our lives. The special thing about TSM properties is the long-standing tradition of student expression across print, radio and television, documenting the UT Austin community daily. It is important to uphold this legacy to create a more inclusive, creative campus through TSM properties: The Texas Travesty, Cactus Yearbook, KVRX, Texas Student Television, and The Daily Texan.

I am saddened by the passing of Richard Finnell, mentor, friend*, possessor of grizzled wisdom, proponent of no bullshit, long caretaker of, adviser to and tireless advocate for The Daily Texan.

Richard didn't teach me how to write a lede, or how to edit a news story, but I learned more from him about the ineffable qualities that make a good journalist than from pretty much anyone else I ever worked with in the field. He encouraged me to run for editor of the Texan. He encouraged me, once editor, to pick my battles and to fight like hell to win them. He encouraged me not to fear authority, but to always conspire against it.

When last I spoke to Richard, in the late summer of 2009, he was on the verge of retiring from Texas Student Media, a place that he somehow seemed to love just about as much as it infuriated him. Richard saw and railed against the mismanagement that turned the once profitable Texan into a shadow of its former self. In 2009 he aptly described TSM as “absurd and tragic.”

As the Moody College of Communication takes the lead in saving TSM from itself, I do hope they honor Richard's legacy by granting the Texan the autonomy it has so long deserved. Nothing would be a better tribute to Richard than to resolve the bureaucratic dysfunction that brought him such angst.

*I am using “friend” a bit ironically here because one of the last emails I ever received from Richard was back in August of 2009 and titled “Facebook signups." That email read, in full: “There has been a flood of people signing up to be my ‘friend’ on Facebook. Do you know why this flurry has occurred right now?” For Richard, there always had to be a motive.

— A.J. Bauer, Daily Texan Editor, 2005-2006

TSM Board President Mary Dunn speaks at the TSM board meeting Friday afternoon in the Belo Center for New Media. This is the first time the organization will not have to dip into its reserves since 2007.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

For the first time since 2007, Texas Student Media (TSM), now under the domain of the Moody College of Communication, will not have to pull from its reserves at the end of the fiscal year. 

TSM, which manages five student-produced media properties — Cactus Yearbook, Texas Travesty, Texas Student TV, KVRX 91.7 FM and The Daily Texan — has been under severe financial constraints for the last several years.  

In a TSM Board meeting Friday, director Gerald Johnson said TSM will receive an allocation of up to $250,000 annually from the office of President William Powers Jr. to help cover anticipated deficits in the next three years. The allocation, which Johnson called a “budget mitigator,” will come at the end of the fiscal year. 

“The collective financial assistance that we’re being given really stops the organization from having to continually pull from our reserves at the rate we’ve previously had to do every year,” TSM Board President Mary Dunn said. “It allows us to focus more on innovation and creating a better educational experience rather than focusing on stopping the financial bleed that was potentially going to kill the organization.”  

Dunn said TSM’s reserves, or savings, are currently sitting at under $200,000. If TSM is under budget at the end of the fiscal year, then the organization can pull from the budget mitigator allocation. In recent years, TSM has had to withdraw close to $200,000 annually from its reserves. 

“It’s definitely not all solved,” Dunn said. “This is the very crucial first step, and it’s a significant first step in the right direction. So going forward, it’s imperative that we continue to figure out the most effective and efficient way of spending money and making money.” 

Johnson also announced utility costs for the William Randolph Hearst building, which houses TSM, are now covered by the Moody College. This will save TSM an estimated $70,000 annually.

“This is fantastic news,” Dunn said. “This is exactly the kind of information we’ve been hoping and begging for.” 

Additionally, in a few years, TSM will begin receiving 4.5 percent interest from a $1 million endowment earmarked by Moody dean Roderick Hart, according to Johnson. The endowment is part of a $50 million donation to the college from the Moody Foundation.

“Having that endowment creates a vehicle for which other people can contribute, and there’s an establishment down the road that, if we find other donors, we can ask them to enhance the endowment,” Johnson said. “And over time, it could potentially grow to the point where it’s providing a substantial portion of the support we need.”

Arjun Mocherla, vice president of the TSM Board, said the $1 million endowment and financial support from the Office of the President could be the end of TSM’s financial woes.

“I think this is a good year for TSM,” Mocherla said. “It pretty much signifies the beginning of upward momentum for Texas Student Media.”

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

More than a year after Texas Student Media moved under the domain of the Moody College of Communication, the organization is projected to profit in its first quarter.

TSM, which manages five student-produced media properties — Cactus Yearbook, Texas Travesty, Texas Student TV, KVRX 91.7 FM and The Daily Texan — has been under severe financial constraints for the last several years.

