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Awards / Honors

Professor of Communication Studies receives prestigious Dissertation Award

April 23, 2012

About two blocks away from (an elementary school), this was on an afternoon, a fight between two gentlemen, one guy pulls a gun out, shoots and kills the other guy. The guy who killed him took off. By the time the officers got to the scene, he was missing somewhere in the area. What this created now for us was basically we had to secure a large area, or the city had to secure a large area. In the middle of this large area they secured, (an elementary school), okay?… I’m working, I’ve got a secure building, it’s on lockdown. I have 600 kids locked in dark classrooms at this point. And I think it went from about one o’clock until six-thirty that evening, so we’re there after school got out. So we have parents and everything else…To be honest with you, this incident went remarkably well, it really did.

- Anytown Police Officer and School Resource Officer Miller

Multi-team system

This story, told to Communication Studies Professor Elizabeth Williams, during her dissertation work illustrates the workings of a multiteam system (MTS). During this data collection process in early 2010, all the way up to her dissertation defense in the summer of 2011, she never dreamed she would soon be listed with the other prestigious winners of the W. Charles Redding Award for Outstanding Dissertation of the Year in Organizational Communication.

“It really re-affirms the theoretical and practical importance of my work,” Williams notes of her award. “I am certainly encouraged to continue this line of research.”

As the 2012 winner, this prestigious award recognizes Williams’ outstanding dissertation work - noting its strong theoretical background, rigorous methodology, and its significant contribution to the field of organizational communication.

Working together

Her dissertation, titled “Towards an Understanding of Multiteam Systems: Theorizing about Identification, Leadership, and Communication in an Emergency Response System,” deals with the relationships between leaders and their teams as they relate to the broader mission of the system, as a whole. These relationships, and the relationships between leaders, help these teams work together, particularly in emergency response systems.

“Charles Redding was a pioneer in the study of organizational communication, and we are thrilled that Elizabeth Williams has earned this distinguished award,” noted Sue Pendell, department chair of Communication Studies at CSU.

Williams earned her Ph.D. from Purdue University where she conducted field research with fire departments, law enforcement agencies, emergency management teams, and a disaster volunteer organization.

As Williams summarizes her findings: “This study is the first to provide an interpretive perspective on a multiteam system [MTS]. As such, members’ experiences cause us to pause and re-examine some of the pre-suppositions that were made about experiences in MTSs. Perhaps the most striking challenge to our current conceptualization is the lack of communication between individual members in the larger system. Indeed, the draw to studying MTSs is examining between team processes. From this study we see that many of these processes do not reach down to individual team members. These individuals seem to be bound by their within team processes and relationships. What this study does highlight though is the need to continue to explore how leaders coordinate, build relationships with one another, negotiate system and organizational/team goals while still maintaining cooperation, and communicate that back to their organizations/teams.”

In May, Williams will receive her award at the International Communication Association conference in Phoenix, Ariz.

About Assistant Professor Elizabeth Williams

Elizabeth A. Williams is assistant professor of Organizational Communication. Elizabeth teaches classes in Organizational and Professional Communication as well as Communication in the Health Care Clinic. Her research interests include identification and leadership in a variety of organizational contexts, including distributed teams, multiteam systems, organizations experiencing change, and health organizations. Her work has been published in Journal of Communication, Journal of Health Communication, Health Communication, and various edited volumes. She has conducted communication workshops in a variety of corporate and academic settings, has been recognized for excellence in teaching, and in 2007, she was awarded Purdue University’s College of Liberal Arts Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award.

About the W. Charles Redding Dissertation Award

In the spirit of W. Charles Redding, the winning dissertation presents ideas that advance understanding of organizing and communicating, and that make a difference in the lives of organizational members. This annual competition includes a cash award to the winner and a certificate for the winner and his/her advisor. The award is presented at the annual International Communication Association conference each year. Any dissertation project related to organizational communication is eligible for submission. Dissertations must have been successfully defended in the calendar year prior to the conference.

See previous winners here.

About the International Communication Association

The International Communication Association (ICA) is an academic association for scholars interested in the study, teaching, and application of all aspects of human and mediated communication. ICA began more than 50 years ago as a small association of U.S. researchers and is now a truly international association with more than 3,500 members in 65 countries. Since 2003, ICA has been officially associated with the United Nations as a non-governmental association (NGO). The ICA aims to advance the scholarly study of human communication by encouraging and facilitating excellence in academic research worldwide.

The Department of Communication Studies at Colorado State University focuses on how people use messages to generate meanings within and across various contexts, cultures, channels, and media. The study of communication leads to personal development, career success and responsible citizenship. The department emphasizes an understanding of communication in three areas: Media and Visual Culture, Relational and Organizational Communication, and Rhetoric and Civic Engagement.

More information

Contact: Carrie Care, Alumni Relations Coordinator, Dept. of Communication Studies
Phone: (970) 491-6140