Opening Session

From Lee to Jackson: Dismantling Structures of Oppression in New Orleans.

November 19, 2022 • New Orleans, Louisiana

David W. Robinson-Morris, Ph.D., Founder and Chief Reimaginelutionary, The REImaginelution, LLC
Roseann M. Mandziuk, Ph.D., University Distinguished Professor, Texas State University, President, National Communication Association
Bryan J. McCann, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Louisiana State University
J. David Maxson, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Memphis

In accordance with this year’s theme of “Honoring PLACE: People, Liberation, Advocacy, Community, and Environment,” together we will explore the history and centrality of place. We have an outstanding program of panels, papers, and special sessions at this convention. We hope that you will take the time to explore these diverse and significant programs and fully embrace this opportunity to garner new insights and consider all aspects of PLACE. Attendees are encouraged to peruse the online program for sessions that make up the Emphasizing Series, sessions that explore each individual piece of PLACE. For those who are unable to attend in person, please plan to join us as a virtual attendee which includes nine live-streamed sessions.

Honoring Past and Present: Communication, Culture, and Change in Native Seattle

November 18, 2021 • Seattle, Washington

La Royce Batchelor, Clever Crow 
Eean B. Grimshaw, North Carolina Wesleyan College
Abriel Johnny, United Indians of All Tribes Foundation
Esther Lucero, Seattle Indian Health Board
Scott Pinkham, University of Washington

This program, sponsored by the Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication and Society, highlights the role communication plays in Native communities, through language, art, culture, and ritual. More specifically, panelists will discuss the ways communication helps these communities overcome challenges associated with race, education, poverty, healthcare, and Native language maintenance and renewal. This panel includes both scholars and Native Seattle community leaders whose work is dedicated to the understanding, service, and care of urban American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Mental Health at the Crossroads: Intersections in Health and Society

November 19, 2020 • Virtual Event (Indianapolis, IN)


David Berman, Mental Health America of Indiana
Diane B. Francis, University of Kentucky
Emily Krebs, University of Utah
Gary L. Kreps, George Mason University

This program, sponsored by the Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication and Society, highlights the factors that impact mental health and mental health treatment in Indianapolis and the nation. Specifically, panelists will examine ways in which mental health intersects with race, gender, sexual orientation, educational attainment, and income. This interdisciplinary panel includes both scholars and Indianapolis community leaders whose work is dedicated to greater understandings of mental health and social justice.

Race Relations in Charm City: Communicating Social Justice

November 14, 2019 • Baltimore, MD


Moderator: Kimberly R. Moffitt, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Dottye Burt-Markowitz, Baltimore Racial Justice Action
J. David Cisneros, University of Illinois
Rajani Gudlavalleti, Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition
Mark C. Hopson, George Mason University
Janelle Wong, University of Maryland

Sponsored by the Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication and Society, this program highlights issues of race and social justice. Specifically, panelists will discuss race relations both in Baltimore and throughout the nation, and examine ways in which social justice work seeks to improve issues associated with race, including poverty, violence, wealth attainment, and food access. This interdisciplinary panel includes scholars and Baltimore community leaders whose work is dedicated to a greater understanding of the issues of race, injustice, and social justice.

Role-Playing the Future through the Past: A Conversation about the Lessons of History and Visions of America

November 8, 2018 • Salt Lake City, UT

Celnisha Dangerfield, Chattahoochee Technical College
Edward Schiappa, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
David Zarefsky, Northwestern University
Paula T. McKenzie, Bethune-Cookman University
Thomas F. Gencarelli, Manhattan College

The world is passing through what seems like especially turbulent times. Long submerged cracks in the foundation of society are opening wide, once unthinkable rhetorical strategies are becoming common, and values of tolerance, public safety and democratic participation are being openly challenged. A vision of what makes America, or any nation, a great nation is now open to radical interpretation. In these turbulent times, are there resources we can look to, touchstones of experience that can help us make sense of our current troubles and assist us in moving forward in positive ways? The opening session for NCA 2018 takes a look back to look forward. Using role-play as an energizing fiction, we invite members to share a conversation with historical figures who are, in some significant way, relevant to our discipline, and who can help us glean insights into our current condition by revisiting the lessons of the past.

