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University of Oklahoma

Spring 2022 Advanced Programs - Advanced Programs Face to Face or Virtual - Communication

[COMM 5393] Risk & Crisis Comm - 102

Elena Bessarabova

Course Description

Risk and Crisis Communication

This course offers an overview of risk and crisis communication theory and research

Class Dates, Format, Location and Hours

Dates:March 18 – 20 and March 25 – 27, 2022
Format:Face to Face
Location: College of Allied Health, OU Health Sciences Center,
1200 N. Stonewall, Oklahoma City, OK 73117-1215
Hours:Friday 5:30-9:30 p.m.; Saturday 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.;
Sunday 1:00-5:00 p.m.
Last day to enroll or drop without penalty: February 17, 2022

Site Director

NameKristen Dennis

Professor Contact Information

Course Professor:Elena Bessarabova, PhD
Mailing Address:Department of Communication
University of Oklahoma
Norman, OK 73019
Telephone Number:(240) 478-8198 (cell)
Fax Number:(405) 325-7625
Professor availability:The professor will be available via email to students before and after the class sessions. Face to Face office hours are half an hour before and after each class session, by appointment.

Textbook(s) and Instructional Materials

Student materials are available at the OU Bookstore Website at The website has book selling, renting, buying, returning, and order tracking capabilities. If you need help with an order, or if you have any questions contact the toll-free phone at 1-(855)-790-6637, agents are available from 9a – 5p (EST) Monday – Friday. Text prices are available online.

Materials posted on the OU Canvas system: Journal articles will be uploaded to Canvas prior to class. Access canvas at; enter your OU NetID and password and select course to access material. Please contact your local Site Director if you require assistance.

This course does not use books

Course Objectives

The primary goal of this course is to provide an overview of theory and research in the field of risk and crisis communication, focusing specifically on cognition, emotion, risk perceptions, risk/crisis management and communication analysis.

Assignments, Grading and Due Dates


You should have read the bulk of the readings before the course begins and should be prepared to discuss the assigned readings each class session. This course will be conducted at a graduate level; the professor will act more as a facilitator than a lecturer. This means participants are responsible for providing considered, informed, and active contributions to the discussion.

In the course, we will focus on the following topics: approaches to communicating risk, risk perceptions, risk and emotion, terrorism, the issues of audience analysis and message design, risk and media, as well as cultural differences in risk perception.

Written Assignment:

Starting from the first day of class, you will submit a written assignment that will consist of two parts:

1.      Summary/Reflection. A summary/reflection of each reading assigned for that particular day will be due starting on the first day of class. This paper should be a single-spaced, one page-long submission. This assignment is to be uploaded on canvas (see “Summary/Reflection” dropbox) one hour before the beginning of the class for which the readings are assigned.

2.      Discussion Questions. You are expected to come up with one thoughtful question per reading (so if two readings are assigned for a particular day, two questions are due from you) and post them on canvas under “Discussions” one hour before the beginning of the class for which the readings are assigned. Since you will be able to see other students’ questions, avoid redundant questions. Your questions can critique/challenge the ideas presented in the readings, ask about potential application of the ideas in the readings, and point to inconsistencies across readings. Ultimately, your questions should demonstrate the knowledge and understanding of the material. Class discussion will be partially based on your questions.

Guest Lecture Presentation:

Starting from the second day of class, you can choose any reading to cover as a guest lecturer. Please let me know in advance via e-mail what reading you choose. The readings for this assignment will be assigned on the first come, first serve basis. This assignment also consists of two parts:

1.      A written assignment representing a reflection on the reading that you chose. This paper should be double-spaced, contain 7-10 pages of text written in APA format, and include a reference section. This paper is to be uploaded on canvas under “Discussions” (see “Guest Lectures” forum) on the first day of class. Your colleagues are expected to review this paper before attending your guest lecture appearance.

