We have an important opportunity to participate in our International Communication Association (ICA) elections this fall. I appreciate being considered a candidate for ICA President. I share with ICA a sincere commitment to academic excellence, social significance, and global impact.
ICA, which I have attended regularly since a graduate student, has been the center of my professional community. I have served as chair of the Intercultural and Development Division (2003-05; vice-chair 2001-03), and was instrumental in its reshaping as Global Communication and Social Change. I am aligned with the Ethnicity and Race in Communication, Feminist Scholarship, Public Diplomacy, and Activism, Communication and Social Justice groups. I have worked with the Internationalization Committee (2011-14) and was recently elected ICA Fellow (2017). My approach as Editor of Communication Theory (2016-19) is emblematic of my dedication to excellence in communication scholarship, and to the values of global inclusion. For example, we devote space to book reviews of volumes not published in English, and developed a recent special issue on Latin America, with another planned on the Global South. My engagement with ICA promotes the contemporary relevance of communication scholarship, supports ethical practices, and builds global diversity.
Promoting Contemporary Relevance of Communication Scholarship
Communication continues to establish its distinct identity as an academic field, incorporating diversity in theories, methods, and perspectives. Our field has shifted over the course of my own professional trajectory, evidenced by the change in scholarly foci between the 1983 Journal of Communication’s Ferment in the Field and the recent 2018 special issue on contemporary expertise. We need to leverage our strength as a growing field with an inclusive academic approach that stays relevant to changing social and political practices.
Change in our field is evident in the increasing number of divisions and interest groups within ICA (10 new groups in the last 10 years). Balancing our interest in diversity with our recognition of core foundational approaches can be a difficult tension to navigate, but is nonetheless worth supporting as we continue to build our intellectual depth and public significance. I envision strengthening our conference planning by increasing opportunities for divisions, interest groups, and scholars to propose collaborative events.
We need to work to make our communication scholarship matter beyond the academy, recognizing excellence as well as promoting relevance. Partnerships with groups able to serve as resources for training (such as Op-ed writing) and translation could strengthen our ability as scholars to contribute to multiple venues, magnifying our voices in public discourse.
Supporting Ethical Approaches to Collaboration in our Association
Our association works best when we create supportive professional climates within our community, and in our collaborations with other organizational partners. As scholars, we understand the importance of ethical approaches to our research, teaching, and graduate training, particularly given critical feminist concerns. As members of the ICA community, we need to recognize the important practices proposed through our Ethics Task Force, working to support respectful and compassionate collaborations that benefit scholars and students, as well as connect faculty across topics and territories.
By considering how best to situate our conference events within the communities that host us, we can further establish practices of sustainability and respect. I support creating more opportunities to engage the people and places, and not just the digital spaces, of our conference experience. Many of us center ourselves in air-conditioned rooms for the conference duration, but we could do more to promote local connections and sustainable practices. As an illustration, I initiated a ritual with our Global Communication and Social Change division, inviting local NGOs to have dinner and discuss their work. Partnering more explicitly with organizations in host communities to learn from their experiences could help us engage beyond the structured walls and digital screens that often characterize our meetings. Conference planning with our local host committee for our 2020 conference in the Gold Coast, Australia, for instance, may enable us to connect with indigenous communities.
Building Global Diversity in our Practice
ICA has been building its international character for many years, and while much has been accomplished, there is more work to be done. Recognizing “global” as more than a passive landscape, we need to articulate clear and respectful ways to pursue strategic global practices.
Building diversity reinforces the perspective and value of our scholarship, and positioning global as a key dimension strengthens our association. The challenges of particular citizenships and presented identities need to be considered explicitly in site selection as well as planning for ICA events. Respecting the diversity of our membership means anticipating visa challenges as well as discriminatory practices. Planning the schedules of conferences also should take into account competing calendars of scholars in different regions, as well as those in other professional communities.
Our best global connections can be strengthened through fostering alliances with existing regional organizations. Toward this goal, I strongly support ICA contributions toward regional conferences, as well as strategic collaborations with other professional associations, such as IAMCR, AUSACE, CCA, ALAIC, Nordicom, ECREA, AOIR, INTERCOM, LUSOCOM, among others.
At the U of Texas at Austin, I serve as Associate Dean of Faculty Advancement and Strategic Initiatives for the Moody College of Communication, with a home base in Media Studies. Previously I have been Director of our Communication and Leadership degree, Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and Chair of the Global Studies Bridging Disciplines Program. Between my doctorate (1991, ASC, University of Pennsylvania) and U of Texas at Austin, I worked at the Chinese U of Hong Kong and the Pew Charitable Trusts. I also have professional and research experience in East Asia and Northern Europe.
My scholarship focuses on global and development communication, with attention to media studies and the Middle East. Critical inquiry, through political economy and feminist perspectives, informs my research. I see my research trajectory as engaging a critical and collaborative project that contributes to global social justice.
I look forward to applying my expertise toward promoting ICA’s contemporary relevance, continued ethical practices, and enhanced global diversity as your next President. I hope I am given the chance to do so.
For more information, please refer to: http://rtf.utexas.edu/faculty/karin-wilkins