In a TSM board meeting Friday, director Gerald Johnson said TSM will receive an allocation of up to $250,000 annually from President William Powers, Jr.'s office to help cover anticipated budget deficits in the next three years.

Johnson also announced that utility costs for the William Randolph Hearst building, which houses TSM, are now covered by the Moody College. This will save Texas Student Media an estimated $70,000 annually.

“This is fantastic news,” board president Mary Dunn said. “This is exactly the kind of information we’ve been hoping and begging for.”

Additionally, TSM will eventually begin receiving 4.5 percent interest from $1 million endowment earmarked by Moody dean Roderick Hart. The endowment is part of a $50 million donation to the college from the Moody Foundation.

“Having that endowment creates a vehicle for which other people can contribute, and there’s an establishment down the road, that if we find other donors, we can ask them to enhance the endowment,” Johnson said. “And over time, it could potentially grow to the point where it’s providing a substantial portion of the support we need.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Rosales and Partners

Last month, the Moody College of Communication announced the designs for a new bridge to connect the CMA, CMB and the Belo Center for New Media. The costs of the bridge will be paid by a portion of an endowment of $50 million provided by the Moody Foundation last year. This endowment is the largest given to a public university for the study of communication in the nation. In addition to helping pay for the bridge, it will also establish a fund for departmental development ideas, as well as help pay for graduate student recruitment and retention, and department endowments.

While I am not a student of the college and will have graduated by the completion of the bridge next fall, I believe the connecting of the three communication buildings is an excellent idea.

During the cold winter months and blazing hot summer months, standing at the red light waiting to cross Dean Keeton isn’t fun, but it is necessary. Being able to simply cross a bridge above street level makes for a safer and faster alternative. Pedestrians walking or bicycling are normally safe, but being hit by a vehicle does occur around our campus. 

I’ve looked at the location that the bridge will span, and it almost appears the designers of the Belo Center planned for this bridge from its inception. The buildings align perfectly, and are high enough for traffic to pass through.

Some have argued the bridge will not be visually appealing, but in all honesty, nearly any bridge will look more appealing than the one down the road near Dean Keeton and Speedway currently connecting two engineering buildings. I do agree, however, that an enclosed walkway similar to the one connecting CMA and CMB would better suit this bridge, and be a more visually appealing design than the open-air design currently slated.

At this point, campus is surrounded on all sides, leaving little room for additional development. Additionally, buildings on campus are already closely concentrated. There simply is very little room for new construction of any sort, and money is constantly a topic of discussion.

Regardless, with the completion of the new bridge, students will have a safer, quicker and more efficient route between the communications buildings. Unfortunately, the only students who will really benefit from this construction are communication students. Perhaps there is another place on campus that can be connected via bridge to make crossing the street safer and quicker. While it may be impossible, I would love to see a bridge crossing the Drag for students coming from West Campus.

Daywalt is a government senior from Copperas Cove. 

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Rosales and Partners

For Roderick Hart, dean of the Moody College of Communication, the sky bridge that will connect the Belo Center for New Media to the Jones Communication Center will serve both functional and symbolic purposes. 

The funding for the pedestrian bridge came as part of the Moody Foundation of Galveston’s $50 million donation to the college in October 2013, when the college became its namesake. Slated for completion by December 2015, the bridge will stretch across Dean Keeton Street, connecting the second floor of the Belo Center to the fourth floor of Communication Buildings A and B. Hart said the structure will serve as a gateway to the campus and as a visual connector for the college.

“The bridge has always been important to me,” Hart said. “My main concern was to kind of pull the College of Communication back together physically and visually.”

Before the Belo Center opened in November 2012, the college’s faculty shared cramped quarters in the two Jones Communication Center buildings, known as the CMA and CMB. Since the college expanded across Dean Keeton Street — creating a physical division — Hart said his goal has been to maintain the collegial bond between the college’s various departments.

“My concern was that we would lose that sense of connection with one another,” Hart said. “The departments have always gotten along really well.”

Of the $50 million donated by the Moody Foundation, $3 million is going toward construction of the sky bridge and other renovations.

The $3 million budget was a challenge for both Hart and bridge architect Miguel Rosales, who was selected by the Faculty Building Advisory Committee to design the structure.

“I frankly didn’t think we could get something this beautiful for that amount of money, so I’m delighted,” Hart said. “That’s the great value of having someone like Miguel, who can make something look quite elegant and grand yet not have it cost an excessive amount of money.”