2.      An oral presentation (20 minutes) on the material will be due on the day that the reading you chose is assigned.

Post-Seminar Paper:

You will be asked to write a term paper relevant to the material discussed in this class. Source material may include and/or expand on the reading list provided for this course. You will be asked to provide an analysis and communication recommendations of an existing risk/crisis including:

1.      Problem definition

2.      Audience analysis

3.      Communication analysis and recommendations

The paper must follow APA format, have a separate title page, include a 100-word abstract, have 13-15 pages of text, and include a complete reference section. Students will first submit a short proposal introducing the topic they wish to address and some potential sources beyond the list supplied. Once the proposal has been accepted, students may begin work on the paper. All work must be original and be properly prepared and referenced in APA format.


This is a letter-graded course: A, B, C, D, or F. 

AssignmentDue DatePercent of Grade
Summary/Reflection1 Hour Before Each Subsequent Class25%
Guest Lecture PresentationsDuring Class Sessions25%
Class DiscussionsDuring Class Sessions25%
Post-Seminar PaperApril 9, 202225%

Incomplete Grade Policy

Notice: Failure to meet assignment due dates could result in a grade of I (Incomplete) and may adversely impact Tuition Assistance and/or Financial Aid.


Attendance/Grade Policy

Attendance and participation in interaction, individual assignments, group exercises, simulations, role playing, etc. are valuable aspects of any course because much of the learning comes from discussions in class with other students. It is expected that you attend all classes and be on time except for excused emergencies.

Excused absences are given for professor mandated activities or legally required activities such as emergencies or military assignments. It is the policy of the University to excuse absences of students that result from religious observances and to provide without penalty for the rescheduling of examinations and additional required class work that may fall on religious holidays. Unavoidable personal emergencies, including (but not limited to) serious illness; delays in getting to class because of accidents, etc.; deaths and funerals, and hazardous road conditions will be excused.

If you are obtaining financial assistance (TA, STAP, FA, VA, Scholarship, etc.) to pay all or part of your tuition cost, you must follow your funding agency/institution’s policy regarding “I” (Incomplete) grades unless the timeline is longer than what the University policy allows then you must adhere to the University policy. Students who receive Financial Aid must resolve/complete any “I” (Incomplete) grades by the end of the term or he/she may be placed on “financial aid probation.” If the “I” grade is not resolved/completed by the end of the following term, the student’s Financial Aid may be suspended make the student ineligible for further Financial Aid.

Students are responsible for meeting the guidelines of Tuition Assistance and Veterans Assistance. See the education counselor at your local education center for a complete description of your TA or VA requirements.

OU faculty will submit grades online through ONE not later than 30 days after the course end date. Course end dates are approximately one calendar month after the final seminar date on this syllabus and are provided on the official scheduling website for reference.

Academic Integrity and Student Conduct 

Academic integrity means honesty and responsibility in scholarship. Academic assignments exist to help students learn; grades exist to show how fully this goal is attained. Therefore all work and all grades should result from the student's own understanding and effort.

Academic misconduct is any act which improperly affects the evaluation of a student’s academic performance or achievement. Misconduct occurs when the student either knows or reasonably should know that the act constitutes misconduct. Academic misconduct includes: cheating and using unauthorized materials on examinations and other assignments; improper collaboration, submitting the same assignment for different classes (self-plagiarism); fabrication, forgery, alteration of documents, lying, etc…in order to obtain an academic advantage; assisting others in academic misconduct; attempting to commit academic misconduct; destruction of property, hacking, etc…; intimidation and interference with integrity process; and plagiarism. All students should review the Student’s Guide to Academic Integrity at 

Students and faculty each have responsibility for maintaining an appropriate learning environment. All students should review policies regarding student conduct at 

Accommodation Statement

The University of Oklahoma is committed to making its activities as accessible as possible. For accommodations on the basis of disability, please contact your local OU Site Director.

Adjustment for Pregnancy/Childbirth-Related Issues

Should you need modifications or adjustments to your course requirements because of documented pregnancy-related or childbirth-related issues, please contact the professor as soon as possible to discuss. Generally, modifications will be made where medically necessary and similar in scope to accommodations based on temporary disability. Please see

Title IX Resources

For any concerns regarding gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, stalking, or intimate partner violence, the University offers a variety of resources, including advocates on-call 24/7, counseling services, mutual no-contact orders, scheduling adjustments, and disciplinary sanctions against the perpetrator. Please contact the Sexual Misconduct Office at or (405) 325-2215 (8-5), or the Sexual Assault Response Team at (405) 615 -0013 (24/7) to report an incident. To learn more about Title IX, please visit the Institutional Equity Office’s website at 

Course Policies

Extended Campus (also and formerly known as Advanced Programs) policy is to order books in paperback if available. Courses, dates, and professors are subject to change. Please check with your OU Site Director. Students should retain a copy of any assignments that are e/mailed to the professor for the course. Neither duplicating services nor office supplies are provided.

