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UAB student-researcher awarded full scholarship for Cornell University Ph.D. communications program

  • April 30, 2021
Alivia Moore, who studied deception in the UAB Department of Communication Studies and graduates May 1, urges incoming students to take every opportunity seriously and plan their long-term goals.

Alivia.2Alivia Moore, who studied deception in the UAB Department of Communication Studies and graduates May 1, urges incoming students to take every opportunity seriously and plan their long-term goals.Alivia Moore, who studied deception as an undergraduate at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has been awarded a full scholarship by Cornell University in their Ph.D. program for communications.  

She graduates May 1 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in public relations and marketing.

Moore credits the College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Communication Studies and the McNair Scholars Program, which in her sophomore year opened her eyes to a lot of opportunities. 

“I knew then that I wanted to obtain a Ph.D.,” Moore said. “I really liked the freedom research afforded me to study topics within social behavior which has always interested me. I can remember as a little girl scurrying to catch morning TV documentaries, excited to learn more about how people live and communicate within their world. I did not know then that I was on the pathway to where I am now.”

The McNair Scholars Program is a federal TRIO program funded by the United States Department of Education. It is designed to prepare undergraduate students for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities. The program’s goal is to increase graduate degree awards for students with strong academic potential from underrepresented segments of society. 

The scholarship gave her the tools she needed — including research fairs and a summer research program with Tim Levine, Ph.D., her research mentor — and it broadened her horizons.  

“It set the tone for me, because it exposed me to a higher level and helped me develop as a researcher,” Moore said. “I began the important process all students eventually make — viewing themselves as a professional and no longer just a student. It was a life-changing experience.”

In a major research project at UAB, she learned people “don’t really think about deception, if you don’t tell them to think about deception.” It stems from truth default theory, that people assume honesty. 

“If you tell me you are from Wisconsin, hypothetically, most likely I am going to believe you are from Wisconsin unless there is a trigger that causes doubt,” Moore said. “Assuming honesty is a way for us to have easy and smooth conversations without the burden of suspicion at every corner.” 

A Mobile native, Moore says she knew the moment she stepped on campus that UAB was the school for her. It had all the curriculum she was interested in; it was highly accredited and had “a welcoming atmosphere.

“I stepped on campus; I just knew,” she said. “I knew this was it.”

Moore gives thanks to the people with whom she has worked at UAB and says they have been invaluable, including “Dr. Kareem Russell over the McNair program, Dr. Levine, my research mentor, Dr. Kelly Morrison, Dr. Steve McCornack and Dr. Jacquelyn Shaia in the communication department.  

Alivia.3The cast of Theatre UAB's "The Glass Menagerie" hoped the “brand-new story with classic roots,” portrayed by a black family, would humanize the black experience for audiences. Pictured: seated front, Cheryl Hall; seated middle, Alivia Moore; standing left to right: Devin Franklin and David Parker.“The professors and program directors here have spent so much time making sure students get it, that students are well prepared, and I don’t think they know just how valuable it is to me and to other students,” Moore said. 

While at UAB, Moore also made time to perform in Theatre UAB’s production of “The Glass Menagerie” in 2020, when a cast of Black actors stepped into characters likely envisioned as white by playwright Tennessee Williams. She had always wanted to try acting and had the chance to work on such a meaningful project in what was her first theater production ever.

“For it to be with an all-Black cast, retelling a story filled with such depth and emotion, was truly a blessing,” she said. She saw firsthand how art can be a form of healing, and a way to create understanding of what others are experiencing.

“To connect in that way is powerful,” Moore said. “I am so grateful to have worked with such an amazing cast, and have met so many kind people. It is an experience that I will never forget.”

She urges incoming students to make the most of their time in college.

“Like every opportunity, it seems possibly like a cliché, but I don’t think you realize how many resources there are at UAB until you leave UAB,” she said. “I would say take every opportunity seriously, plan long term. You don’t have to know everything down to the detail; but have an idea and start really working on that idea.”

Moore says she thinks research can do a lot of good in the community and is excited to do applied research at Cornell University. She hopes to teach on a professorial level, do research and work in the field.

“We are social creatures,” Moore said. “If we know the principles of how we communicate, we could correct some communication errors that we may fall into. I think that is huge, and that is something I definitely look forward to.”