UHV Associate Professor Named Outstanding Communication Theorist | News

Mark Ward Sr., associate professor of communication at the University of Houston-Victoria, has been named the 2022 Outstanding Researcher in Communication Theory by the Southern States Communication Association.

“This honor is particularly gratifying because theory development is key to research in communication studies and any academic discipline,” Ward said.

Ward received the award at the association’s annual convention held April 6-10 in Greenville, South Carolina. The association is one of four regional affiliates of the National Communication Association.

“Dr. Ward is a skilled researcher dedicated to understanding communication concepts in religious communities,” said Kyoko Amano, Dean of the UHV College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. “His work is well known in the community. academic, and I applaud him for receiving this most recent award.”

Theory development affects research in two ways, Ward said. First, researchers uncover specific cases from which general theories can then be constructed. Second, general theories provide frameworks for researchers to analyze and explain their findings.

“My contribution to communication theory is in sociolinguistics and how communities use language to build unique cultures,” Ward said. “For many years, researchers have studied how people use culturally coded language in one-to-one conversations. But my work theorizes how culture is constructed when coded language is used in a community at its interpersonal, organizational, and institutional levels.

Ward developed his theory through field research in evangelical Christian churches. He observed culturally coded language in the personal conversations of church members, but also heard the same language used in local sermons and on national evangelistic ministries radio and television programs.

“So I hypothesized that culture is built when coded language flows through all three levels of community,” Ward said. “Institutions set the norms, local organizations and groups transmit the norms, and people individually act on the norms through their speech and behavior.”

During the convention, Ward also received the award for Best Paper in Language and Social Interaction. The article was co-authored with Leland Spencer, University of Miami; Craig Stewart, University of Memphis; and Elisa Varela, University of Colorado Boulder and was titled “Return to Teamsterville: A Reconsideration and Dialogue in Ethnography and Criticism.” It was recently published in the scientific journal Communication Quarterly.

“We discuss ethics in field research,” Ward said. “What should ethnographers do when they observe people using sexist, racist or homophobic language that hurts others? Should we just observe and not pass judgment, or should we intervene? »

Ward’s theory can help researchers resolve this dilemma. By observing how language is used not only in individual conversations, but also in groups and institutions, researchers can analyze the overall social structure of a community. Then, researchers can analyze how power is structured in the community and its culture.

“In this way, research can reveal how language creates power dynamics and thereby open space for marginalized members of a community to have a voice,” Ward said.

SSCA Outstanding Scholar is one of many honors for Ward’s research. His accolades include multiple Religious Communication Association Paper of the Year awards, as well as the Digital Religion Research Award, the David R. Maines Narrative Research Award, and the Clifford G. Christians Ethical Research Award. In 2018, he received the UHV Research and Scholarly Activities Excellence Award.

Ward also writes a monthly opinion column “Communication Corner” in the Victoria Advocate newspaper which illustrates how communication concepts can be applied practically to current issues of national and local concern.

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