Last month, communication studies scholars were excited to gather from around the region for their first in-person Western States Communication Association (WSCA) annual convention since the COVID-19 pandemic began. They met up in Portland, Oregon, where CSU hosted a special reception for graduate students, faculty, and alumni one night to celebrate. 

Many of our faculty and graduate students attended WSCA and presented their research this year. 

Graduate student presentations 

Five Ph.D. students in Communication from CSU showcased their new work at WSCA last month. Kristen Herring gave a presentation at WSCA called “Novel Coronavirus Concerts: Co-Cultural Theorization Amid a Global Pandemic.”

Nancy Achiaa Frimpong “had a good time meeting new people and networking” at the conference. Her presentation, “Fellow Ghanaians: An Ideographic Analysis of President Akufo Addo’s National ‘Address to the Nation,’” analyzed the rhetoric of Ghana’s recent presidential speeches throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. She was pleasantly surprised by her experience: “I was particularly excited about how interactive my panel was.” 

Six Black women smile together around a table
Nancy Achiaa Frimpong (second to right) joins President of the WSCA Dr. Marnel Niles Goins (third to right), Arizona State University graduate student Sandra Wood (fourth to right), and others at WSCA.

Kristina Lee’s research focuses on secular rhetoric in the United States. Her presentation, “The Secular Cross: Defining Space in the Bladensburg Peace Cross Case,” examined a 2019 Supreme Court case that found that a 32-foot-tall Latin Cross used as a memorial on public land was not a violation of the First Amendment, overruling a lower court’s decision. “Western has always been one of my favorite conferences,” she said, “and it was great seeing old friends and getting the chance to meet new people face-to-face for the first time in nearly two years!” 

Two women and one man wear hats and jackets as they sit outside at a coffee shop
From left to right, graduate students Emeline Ojeda-Hecht, Mitch Combs, and Kiah Bennett visit a coffee shop called Stumptown, recommended to them by an MA in Communication Studies graduate who used to live in Portland.

Poster for HBO show "Euphoria"For Emeline Ojeda-Hecht, seeing the sights in Portland was a fun bonus to attending the conference. “I loved exploring the conference to learn about all the amazing projects my colleagues in the field have going on, and I loved exploring Portland,” she said. Ojeda-Hecht’s presentation, titled “The Institutional Discourse of Villains and Victims: White Hegemonic Masculinity Performed in HBO’s Euphoria,” took a close look at two of the hit TV show’s main characters, and how they come to represent both villains and victims under the pressure to conform to White hegemonic masculine norms. “It was an honor to share my work at WSCA,” she said. 

James O’Mara agreed that WSCA is a particularly “wonderful conference to attend… it is a much more intimate conference than the larger, national conferences.” Plus, O’Mara added, “Every year, WSCA hosts a sock hop, which is a great opportunity to meet scholars who attend the conference (dancing is also a lot of fun!).” O’Mara gave two separate presentations at WSCA. “Bringing the War Home—Echelon Front’s Antidote to Alienation” argued that the military veteran-run business consultant firm Echelon Front performs a post-9/11 therapy of masculinity, redirecting aggrievement and alienation towards neoliberal logics of personal responsibility and competition. “Sara Nelson’s Labor Leadership: A Perspectival Rhetoric of Solidarity” analyzed Association of Flight Attendants President Sara Nelson’s 2019 speech at an AFL-CIO dinner, whose call for a strike ultimately brought an end to the federal government shutdown at that time.

Faculty presentations 

CSU Communication Studies Department Chair and Professor Greg Dickinson helped to guide two panel discussions. He even made time to visit some of our alumni, including joining M.A. in Speech Communication alumna Carrie Fay Amaro (’04) for lunch at Pioneer Square’s food trucks in downtown Portland. 

A man and woman wearing jackets smile together in a downtown city square
Department Chair and Professor Greg Dickinson with M.A. alumna Carrie Fay Amaro.

Dickinson also partnered with Professor Eric Aoki for a presentation titled “The Haunting of the Cody Firearms Museum: Presence, Absence, and the New Modes of ‘How (Not) to See Guns.’” Separately, Aoki also participated in a panel on “Sustaining Scholarly Energy and Inquiry.”  

Associate Professor and Director of Public Speaking Thomas Dunn gave a presentation titled “Pink Triangles for the Defense: Public Memories of Homosexual Persecution in WWII War Crimes Trials.” Dunn also directs the Queer Memory Project of Northern Colorado, which was recently awarded the 2022 Carl A. Bimson Humanities Seminar Award from CSU’s College of Liberal Arts. 

About WSCA 

In addition to their annual convention, WSCA also represents scholars in the field of communication studies in the American West through the publication of two scholarly journals, Western Journal of Communication and Communication Reports. Learn more about WSCA and their upcoming conventions at their website,