We include Abraham Lincoln, one of this nation's most thoughtful leaders, who fought great political battles and faced the conflict of a great civil war. We invite Sojourner Truth, a voice for those lacking standing and respect in the culture of 19th century America, testifying to the hope that springs eternal. We involve Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a social activist and outspoken advocate for women's rights. Finally, we call on Marshall McLuhan, whose early work on the impact of media and advertising was prescient for our current media environment.

Having assembled this unlikely group for food, drink and conversation, the opening session will address issues of the Other (societal struggles with tolerance and security), of demagoguery (the power of rhetorical excess and the frailties of political process), of social media (the destabilization of reasoned discourse), and of historical lessons about what truly makes a nation great. In the spirit of play, where we enter a protected space and boldly engage in open interaction, this role-playing session hopes to set the tone for this year's convention theme.

Engaging the Verbs of Social Justice as We Trace Our Legacies and Our Relevance

November 16, 2017 • Dallas, TX

Amber Lauren Johnson, Saint Louis University
Rachel N. Hastings, Southwestern College
Edward Mabrey, Poet
Imani Cezanne, Poet
Javon Johnson, San Francisco State University
Lore/tta LeMaster, California State University, Long Beach
Miranda Olzman, San Francisco State University
Dana L. Cloud, Syracuse University
Patricia A. Suchy, Louisiana State University
Julie-Ann Scott, University of North Carolina, Wilmington
Jeffrey Q. McCune, Washington University

The Opening Session of the National Communication Association will feature an interactive panel of communication scholars and poets who do work around social identity, difference, performance poetry, and embodied learning as communication praxis. In this opening session, the audience will be called to participate in interactive and imaginative ways, blurring the boundaries between audience, participant, artist, and academic, and engaging what D. Soyini Madison calls a "performance of possibilities." The invited panelists and poets will use poetry and aesthetic responses to ask each other and the audience to think critically about the legacies we carry forward with us, who those legacies belong to, how they potentially impact our futures, and what we must invent to critically imagine new futures and remain relevant. The invited participants are from different levels of experience and at different levels of their career because all too often people are excluded from legacy conversations. This panel bridges together the missing legacies that make our discipline and our bodies relevant beyond the academy.

Putting Bodies on the Line and Words into Action - Celebrating the Joys of, Challenges in, and Opportunities for Civic Engagement

November 10, 2016 • Philadelphia, PA
Lisa A. Flores, University of Colorado, Boulder
Bryant Keith Alexander, Loyola Marymount University
Mohan Dutta, National University of Singapore
Billie Murray, Villanova University


Dr. Bryant Keith Alexander has built a career thinking about and embracing queer black bodies moving through the vectors of racism and homophobia; Dr. Mohan Jyoti Dutta has spent the past decade advocating for health care justice in developing nations; Dr. Billie Murray has chronicled her participation in movements for social justice in the wake of Confederate memorializing and in the face of hate speech. A Dean, a Chair, and an Assistant Professor; a colleague from LA, another from Singapore, a third from Philadelphia. While our speakers embody diversity in terms of race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, and methodology and area expertise, they are united in their commitment to using communication activism for the common good. Come hear their stories from the front lines of change; listen as they engage in spirited dialogue about why communication matters, and how, and to whom; and please lend your voice to our collective celebration of those who put their bodies on the line and words into action.

Beyond the Tower - Embracing Opportunities for Creative Education, Engagement, and Empowerment

November 19, 2015 • Las Vegas, NV
Jimmie Manning, Northern Illinois University
Adam C. Earnheardt, Youngstown State University
Andre E. Johnson, Memphis Theological Seminary
Amy K. Kilgard, San Francisco State University
Lisa M. Tillmann, Rollins College


Extending from our convention theme, "Embracing Opportunities," the 2015 NCA Opening Session will highlight creative and collaborative ways in which we can "embrace opportunities," as educators, scholars, and citizens, for engaging in scholarly activity beyond traditional outlets or forums-such as documentaries, performances, TED-like talks, academic blogs, etc. The session will include brief introductions to and displays of short excerpts from panelists' work as well as discussions of issues such as how panelists got started, how such scholarly activity gets accomplished, how they promote it to others in the academy, how it "counts" in terms of work load and merit reviews, how such forms of scholarly activity can enable our discipline to impact others beyond the academy, and how engaging in these forums or outlets have been valuable and meaningful experiences for our panelists. The session will also include opportunities for interaction with attendees as they pose questions through live tweeting and index card questions.

