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BYU professor's paper wins five-year award for communication research

The National Communication Association honored a Brigham Young University Marriott School of Management professor with a five-year Best Paper Award at the association's recent 88th annual convention in New Orleans.

The award was presented to Curtis D. LeBaron, assistant professor of organizational leadership and strategy, and the late Robert Hopper, former professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. The paper, "How Gender Creeps into Talk," was chosen by the NCA's Language and Social Interaction Division from journal articles published between 1997 and 2002.

LeBaron and Hopper's research found that communication isn't inherently gendered, or doesn't automatically include gender references, as some researchers believe. "Communication becomes gendered as gender is made relevant to the interaction. Some scholars assume that all communication is gendered. We examined recordings of naturally occurring communication to show how gender creeps into talk," LeBaron says.

These findings support LeBaron's business communications research. "Gender is a critical aspect of business communication. It's a present concern for many organizations," he says. "It's important for us to understand how moments of business interaction become gendered. When they become gendered badly, such as with gender discrimination in hiring or promotion, it leads to lawsuits. When they become gendered in a good way, such as with improving diversity, it leads to mutual respect."

LeBaron and Hopper collaborated on the paper after joint research for another communications project. "Ours was a study of naturally occurring behavior. Instead of beginning with thoughts and theories, we went out and carefully observed people in natural settings," LeBaron says.

"This award is given only once every five years from the NCA. It's a great tribute to Curtis LeBaron, and to his colleague Robert Hopper," says Michael Thompson, organizational leadership and strategy department chair. "Curt is doing creative and insightful research on human interaction, and he brings that same creative energy and intellectual passion into the classroom. He's a great addition to the OLS Department and to BYU."

Writer: April Ebbert

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