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Conference Features Hollywood, TV Veteran

“We don’t know what God has in store for our students, but God does,” said Dr. Thomas Parham. “And sometimes it’s beyond what they even dream of. And that excites me.”

Parham, keynote speaker for the University’s upcoming Interdisciplinary Research Conference, cited a case in point: his former student Ricky Staub, award winning writer and film director. In the photo above, Staub, at left, laughed with Parham last month in Parham’s Hollywood-adorned office as they reminisced. Staub, at Parham’s invitation, visited PBA to speak at the Art of Storytelling Conference. 

At the research conference, set for March 22-23, Parham will speak on “Secret Origins of a Research Mentor.” As he talks about helping undergrad students pursue research, look for him also to share a story or two about the film and TV career he enjoyed before he became a communication professor. 

A United States Naval Academy grad, Parham served seven years in the Navy, including three Persian Gulf deployments, before he left the service to study at Regent University. After earning his Ph.D. there, he headed to the entertainment industry. He worked at Paramount Pictures in the mid-1990s as supervisor of publishing for the studio’s licensing division and also worked on more than 100 episodes of broadcast television during that decade. He has written for the long-running CBS drama JAG and the Family Channel sit-com Big Brother Jake and also served as on-location writers’ assistant for the third season of Touched by an Angel.

Parham came to academia after “God really convicted me that I needed to put this Ph.D. to use and get in the classroom.” He taught at Biola and Azusa Pacific universities before joining the PBA faculty in 2020 as professor of communication and media studies.

He delights in telling about former students making their mark in entertainment and related fields. “Seeing my students succeed just gives me great pleasure,” he said. “I can tell already that some of my PBA students are going places the same way.”

Students hear providential stories, like “all the ways God lined things up for me to be on Jag.” And they also hear down-to-Earth advice about succeeding in show business.

“Are there people in Hollywood who are against Christians?” he asked. “Absolutely, but people there don’t care what you believe as long as you’re doing a great job. And remember: never burn a bridge; you never know when you might need to cross that river again.” Parham’s keynote address is 11 a.m. March 23 in the Helen K. Persson Recital Hall of Vera Lea Rinker Hall, the location of all the conference's oral presentations. 

The conference schedule includes a wide variety of research by PBA faculty and students, as hinted by the samples below: 

  • President Dr. Debra A. Schwinn will report on her research about best practices and policies for community and academic physicians working together in integrated healthcare systems.
  • Dr. Tom Chesnes will discuss the link between the decline in seagrass and the mortality of manatees. 
  • Dr. David Horkott will present on what he calls “Kierkegaard’s baffling book,” Fear and Trembling.
  • Dr. Michael Kolta and Dr. Marsha Guntharp will demonstrate “Turning Colors into Music with Robotics.” It’s an interdisciplinary work involving visual arts, musical performance, computer science and robotics. It also represents research into pedagogy, showing a fun way to fill the classroom with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math).
  •  Senior history major Caleb Bowman traveled to Ireland in the summer to participate in an archaeological investigation by the Irish Archaeology Field School. He’ll explain what he learned from the excavation of the first recorded Anglo-Norman fortification in Ireland. “The fort at Carrig marks the beginning of English military control of Ireland and is crucial for understanding the development of political tensions between these countries in the centuries to follow,” he said.

Presentations will be video recorded and made available for viewing on the web. In addition to those oral presentations, the conference features a variety of poster presentations by faculty and students. These will be on display at the Warren Library March 21-25.

Psychology Professor Dr. David Compton, fellow for research in the sciences and chair of the Office of Academic Research, is coordinator of the research conference.