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TCNJ students “far and away” national undergraduate leaders in health communication conference presentations

According to the world-renowned organizer of the nation’s most prestigious health communication conference, Professor Nancy Harrington, TCNJ students are far and away the nation’s leaders in undergraduate paper presentations. She offered this opinion when three TCNJ undergraduates (two majoring in communication studies, another in public health) and one master of public health graduate student presented co-authored papers on April 5 in Lexington, Kentucky, at the biannual Kentucky Health Communication Conference (KCHC 2024), the nation’s oldest and most revered health communication conference in the U.S.

Commenting on TCNJ student presentations, Harrington, who has organized the University of Kentucky conferences almost since their founding in the late 90s, said: “Since 2006, when students from TCNJ first began presenting their research at the Kentucky Conference on Health Communication, a biennial conference that attracts national and international participants, they have been far and away the leaders in undergraduate participation. In fact, TCNJ students have presented more refereed papers and posters than have undergraduates from any other college or university. KCHC 2024 is the first conference for which we have two other colleges bringing a significant number of undergraduate students. I like to think that TCNJ has paved the way.”

five presenters at health comms conference
L-R: Roman Fabbricatore, Shannon Allen, Chandler Storcella, Jessica Munyan, John C. Pollock

All three co-authored undergraduate papers and the single graduate paper were written in classes in Communication Research Methods and International Communication taught by social scientist John C. Pollock, professor of communication studies and public health, founder of the health communication specializations in both departments, who said: “I am especially proud of this year’s TCNJ representatives, co-authoring papers on such diverse topics as nationwide multicity coverage of abortion access (Roman Fabbricatore ’25), birth control access (Shannon Allen ’25), and opioid misuse (Chandler Storcella ’25), as well as on cross-national coverage of water pollution (MPH student Jessica Munyan).” Each media sociology paper was written using “community structure theory,” developed by Pollock over several decades at TCNJ, comparing community-level (city or country) demographics with variations in coverage of critical issues in major city or national newspapers. Over his nearly 32 years of teaching at TCNJ, Pollock has co-authored almost 200 papers with over 500 student co-authors, papers presented at state, national, or international conferences, co-authoring additional articles or chapters, and even a book with 28 student co-authors.

Student presenter comments were appreciative. According to Chandler Storcella ’25, “As one of the few undergraduate students participating in the nation’s top health communication conference, it was an exceptional experience, gaining insight into cutting-edge research.” For Roman Fabbricatore ’25, “The Kentucky conference opened my eyes to the wide array of health communication frameworks addressing health concerns globally. Research presented by dozens of academic institutions convinced me that the field can effectively engage diverse audiences to better influence health outcomes.” For Shannon Allen ’25, “Attending KCHC was one of my most memorable and rewarding undergraduate experiences. The exposure to such rigorous research and brilliant scholars allowed me to gain more appreciation for the health communication field.” For Jessica Munyan, MPH candidate, “The opportunity to present at KCHC 2024 was an honor, and I really enjoyed learning about others’ incredible ground-breaking research throughout the country.”

According to Susan Ryan, chair of the Department of Communication Studies, “We continue to be impressed by the exemplary work in Dr. Pollock’s classes leading to student presentations at national conferences. This accomplishment reflects well on the students and on the health communication specialization that has long been a major department strength.”

According to Carole Kenner, dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences, “The School of Nursing and Health Sciences and the Department of Public Health are delighted that students representing health communication concentrations have become exemplars for other students nationwide.”

— John C. Pollock