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Study Highlights How Former Drinkers Navigate Social Drinking Situations

Posted on September 29, 2015 7:58 am by Nash Dunn

Photo credit: Edson Hong. Photo retrieved via Flickr and shared under a Creative Commons license.

Photo credit: Edson Hong. Photo retrieved via Flickr and shared under a Creative Commons license. 

A small, qualitative study published in the journal Health Communication highlights a wide variety of approaches that former problem drinkers take to determine how and whether to tell people in social situations that they don’t drink.

“The findings tell us that former problem drinkers can find it tricky to navigate social situations where alcohol is involved, and makes clear it’s important to support those who aren’t drinking and not push non-drinkers to disclose their reasons for not having a drink,” says Lynsey Romo, lead author of a paper on the work and an assistant professor of communication at North Carolina State University.

For the study, researchers interviewed 11 former problem drinkers, who had been sober for between one and 19 years. The work was part of a larger study on how all non-drinkers – not just recovering problem drinkers – navigate social events where alcohol is being served.

“We found that former problem drinkers still want to be social, of course, but that they had to find ways to determine whether to disclose their non-drinking status to others,” Romo says. “Study participants said they felt the need to weigh how much they should tell other people. Essentially, they assessed the risk of being socially stigmatized if they were open about not drinking or about being in recovery.”

Many study participants reported trying to avoid the issue altogether, either by “passing” as a drinker (holding a cup but not drinking) or by simply turning down offers a drink without saying why.

If asked directly, some would make excuses for not drinking – citing health problems or being on medication that didn’t allow them to drink alcohol. Some would try to use humor to change the subject.

However, most participants noted that they make a point to stress that it was okay for others to drink around them.

A few study participants – particularly those who had been sober for a longer period of time – reported being open about their history of problem drinking, particularly if they thought it would defuse a situation that threatened their sobriety or if they thought it would help others that may be struggling with problem drinking.

The paper, “‘Coming out’ as an alcoholic: how former problem drinkers negotiate disclosure of their nondrinking identity,” was published in Health Communication Sept. 11. Co-authors of the paper were Dana Dinsmore at the University of Arizona and Tara Watterson, a former NC State graduate student who is now at the University of Kentucky.

Note: This is a guest post by Matt Shipman at NC State News.

High schoolers have fun and focus on possible future careers at first COM Camp

Posted on August 26, 2015 2:57 pm by Joan Alford

When the studio lights switched on in the Butler Communication Building television studio on July 6, they lit more than just sets. They helped fire the imaginations, and enlighten the educational goals, of ten high school students participating in the first ever Communication Summer Camp. Sponsored by the Department of Communication and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, “COM Camp” focused its inaugural sessions on broadcast performance and production.

Senior Lecturer Dean Phillips, with more than 25 years in the broadcasting industry, helped to develop the camp curriculum. “I spent more than a year visiting Wake County schools speaking with principals and teachers to get their thoughts on the feasibility of such a camp,” says Phillips. “I was met with enthusiasm and a willingness to help spread the word among their students, so we in the department determined to make this thing happen.”

Working with Department Head, Dr. Ken Zagacki, and television production instructor for undergraduates, Jim Alchediak, Phillips developed the five-day summer camp for rising high school juniors and seniors with an interest in broadcast production and news writing. Alchediak took on the role of Camp Director and with the help of department staff the project became a reality.

“We hit the ground running,” says Phillips. “I wanted to get the campers in the studio, hands-on with the equipment, and create a newscast from start to finish. And we did it in less than a week!”

Seeing the need for help on the performance side, Teaching Assistant Professor and director of the COM 110 (Public Speaking) program, Dr. Elizabeth Nelson, was brought in to offer assistance to the campers with presentational and general communication skills. She briefed campers on the basics of public speaking, from critical thinking and presentational modes to pitch and pauses. “We worked directly with the scripts the students wrote themselves based on current news events,” she says. “We perfected language specifically for a television audience, paying close attention to grammar and emphasis so that campers would understand how crucial those points are to an effective delivery.”

