Texas Tech University

Agricultural Communications Students Claim National Awards

Randy Rosetta

October 16, 2018

Ariana Bigham and Laura Gorham Fischer were honored by the Association for Communication Excellence.

Ariana Bigham
Ariana Bigham
Photo provided by Department of Agricultural Education & Communications

Two Texas Tech University graduate students recently garnered national awards from the Association for Communication Excellence.

Ariana Bigham received the 2018 Outstanding Master's Thesis Award for “The Effect of Gender and Source Credibility on Message Persuasiveness.”

Laura Gorham Fischer won the 2018 Outstanding Dissertation Award for “Examining the Role of Motivational Salience, Issue Involvement and Pre-existing Attitudes on Selective Attention and Attitude Strength to Advertisement.”

Bigham, a native of Prescott, Arizona, completed her work toward a master's degree in Agricultural Education & Communications.

“My inspiration came from my passion to educate consumers about agricultural sciences,” said Bigham, noting the advancement in the industry and the need to inform and explain the nuances.

Bigham credited the committee of three professors in agricultural communications for their guidance: Associate professors Courtney Meyers and Erica Irlbeck and assistant professor Na Li.

The Association for Communication Excellence is an international association of communicators, educators and information technologists. The organization offers professional development and networking for individuals who extend knowledge about agriculture, natural resources and live and human sciences.

“I could not have done this without them,” said Bigham, now a marketing assistant at Tru-Test Group in Weatherford. “This whole experience has been a whirlwind and something I will never forget.”

The committee for Gorham Fischer included Meyers, associate professor; Glenn Cummins, associate dean for research in the College of Media and Communication; and Matthew Baker, professor in agricultural education.

Meyers was the chair for both committees.

“I was honored to get to work with Ariana on her thesis research,” Meyers said. “She addressed an interesting research problem and developed a study that has served as a model for others in our department.”

Gorham Fischer is now an assistant professor in the University of Kentucky's Department of Integrated Strategic Communications, which is housed in the College of Communication and Information.

She said her dissertation was aimed at informing consumers how food is produced and winds up on the table.

Laura Gorham Fischer
Laura Gorham Fischer
Photo provided by Department of Agricultural Education & Communications

“When we talk about the agriculture industry, we talk about how we can tell stories that resonate with consumers,” Gorham Fischer said. “What we found is that most people aren't really that interested in how food is produced. They are either unaware or didn't care as long as food wound up on the table.

“So we focused on how can we get consumers to pay attention and take an interest in AgriScience. We want to capture greater amounts of attention on the process.”
Meyers praised Gorham Fischer for her work.

“Laura is quite deserving of this recognition,” Meyers said. “She completed an ambitious project using eye tracking, which was an innovative approach in our discipline. She blazed a new trail for agricultural communications research, and I know she'll continue to do amazing things in her faculty career.”

Gorham Fischer earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Florida before migrating west to pursue her doctorate at Texas Tech, which she earned in Agricultural Communications.

“People at Texas Tech are amazing,” she said. “They are truly interested in helping you. Being able to learn under Courtney Meyers, Courtney Gibson and Erica Irlbeck was great incentive for me to go out there in the first place, and I am so glad I did.”