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SCRIPS Grant Funding Supports Innovative Research at CCI

The Research and Innovation Center (RIC) supports College of Communication and Information (CCI) scholarship by offering services to aid researchers throughout the research process, with a particular focus on helping compete for and win grants. This year, the center introduced the Summer CCI Research and Innovation Projects Support (SCRIPS) program. This competitive program provides CCI funding to awardees.  

SCRIPS grants promote broad participation from the CCI research community. Tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenure track faculty can submit a proposal and CCI staff can also team up with faculty for project proposals, said Suzie Allard, director of RIC and Chancellor’s Professor in the School of Information Sciences. The SCRIPS program provides CCI with the ability to support innovative projects that go beyond the realm of typical research, and that address the goals of the college and university to support researchers whose work is making Tennessee and the world a better place.

“With the innovation focus we can support our researchers’ work that explores new perspectives and opens new pathways. The purpose of SCRIPS is to support really cool ideas and help researchers have the means to get it done. The pool of applicants was strong and we worked to provide awards to all researchers who brought forward great ideas,” Allard said.

SCRIPS funds can be used to purchase equipment, pay for incentives, and most importantly, pay students to work on the projects.

“A lot of this is funding students to work with faculty and that’s huge because they’re having a research and innovation experience they may not otherwise get,” Allard said, noting this is just one of many initiatives RIC will be rolling out to support CCI’s mission and vision. “The dean is very excited about finding ways to support research of all kinds and looking at new ways to innovate, so this is a first step.”

Here is a round-up of all the SCRIPS projects that were awarded funds in summer 2022:


Member validation: Memorable message effects on newcomer social integration and organizational socialization – School of Communication Studies Professor Joan Rensch, Comm Studies Associate Professor Emily Paskewitz, PhD student Tori Bertram

Organizational socialization is when newcomers to organizations become fully contributing members of that organization—a process that can be challenging for both newcomers and the organization. This team is studying that process, and the resulting data will be used for Bertram’s dissertation, which addresses the roles of memorable messages and a new construct, member validation, in the organizational socialization process.

“We are working on a large data collection to develop new measures and to test theoretically-based hypotheses for projects on the effects of individual difference and relational communication variables on organizational socialization outcomes,” Rentsch said. 

Rentsh said quantitative data are rarely collected by organizational socialization researchers and that this research will address a gap in the literature by developing and evaluating new measures of key variables to be presented in a survey with rigorous counterbalancing features.  The SCRIPS funding is being used to develop technology required for the data collection.  


Voices at the Table: Hispanics in the newsroom and the effect their roles played in media coverage of the Latin community – School of Journalism & Electronic Media (JEM) Assistant Professor of Practice Michael Martinez

“I embarked on a project to record oral histories of Hispanic journalists, establish a repository here at the University of Tennessee and develop this program of research and publication,” Martinez said.

He said that part of the purpose of this project is to explore the idea set forth by the News Leaders Association that diverse newsrooms can better cover communities in the United States. The association conducts an annual employment census that has shown racial diversity in newsrooms has not kept pace with the diversity in communities those Unewsrooms cover. 

The SCRIPS funding provided equipment to be used in conducting these oral histories and to set up a website to make this information available to the public.


Orange in Black & White – JEM Professor Rob Heller

Heller is creating a collection of 25 years of UT football photographs he’s shot and converting them into black and white for an exhibition.

“I have an archive of powerful color images that tell the story of this athletic event in a unique way. By converting some of my best photographs into black and white, I hope to present them in a new light,” he said. “I want to show an audience a different way of viewing college football that can open their eyes to the possibilities of seeing the world in a different light.”

He used his grant funds to purchase printing paper and framing materials for the photographs.


Involving Students in a Career Development Needs Analysis – Communication Studies Associate Professor John Haas, CCI Director of Career Development Devan Lane

Haas and Lane are gathering information from students themselves to learn more about their needs in regards to career development resources.

“It is important for me as the director of a new student-facing program that student voices inform the direction of the Career Development Office,” Lane said.

Funds from the grant will go towards paying undergraduate students to participate in the data gathering and research. One student working on the project is Comm Studies student Maggie Collins, who is also minoring in ADPR. 

“I decided to work on this project because I have always had some uncertainty about what I wanted to do once I graduate. This project has helped me understand that I am not alone in this, and hopefully, will help other students achieve their career goals,” Collins said.


A Study of the Ownership of Digital Music – School of Information Sciences (SIS) Associate Professor Xiaohua “Awa” Zhu


Zhu is exploring how the digital ownership of music is perceived in the modern era of new ways to consume media, and how norms of “owning” music have changed over time. She has been invited by Cambridge University Press to publish a book on the topic, so she is using her grant funding to conduct surveys and collect data for the book.

