Throughout his career, Professor of Strategic Communication Don Stacks has been applying research to the problems professional communicators face. “Often people go to other disciplines when they have a problem, but they’re actually communications problems,” Stacks said. “My focus has been to take the academic and put it into the profession in agreeable jargon that everyone can understand and use.”
The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication has now honored Stacks for his efforts with its Dorothy Bowles Award for Outstanding Public Service. The award recognizes an AEJMC member who has a sustained and significant public-service record that has helped build bridges between academics and professionals in mass communications. The award will be presented at the AEJMC annual conference on Aug. 8 in Montreal.
“I’m honored,” he said, of receiving the Bowles Award. “I think it also reflects on the School of Communication and its mission to excel in both academic and professional training.”
Stacks’ own philosophy embodies that mission. “When I came in, my focus was on research, teaching and service,” Stacks said. “It’s my firm belief that’s what a professional educator should do.” Each piece of the triad informs the others, he said. Stacks consults with professionals to apply research; his students then learn from that professional work; both teaching and service illuminate new ideas for scholarship.
Stacks has written more than 150 scholarly articles and papers, and has spoken at conferences on five continents. His books, Primer of Public Relations Research and Dictionary of Public Relations Measurement and Research, have become have become vital tools for public relations professionals, clarifying, systematizing and informing methods and ideas around research and evaluation in the field.
Stacks also has been instrumental in shaping the School of Communication’s Public Relations program, serving as its director from 1995 to 2009, and serving as the School’s Associate Dean for Research from 2009 to 2011. The P.R. program’s course requirements in statistics, research methods and real-world campaigns give students an edge in the profession, he said. “When students come out of our program, they have the background to handle whatever comes to them, and the research background to succeed quickly,” he said.
Stacks serves on the boards of leading communication and public relations journals and directs the annual International Public Relations Research Conference, which he founded 18 years ago. Stacks also serves as trustee for the Institute for Public Relations, and is on the boards of the International Public Relations Association and the Institute for Public Relations. He is currently serving his second tour as Chair of the Commission on Public Relations Measurement and Evaluation. His consulting clients include School Employees Trust, Allstate Insurance, Columbia Energy Group, Energy Automation Services, Broward Public Schools, and American Electric Power.