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Candidate Statement for ICA Presidential Election: Katherine Sender

Posted By Katherine Sender (Cornell U), Tuesday, September 8, 2020

At this time of critical global challenges, there is not one ICA division or interest group that does not have something to contribute. This year alone we are experiencing catastrophic consequences of climate change; a global pandemic; an economic tailspin; the ongoing oppression and murder of Black, Brown, Indigenous, queer, and trans people; sexualized abuses of power; and deep anxieties about misinformation and our democratic processes. Universities face devastating budget cuts, adding job losses and hiring freezes to the growing scarcity of secure academic employment. Our members have much to contribute to making sense of, and making better, these urgencies. ICA has been my intellectual and professional community for more than twenty years, and I am heartened to see it flourish through the energies of its members and the commitments of its leadership. I would be honored to serve as president of our association. If elected, I would focus my efforts on furthering key initiatives related to engaging our discipline, engaging our membership, and supporting students and early-career colleagues. 

Engaging our Discipline 

Given the centrality of Communication and ICA’s intellectual vibrancy, there is great potential for our scholarship to become more consistently engaged within and beyond the academy. Encouragingly, our 2020 conference facilitated debates about the contribution of open science to methodologies across the discipline, and our journals are working towards open access models. Yet our research can contribute more consistently to a wide range of social issues. For example, how can we better share knowledge from large data sets to assist social media platform engineers who are struggling to manage misinformation worldwide? When the World Health Organization creates a new field in “infodemiology,” how might our scholars engage them in communicating science, risk, and health information? As COVID-19 has forced us to rethink work processes and spaces, how can organizational communication help to inform new practices? Building on my own experience as a filmmaker and colleagues’ public intellectual labors, I would explore how ICA can support members in further engaging beyond our academic cultures to work towards sustainable ways of living, healthy and nurturing communities, more just societies, and vibrant democratic processes. 

Engaging our membership

Based on recent discussions with committee chairs for students and early career scholars, sustainability, internationalization, and conferences, I would build on the momentum that has been growing in recent years. Specifically, in my presidency I would focus on the following: 

Internationalization, inclusion, diversity, equity, and access

With almost 50 per cent of our members coming from countries outside the US, ICA is working towards becoming the international association it has long claimed to be. I would support the Membership and Internationalization Committee’s efforts to challenge the dominance of American and northern European academic norms, including through the new program that selects international liaison members for all divisions and interest groups. 

I was delighted to see that this year the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) task force became a standing committee, confirming its ongoing role in fostering meaningful changes in ICA’s culture and representation. ICA has also championed gender and sexual diversity in scholarship and membership, including in the Feminist Scholarship Division and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Interest Group. I would work with IDEA and the Professional Standards Committee to address cases of racialized, sexualized, and gendered abuses of power in our academic settings. 

Annual conferences

The COVID-19 pandemic forced ICA into an experiment in virtual conferencing. The Sustainability Committee and Conferences Task Force had already been charged to consider the environmental impacts of the annual conference. Virtual conferences are more sustainable and reduce some barriers to access, including mobility, cost, and visa restrictions, but reintroduce others, such as constraining the informal networking opportunities of the in-person conference. As we consider for future conferences the gains of hybrid in-person/online models, we need to develop innovative means of virtual social contact to safeguard the crucial place ICA’s conferences have in advancements in members’ scholarship and career progression. I would draw on the expertise of our members in human-computer interaction, among other research areas, to envision a more socially serendipitous virtual conference experience. 

Engaging our students and early career colleagues

ICA has the resources to explore engaged communication training in an increasingly challenging job market. I would like to encourage ways that our ICA fellows could be more active in mentoring junior colleagues. We can work to support efforts already underway to cultivate peer networks to share skills across institutions and countries. We can also value alternatives to academic careers by emphasizing transferable skills and mentorship in non-academic professions. 

ICA’s robust intellectual position uniquely situates our association to inform our current global challenges. As president, I would draw on our strengths to consider innovative ways to address these challenges in our scholarship and professional cultures, and to expand our research priorities and community engagements. 

About me

I am a professor in the Department of Communication at Cornell University in the US (view profile). I have held tenured positions at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, both in the US, and at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. My experience thus spans state-funded and private universities, the US academic system and the British system followed in New Zealand, and departments that appreciate diverse approaches to Communication. 

Since joining ICA in 1996, I have been co-chair of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Interest Group (2003-2007); was on the Fair Use Task Force (2017-2018); and currently serve on the Publications Committee. I was co-editor of the NCA journal Critical Studies in Media Communication (2013-2016). I am a board member for Console-ing Passions, the feminist and queer media studies organization. 

My written scholarship spans media studies, audiences, media industries, gender and sexuality, race, and transnational media flows. I am also a filmmaker, including producing and directing the Off the Straight and Narrow series of three documentaries about LGBTQ representations on US television. As part of a fair use advocacy collective, I have overturned the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s restrictions on copying DVD content. I would be honored to serve as president of ICA, and am excited by the challenges this role offers at this extraordinary moment.

Tags:  September 2020 

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