Rosales, based in Boston, said the bridge is his first project located in Austin. A main feature of the bridge is its towering center columns, which will serve as the primary support for the walkway.

“I had to try to work within the budget, and I did my best to balance the engineering and aesthetic concerns with the cost,” Rosales said. “I think we achieved a good balance in designing something the school can afford, but, in the same way, something that’s going to be an exciting structure that the students will like to see and cross.”

In August, Hart announced that he will resign from his post in May 2015 after a decade as dean. Hart said securing funding for the sky bridge, along with the construction of the Belo Center, have been high points of his tenure as dean. Hart’s push for funding took nearly seven years to come to fruition. The sky bridge idea bloomed in 2007, when Hart secured funding for the Belo Center, and the Board of Regents approved the project.

“The bridge has always been something that’s been in the back of my head, and we would’ve built it if we had had an extra $3 million when we built Belo,” Hart said.

Severine Halls, senior project manager in UT System’s Office of Facilities Planning & Construction, said the original building plans incorporated the sky bridge.

“We completed design for the Belo Center and the KUT facility with the engineering necessary to ensure that if the dean was successful in securing funding, we knew exactly where the bridge would connect the two complexes of buildings as was his original intent,” Halls said.

It took several months for Hart to negotiate the Moody Foundation donation, beginning with a February 2013 conversation over dinner with foundation trustee Ross Moody. The college received the funds for the bridge, scholarships and renovations to the Jones Communication Center.

Completed in 1972, the Jones Communication Center is marked by the prominent cement grid design of CMA. Nearly 40 years later, the Belo Center architects aimed to construct a complementary structure, according to architecture professor Larry Speck.

“In the design of the new building, they did a good job of having some dialogue back with the old one but not feeling that they had to slavishly replicate something from before,” Speck said. “Dean Keeton [Street] is a big street, and it’s kind of a divider, but I think the bridge will be helpful in knitting the two buildings together both functionally and visually.”

Speck said the bridge might help alleviate both vehicular and pedestrian traffic at Dean Keeton Street and Guadalupe, as well as Dean Keeton Street and Whitis Avenue, two of the busiest intersections on campus.

“Hart would like to make it as easy and convenient as possible for people within those two separate complexes to interact with each other, and he’s smart to do that,” Speck said.

Bridge construction will result in detours for both drivers and pedestrians on Dean Keeton Street. For street closures, Christopher Johnson, development assistance center manager for the City of Austin, said the city requires project engineers to provide a detailed traffic control plan that is then reviewed by the Texas Department of Transportation.

“Obviously, they’d want to minimize the construction to either as few lanes or as short a time as possible,” Johnson said. “But for something like that, there’s no way around it. You cannot safely build something like this and still have a road functioning.”

With a semester left as dean and a year until the bridge is to be completed, Hart said he looks forward to using the bridge as a member of the faculty.

“I will love walking across it and looking at it, even though I won’t be the dean at that time,” Hart said.

Editor's note: This article has been updated from its original version. 

Advertising assistant professor Kate Pounders’ research was recently published in an August online issue of the “Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.”
Photo Credit: Cristina Fernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Clothing stores that hire similar-looking employees may alienate customers, according to a study conducted by professors from the Moody College of Communication.

Advertising faculty — assistant professor Kate Pounders, associate professor Angeline Close and Barry Babin, a Louisiana Tech University professor — published their research on an August online issue of the “Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.”

According to Pounders, clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch’s specific “look policy” initially inspired the research. She and her team wondered if this had a positive or negative impact on their sales and if their customers felt comfortable when visiting their stores.

“We found that this is not a good strategy,” Pounders said. “If customers see that they don’t fit, they feel uncomfortable, and there’s not a lot of purchase attention.”

However, Babin said this look policy has both positive and negative effects. He said, if the service provider, such as the store or restaurant, seemed as if it was forcing people to look a certain way, they would have bad feedback, but, if the employees were genuine and looked happy altogether, they would have positive feedback.

“A lot of different places have some policies that requires their employees to have a certain look,” Pounders said. “Even store headquarters ask for mug shots of prospective employees to see if they are a good fit.”

Despite having the research based on Abercrombie & Fitch, Pounders said they also found there were other companies following this look-policy, such as some airlines and restaurants.

Researchers found there should be a certain awareness to the practice of aesthetic labor, which is when workers are employed by a company for their appearance. Pounders said the appearance stores want includes not only clothing style, but also physical features such as height, hair and eye color.

“We found that the policy was created to reinforce a brand,” Pounders said. “However, stores such as Abercrombie & Fitch are not doing very well on the market.”