The Future(s) of Communication Studies: For What? And For Whom?

November 20, 2014 • Chicago, IL
Shawn D. Long, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
Karma R. Chavez, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Bruce Henderson, Ithaca College
Roseann M. Mandziuk, Texas State University
Kimberly R. Moffitt, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Charles E. Morris III, Syracuse University
Kent A. Ono, University of Utah

Due to unforeseen technical issues, a video of this session is unavailable. An extension session took place in 2015.


NCA's centennial offers us many opportunities-to reminisce, to celebrate, and to acknowledge the successes that have allowed this once-tiny group of seventeen to grow into an organization of some 7,500. The centennial also prompts a serious, even critical, contemplation of who and what we have become as an association of scholars, teachers, and colleagues. Such consideration should be accompanied as well by thinking hard and speaking honestly about our collective future(s).

We pride ourselves in NCA on being a forward-thinking organization, hospitable to new ideas and new members, and accommodating of the many differences that can be an endless source of inspiration and invention. But just how hospitable and accommodating have our field and our association been? How have we understood the many differences among us? At two extremes, have we treated differences as a foundation of intellectual and pedagogical strength or as aggravating breaches of the way things are? Some aspects of our past and present might suggest the latter as much as the former. What if we were to ask not only what made the NCA caucuses possible, but also to ask what made them necessary? We could also put the questions: Are they still necessary, and if so, why? We might ask too: Are we merely tolerant of differences, or do we embrace them? And to the extent that the indicators lean more toward mere tolerance, how are our scholarship, our pedagogy, and indeed our association (predicated in our commitments to one another) affected? In such an interrogation, if we find ourselves to be wanting, what can we do about it? How can-and will-NCA be an organization for all of its members?

NCA Presents the Capitol Steps

November 21, 2013 • Washington, DC
Olga I. Davis, Arizona State University
Mary E. Stuckey, Georgia State University


The Capitol Steps troupe performed their current show. Dr. Olga Davis of Arizona State University and Dr. Mary Stuckey of Georgia State University interviewed the performers following the performance. Questions included: how the troupe's creative process develops, both individually and as a group; what decisions concerning representation must be made in the process of bringing the show to fruition; what sorts of legal issues such performances pose; what audience responses-both positive and negative-have told them about their choices; and the advantages and disadvantages of satire as a communicative strategy.

Celebrating What Unites Us as a Communication Community

November 15, 2012 • Orlando, FL
Kory Floyd, Arizona State University
Navita Cummings James, University of South Florida
Kathleen Jamieson, University of Pennsylvania


The opening general session offered views by three distinguished NCA scholars in response to the question: "What concepts and principles unite us in our study and application of human communication?"

Rebuilding Community After Crisis

November 17, 2011 • New Orleans, LA
Jim Pate, New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity
Andrew Shahan, Arise Academy
Larry Frey, Trinity University


The NCA Opening Session: Rebuilding Community After Crisis featured speakers from inside and outside of the academy. The speakers this year will focus on the convention theme, Voice, discussing both its theoretical and applied implications.

The State of the Discipline

November 14, 2010 • San Francisco, CA
David Zarefsky, Northwestern University


In some respects these are encouraging times for the communication discipline; yet we also are plagued by disciplinary as well as economic anxieties. This paradox offers opportunities for advancing the discipline, but also presents us with significant challenges. Within this framework, the address will discuss whether it is sensible to think of communication as a discipline and, if so, how we should determine its agenda for the coming years. We must make sure that we refresh our roots at the same time we encourage many flowers to bloom.