Trying to squeeze a semester of television production into less than five hours a day, in no more than a week, was a challenge for Alchediak. “I had to focus on priority tasks for this group, concentrate on overviews,” he says. “Our time was very limited so we worked intensely on script writing and editing, talent (working in front of the camera), camera operation, and in the control room, running the audio board and switching camera shots.” Alchediak was amazed at how quickly the campers learned their responsibilities within the production team, and some were naturals. “The young lady who gave directing a shot remained in that role the entire week. She was phenomenal and now she is seriously considering pursuing that path after college.”

By the end of the week, the campers had produced two [10-minute] newscasts, rotating duties with each production, with most experiencing both the second-by-second pace behind, and in front of, the camera. On the last day of camp, the final productions were presented to students and their parents. There was a deep sense of pride not only between parent and child, but also among the faculty and staff.

“It all went so well for a first-time camp,” Phillips says with a smile. “We wanted those kids to have a great experience, to enjoy themselves, and to feel part of NC State University. I believe we accomplished that with every camper.”
According to comments entered on the camper’s exit surveys, Phillips is spot on:

“I feel like I finally know what my future will entail. Thank you so much!”

“This Camp has made me so happy and it is the most fun I’ve had all summer.”

“I loved it!”

And that’s a wrap. Until next summer.


Photographs by Robert Bell / Dept. of Communication


Campers prepare newscast.

Mary Schneider (Wakefield H.S., Raleigh), Natalie Rinehard (St. Mary's, Raleigh), and Dawson Place (Fred T. Foard H.S., Hickory) share a laugh in the newsroom as the prepare newscast scripts.

Com Campers learn about TV production.

All eyes are on television production instructor James Alchediak as he explains camera angles in the Butler Communication Bldg. TV studio control room.

NC State's James Alchediak discusses camera shots with camper Ashley Hatcher.

Instructor James Alchediak discusses camera shots with newscast director Ashley Hatcher (Garner Magnet H.S.) who plans to pursue a career in television production based on her camp experience.

Camper prepares for a live field report segment.

Caroline Sanguily (Durham Academy) prepares for her live field report segment.

NC State's Dean Phillips and COM Camp campers

Broadcast media lecturer Dean Phillips briefs Camp anchors before a newscast run-through.

COM Camp news anchors.

Campers-turned-news-anchors Dawson Place (Fred T. Foard H.S., Hickory) and Abby Martin (Johnston Co. Middle College H.S., Smithfield), strike a professional pose at the news desk.

2015 Communication Camp participants

Truly [i]Happy Campers[/i] on their final day of COM Camp.



May Student of the Month

Posted on May 20, 2015 8:03 am by dlleeder

May Student of the Month Cody Davidson

May Student of the Month Cody Davidson

Meet Cody Davidson, Humanities and Social Sciences Student of the Month

Hometown: Pilot Mountain, NC

Class:  Junior

Major:  Communication

Minors: Business Administration; English

Sample Courses:

  • Critical Analysis of Communication Media
  • Marketing Methods
  • Contemporary European Literature and Film


  • Social Media and Marketing Intern, Kay Yow Cancer Fund, Fall 2014
  • Social Media Coordinator, English Club, Fall 2014-Spring 2015
  • Brand Ambassador, Banana Republic, January 2015-present
  • Study Abroad in Netherlands, Summer 2014
  • Member, NC State Dressage Club Team
  • Educational Psychology Research Assistant
  • Volunteer and Event Planner, NC State GLBT Center
  • Mentor, Read to L.E.A.D. program
  • Representative, Inter-residence Council/Residence Hall Council


University Honors Program

Postgraduate Plans:

Position at a public relations or marketing firm, hopefully focused on fashion.  May eventually return to school for MBA or master's degree in journalism or communication.

Why did you choose the College of Humanities and Social Sciences?

