A West Virginia University professor hopes a new communication studies project will help inform and influence people about making decisions that enhance their health.

Melanie Booth-Butterfield, who was recently appointed to the Peggy Rardin McConnell Chair in Speech Communication, is developing a comprehensive program that includes a course on advanced health communication strategies.

The course will challenge students �€both undergraduate and graduate �€to conduct research that examines how people think, feel and behave about health, said the professor of communication studies. Students will gather data and present their findings at community activities, health fairs, high schools and professional conferences.

In addition, professionals from different health communication areas will be invited to give presentations and demonstrations at an annual conference �€likely to be held in the spring �€hosted within the WVU Department of Communication Studies.

�€?There will be a great deal of public communication about this project to heighten involvement �€a Web site, press conferences and community activities,�€? Booth-Butterfield said. �€?With the McConnell project, we will be able to give a wide range of excellent opportunities to students in the area of health communication.�€?

As the McConnell Chair in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, she receives $27,000 to fund the program, plus salary support.

�€?Dr. Booth-Butterfield will provide outstanding teaching, research and public service work,�€? said Mary Ellen Mazey, Eberly College dean. �€?Her proposal for the endowed chair impressed all involved in the selection process.�€?

�€?In her teaching and research, she aims for making positive changes in people’s lifestyles and relationships,�€? added Matthew Martin, chair of the Department of Communication Studies. �€?The work she has done in the past and has proposed for the future has a direct impact on the health and welfare of the citizens of West Virginia and beyond.�€?

Booth-Butterfield �€who received her doctorate from the University of Missouri , Columbia , in 1985, the same year she joined the Eberly College �€has the distinction of being WVU ’s first McConnell Chair.

Created in 2003, the position is named after Peggy Rardin McConnell, who graduated with a degree in speech from WVU in 1946. Her husband, John, founder and chairman emeritus of Worthington Industries Inc., donated a $1 million gift to the WVU Foundation to set up an endowed chair, providing resources for enhancing communication studies at the University.