Dr. Hazel J. Cole is an Associate Professor and Public Relations Concentration Head in the Department of Mass Communications at the University of West Georgia. Dr. Cole has had many achievements throughout her career in Public Relations both within the university and within her independent career.
She has co-developed the Public Relations curriculum as well as the experiential learning lab Bluestone at UWG. In addition to these accomplishments she has received various awards which include the Visionary Leadership Award for Curriculum Development, UWG Best of the West Values Recognition Award and was a nominee for the Outstanding Mentor Award.
Cole has been an active member in university academic activities. She is a prominent member of the Mass Communications department and holds positions within the department itself.
“I serve an administrative role as Public Relations Concentration Head, one of the top concentrations in the department,” said Cole. “In addition, I serve on various committees informing strategic planning and program development, accreditation, curriculum development, Media Day executive and planning committees, championing mentorship of students and junior faculty, executing strategy focusing on internal and external audiences and community engagement, as well as leading various initiatives through service to build a comprehensive brand.”
Cole has contributed greatly to the university through her communications courses, but has also had many opportunities of working and interacting within Public Relations.
“I’ve been blessed to have had more than one career and leadership opportunities,” said Cole. “My teaching experience is vast and includes a stint at an institution in Louisiana prior to joining UWG in 2012, as well as serving as adjunct professor at a couple institutions in Mississippi.
“In addition, the depth of my professional experience in the industry ranges from entrepreneurship to working in senior management at one of the largest PR and Advertising Agencies in the southeast,” continued Cole.
Cole is currently working on various projects to continue her professional growth and development. One of these current projects is her co-authored journal article titled “A Case Study of BBQ Becky-Themed Memes.”
“In 2018, Jenifer Schulte was captured on video after calling the police on a Black family for having a barbecue by a lake,” said Cole. “Within days after the video went viral, the incident developed into a meme and she became known as ‘BBQ Becky,’ a series of photoshopped images of a woman in sunglasses calling the police on a group of Black people for anything ranging from having a cookout, to playing golf, to living in the White House.
“Thus, this important study proposes to fill this void in the growing body of research on memes, and employs CRT to study the public conversations that emerged following the incident in the park,” continued Cole. “Specifically, through qualitative content analysis this study examines user-generated content such as memes and social media posts on Black Twitter and reflects how understandings of race were shared through the articulation of different memes during the 2018 incident. The most salient themes characterized the BBQ Becky incident as using narratives related to ‘the Black experience’ and ‘history repeats itself.”
Cole, also acts as a mentor for students and is able to offer insight for students pursuing mass communications. She encourages students to begin their professional development as early as possible in order to become a successful, respected member of the communications community.
“Students must focus and imagine themselves in decision-making positions,” said Cole. “Then they should begin to build and cultivate relationships with professors and business leaders; gain experience through volunteering and internships; and sharpen soft and hard skills.
“In addition, students should develop a success plan by finding a mentor, working at a high level in and outside the classroom, engage in properly developing networks and develop the art of networking, be willing to step outside a comfort zone to learn something new or experience a new approach to problem solving,” continued Cole. “Finally, students should become business, media, and social media savvy, practice professionalism daily, in their appearance and in all forms of their written and spoken communication, as well as images posted online. There’s a lot of work involved, but it begins with respect for self and others.”
Cole’s contributions to mass communications and public relations have made great impacts on students and faculty at both the university and professional level. She has been granted many awards and academic achievements and will continue to do so as she pursues future endeavors.