I love the people and the college's way of thinking. Everyone is very open-minded and so willing to help one another that I naturally found a home in the college’s nurturing environment. The sense of community is an inherent part of the college. Everyone from faculty to students has always been incredibly nice and helpful; I just walk into Caldwell Lounge and I feel at home.

What has been your favorite Humanities and Social Sciences course? Do any individuals stand out as making a difference for you?

My favorite course thus far is Public Relations Writing (COM 316) with Professor Dean Phillips. I have benefited from the extensive knowledge he carries from his years inside and outside the classroom. He shared with us his experiences and gave us practical skills that we will use for many years in our careers.  My first advisor, Tara Hudson in the College of Education, was pivotal in my success at NC State. I must have had a million questions when I first arrived. She was a fabulous advisor because she answered all of my questions with such patience, and strongly encouraged me to get involved around campus. She was one of the first friendly faces when I arrived on campus, and that made all the difference.

What has been your greatest challenge so far?

My biggest challenge, although not unique to me, has been trying to find my way at a large university. However, once I got involved and found my niche, I made some of the most devoted and genuine friends of my life.

What advice would you give incoming students?

Most of my family did not attend college. Many of them have found great success in other ways, but college has opened the doors for me to have a professional career, an opportunity most of my family never dreamed of. It has also opened my eyes and taught me how to think differently, seeing things from varying perspectives.  So my advice for incoming students would be to have an open mind and experiment with new things. I have been involved in so many activities during my time on campus and each one has taught me so much. I am still trying new things because I realize that this is the one time in my life where I will have a wealth of resources at my disposal.  Also, get to know your professors. They want nothing more than to help you succeed and they will value the fact that you took the time to get to know them.

Solidifying Interests Through Internships

Posted on March 13, 2015 4:39 pm by dlleeder

Sarah Smith currently interns with

Sarah Smith currently interns with a full-service communications firm in Cary.

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences encourages students to participate in internships that help them explore career options and acquire real-world experiences. In this Q & A, a student demonstrates the power of proactive research in acquiring internships, and shares how her internships are giving her new skills, knowledge and insights.

Sarah Smith is a junior majoring in Communication. She has held editorial and writing positions at NC State's student paper, Technician, and provides Spanish tutoring and interpreting services. Her three internships have taken place in Summer 2014, Summer-Fall 2014, and Spring 2015.

How did you locate your internships?

For my first internship at AMEXCAN (Association of Mexicans in North Carolina), I was given the contact information for the head of the organization and I sent him an email detailing my interest and explaining my relevant work experience at Technician. For LiveItUp! Hillsborough Street, I found the application online through personal research and applied. For my internship at MMI (a full-service communications firm in Cary, NC), I sent a cover letter and resume to the company, and asked if they were currently accepting interns.

Describe the internships.

During my internship at LiveItUp!, I spent twelve hours a week at the office working on different design and communication projects. For AMEXCAN, I met with my adviser twice a month and discussed projects that needed to be completed. Outside our meetings, we communicated through daily e-mails and phone calls. With MMI, I spend twelve hours a week at the office completing different tasks and assisting the senior account executive with her projects.

How do you feel the internships relate to your major, career goals, and personal interests?

I have tried internships in different areas, which I believe is the best way to narrow down what you want to do while developing your skills. My graphic design internship with LiveItUp! was primarily to develop my graphic design skills and push myself creatively. At AMEXCAN, I had the opportunity to develop my Spanish skills while working on different communication projects. MMI allows me to dive deeper into the work of public relations.

What did you learn?

I think the most significant thing I have taken away from my internships is confidence in my work. I am now more self-assured of my abilities and skill sets. This confidence allows me to take greater risks and pursue tougher challenges. I am more comfortable with being in a work setting and speaking with professionals.

What were some of the challenges?

Time management has always been my greatest challenge. It can be incredibly hard to juggle extracurriculars, internships, class work, and working to support myself, while still trying to enjoy the college experience. In the end, you have to make sacrifices, but this also has allowed me to figure out what is most important to me.

What were some of the rewards?

I have met so many interesting and wonderful people, and have found a lot of inspiration through them.