“Media content providers are finally relieved now that most consumers are embracing the access model of media consumption, especially with online music subscriptions. With all the convenience of streaming, though, does it matter if we still own a copy of the media content, or is it okay to let go of all the personal property rights we used to have that are associated with CDs, DVDs, and print books? Have the perceptions of ownership changed over time? Is the concept of ownership becoming obsolete in the digital age? More deeply, how do our norms change over time, and how much of the change is due to the influence of successful business models? These are the questions I’ve been asking in the past few years,” she said.


Public Displaced Dissent on Twitter – Comm Studies Associate Professor Emily Paskewitz, CCI PhD student Mark Willoughby


This research is building on Willoughby’s interest in organizational dissent and Paskewitz said they plan on sharing it through conferences and publications with the hope it will be a launch pad for Willoughby’s dissertation.

“We know a lot about employee dissent within an organization – people can go to their supervisor, their coworkers, and external supporters. However, with the advent of social media, we have a new form of dissent: public dissent. Public dissent is the expression of dissent on a public forum, often via computer mediated communication,” Paskewitz said.

In particular, they’re focusing on the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and a coinciding hashtag #NotNCAAProperty tweeted by three players who wanted to be able to monetize their own names through advertising. Their research is a look into 20,000 tweets with the hashtag that occurred between March 17-April 1, 2021.

They are using their research funds to pay four undergraduate or graduate students to assist with the coding of the tweets.


Open Education Resources (OER) Textbook – Tombras School of Advertising and Public Relations (ADPR) Assistant Professor of Practice Joe Stabb


Stabb is creating a new, open-source textbook about writing skills for the Tombras School that can be shared beyond UT. 

“I chose this project because there is a need to have affordable and accessible materials for students. Writing is a key skill in the field of public relations and there are no current OER resources for teaching strategic and effective writing skills,” Stabb said. 


Artificial Intelligence (AI), Music Composition, & Mindfulness: A Comparative Exploration – SIS Assistant Professor of Practice Joy Marie Doan

Doan’s research will dive into the rise of using AI for music composition and whether such machine-learned music can evoke similar or the same characteristics as thoroughly composed music.

“The question of whether humans can, and will, be replaced by robotics is best left to the narratives of science fiction. However, output analysis of creative works developed by AI deserve further analysis,” Doan said.

She said this project is the first step of a larger study and dissemination on the impact of AI music composition on human receptivity. Funds from the grant allowed her to purchase a license for Finale Music Notation Software and a three-month subscription to AIVA Pro Annually software to conduct her research.


The Influence of Affective Polarization and Media Trust on the Spread of Conspiracy Theories: A Cross-Cultural Analysis – JEM Assistant Professor Mustafa Oz

Oz is taking a cross-cultural look at how people today often turn to news sources outside of mainstream media, such as social media, for information. He will be gathering information about people’s perceptions of mainstream media and social media in the United States and Turkey.

We are in the midst of a crisis of online misinformation and conspiracy theories. Online misinformation threatens international peace, democratic decision-making, and public health. Therefore, it is crucial to study this issue. Moreover, not many studies have examined these phenomena in cross-cultural settings,” Oz said. “Even though polarization and distrust of mainstream media might be seen in any country, the causes and impacts of these two phenomena might not be the same in the spread of conspiracy theories.”

Oz is using the SCRIPS grant to fund a survey and a survey administrator to gather data from both countries.

Preparing Pioneers for Student Success and Resolve SIS Director of Undergraduate Studies and Associate Professor of Practice Carolyn Hank and CCI Center for Undergraduate Programs and Advising Academic Advisor Bee Clevenger

Hank and Clevenger are conducting an extensive literature review to explore issues first-generation students (students whose parents or guardians did not achieve a four-year degree) face that causes them to be less likely to graduate. They are also pilot testing instrumentation to identify first-gen students as well as first-gen staff and faculty. 

Because first-gen students often feel like outsiders in academia, this research will look at retention models that can be deployed at CCI, as well as ways to further involve first-gen students in both social and academic endeavors.

Funds from the grant were used to pay undergraduate students to work on this project, with a specific goal of students presenting their research at local symposia or exhibitions. Hank and Clevenger also hope this work will extend into further research on the topic.

Brand agency and consumer-citizen duality to fill attitude-behavior gaps in responsible consumption for fashion – Tombras School Associate Professor Moonhee Cho


Cho is studying how today’s consumers often perceive themselves as citizens by exercising social responsibility in choosing what brands and companies they will support through their purchasing decisions. 

“Young consumers, such as Generation Z or Millennials, are so-called value-driven consumers who exert their consumption power to support ethical companies and actively embrace social values in their daily lives. However, when it comes to fashion consumption, few studies have demonstrated significant links between consumers’ awareness of sustainability issues in the fashion industry and behavioral changes,” Cho stated.

Cho plans to apply the concept of brand agency to the context of sustainability in fashion, and its effect on consumer behavior. Grant funding will be used for data collection, mainly to recruit and incentivize study participants.