Pounders said the research is the first piece of marketing literature, and the researchers have been recently contacted by MarketWatch. 

Babin said the team discovered consumers tend to compare themselves to employees, and, if they cannot relate to them, they start to feel inferior.

“I hope this research would get service providers thinking on the issue because some people can see the look policy as discrimination,” Babin said.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of Q-and-A’s with the deans of the University’s 18 schools and colleges. Roderick Hart has served as the dean of the College of Communication, recently rechristened the Moody College of Communication following a large donation from the Moody Foundation of Galveston, since 2005.


The Daily Texan: It was recently announced that you’ll be stepping down from the deanship at the end of the academic year. Could you tell us why?


Roderick Hart: I’ve been in the job 10 years, and I was an accidental dean. I agreed to do it for one year as an interim, and we had a national search, and we brought 10 people to campus and not all of them turned out to be what the University wanted, and so they put some polite pressure on me. So I eventually decided to do it because I thought, I’d been here for, at that time, 25 years, and I thought, well, I’ve been here. I know the culture, I know the student body, I know the state. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to be able to find someone to help us build a building. And we did. So it’s been a good 10 years, but I got into this business because I love teaching and writing, and it’s what I want to do. So I still want to teach; I still want to write. And I’ve kind of done everything I can do. We’ve got the building. We’ve named the college. We’ve got the ... endowment. It’s now time for someone else.


DT: How do you think that the communication school prepares journalism students for the workforce?


Hart: We’ve got a good number of them out there, and a great many of them have been very successful, so I guess I am pretty confident that we’ve done a good job, but one thing that we know is that the workforce is changing. So part of what the School of Journalism has done in the last couple years is to really revisit the curriculum — the journalism curriculum — and now they train people across platforms. We used to have magazines and newspapers and broadcast, and we still have some of that, but now pretty much any journalism student that graduates is going to have a range of skills that we didn’t have to do in the past, so I think they’re working hard to keep current, as you know, but the business keeps changing. The modalities change all the time, so we have to keep figuring out where things are going and try to get students there before that happens. But I think we’re still regarded as one of the very best programs in the country.


DT: How has the relationship between the Moody School and Texas Student Media (which oversees The Daily Texan) evolved over your tenure as dean?


Hart: I didn’t have to pay very much attention to it for the first eight-and-a-half years. Obviously very supportive ... A lot of our alums are products of Texas Student Media, and I would meet them at receptions, events across the country and they would always ask about [TSM], and in some ways, I wasn’t always up to date on what was happening ... I was approached by the Vice President for Student Affairs, and Charles Roeckle, assistant to the president, asked if I was willing to come to a meeting and would I be open to [taking it on]. The question was, “Can it be done, and could I get some help from the president during the transitional period?” So then I got to know a lot more about Texas Student Media than I ever had, particularly the financial procedures ... [If I had a time machine,] I would have started fundraising 40 years ago for Texas Student Media, because as time goes on and people become wealthier, they still talk about their days on the Texan or on the TV station, the radio station. They still talk about it even though they’re now 50, 60 years old, as they do about Plan II. But Plan II , they’ve been raising money all that time, and we have not ... Particularly in today’s media environment, you have to have multiple ways of advertising. The way it has been done in the past, it’s just not alone going to be enough, and that’s true of corporate journalism as well, so philanthropy has to be part of it. I think it should be.


DT: How will the health communications center collaborate with the med school?


Hart: I hope it will be an intimate connection. Our message is that AIDS in Africa is not going to be cured by medicine. It’s going to be cured by communication. Getting third world people to understand and embrace first world medicine, and that’s a cultural communication issue. You can’t get better unless you have the medication; you won’t take the medication unless you believe that it is culturally and intellectually acceptable...


DT: We heard a story on the radio the other day. It was talking about the changing environment of journalism employment and how it’s moving from a less stable environment to more freelance work. Do you have any advice for graduating students on how to adjust to this less secure employment environment?


Hart: All of that is true and not true at the same time. In all of human history, there have never been more job openings for people with professional communication skills. In all of human history. The difference is, in the past, most of the jobs would be headquartered in big buildings and big companies, like CBS or the Dallas Morning News or these large places that held large numbers of people. These days, however, it’s really important for people to understand that if they have a skill level, that there are more jobs than ever before in human history. It just means they have to think more creatively. So the question is really more of a finance question. Who will pay for the kind of information that journalists provide, which is tested, reliable and dependable evidence. And someone will pay. Figuring out how and when is the question. So I think there will always be jobs. I can’t imagine a field that has a greater upside ... It’s an exciting time, but it’s a little crazy too. Great time to be a student.