Any and all course materials, syllabus, lessons, lectures, etc. are the property of professor teaching the course and the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma and are protected under applicable copyright.

For more information about OU Extended Campus, visit our website at:

Statement on Respect

The classroom should provide a safe learning environment where students can express their views without fear of reprisal. That freedom of expression must be balanced by demonstrated respect for other’s viewpoints and appropriate and reasonable sensitivity, especially within the context of scholarly disagreement.  Disrespectful or uncivil dialogue (including, but not limited to, personal attacks, insults, or harassment) will not be tolerated.

Recording Devices/Phones/Computers

It is important for students to be fully present during class to fully benefit from lectures, discussions, and experiential assignments. Class sessions may not be tape-recorded. All telephones and pagers should be turned off or placed on silent mode. Computers may not be used during class. Students who require an exception to this policy should discuss exceptional circumstances with the professor.


Elena Bessarabova, Ph.D.


·        2010 – Ph. D. in Communication from the University of Maryland at College Park

  • 2004 – M. A. in Organizational Communication from the University of Texas at Austin

·        1998 – B. A. with Honors in Linguistics and Education from Kuban State University (Krasnodar, Russia)

Current Positions

·        Associate Professor, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK

·        Advanced Programs professor since 2010

Frequently Taught College of Professional and Continuing Studies Courses

·        COMM 6433      Seminar in Intercultural Communication

·        COMM 5253      Cross-Cultural Communication: Theory and Research

·        COMM 5393      Risk Assessment and Communication

Major Areas of Teaching and Research Interest

My research program is within the areas of social influence and intercultural research. Within social influence, I am interested in the effects of discrepancy, emotion and resistance on risk perception and message-processing. In the realm of intercultural communication, I am interested in cross-cultural differences in information integration regarding risk. I also study credibility assessment, in particular, how culture informs the differences in verbal and nonverbal cues that might be associated with deception.

Representative Publications and Presentations

·        Bessarabova, E., & Banas, J. A. (in press). Discrete emotions and the QAnon conspiracy theory. In M. Miller (Ed.). The social science of QAnon: Understanding a new social and political phenomenon. Cambridge University Press.

·        Bessarabova, E., Banas, J. A., & Bernard, D. R. (2020). The role of negative emotions in applied communication research. In D. O’Hair & M. J. O’Hair (Eds.), Handbook of Applied Communication Research. Sage.

·        Bessarabova, E., Miller, C. H., & Russell, J. (2017). A further exploration of the effects of restoration postscripts on reactance. Western Journal of Communication, 81, 362-384. doi:10.1080/10570314.2016.1254815

·        Bessarabova, E., Piercy, C., King, S., Vincent, C., Dunbar, N. E., Burgoon, J. K., Miller, C. H., Jensen, M., Elkins, A., Wilson, D., Wilson, S. N., & Lee, Y.-H. (2016). Mitigating bias blind spot via a serious video game. Computers in Human Behavior, 62, 452-466. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.03.089

·        Bessarabova, E., Turner, M. M., Fink, E. L., & Blustein, N. B. (2015). “You ain’t guiltin’ me into nothin’”: Extending the theory of reactance to guilt appeals. Zeitschrift für Psychologie: New Directions in Reactance Theory, 223. Retrieved from 

·        Bessarabova, E. (2014). In-group favoritism and deception: A comparison of Russian and American cultures. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 39, 9-21. doi:10.1016/j.ijintrel.2013.09.001

·        Bessarabova, E., Fink, E. L., & Turner, M. (2013). Reactance, restoration, and cognitive structures: Comparative statics. Human Communication Research, 39, 339-364. doi:10.1111/hcre.12007

Major Professional Affiliations

  • International Communication Association
  • National Communication Association