The department’s annual Honors Day was held virtually Friday, May 7. Nearly 80 participants celebrated the collective and individual accomplishments of the CMS department and its members. This year’s event celebrated all that was achieved even as we battled against COVID-19, misinformation, and the snow-pocalypse. A recording of the event is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJqMV1h8OPQ.
The fun began with Jennifer Betancourt and Anne Bormann entertaining people as they arrived with several poll and chat questions. One of those polls revealed that Keri “You’re Gonna Enjoy This” Stephens was voted as the “Doctor” who would be best at giving vaccinations. Department Chair Craig Scott then welcomed everyone and began by noting 10 key accomplishments the department had made over the past year: major participation in free speech week, launch of the spring colloquium series on Truth, hosting the virtual Texas Party and producing a new graduate program promotional video for NCA, adding two new student organizations with over 150 initial members, having planned meetings of the full faculty each semester, the formation of a department DEI committee and various efforts to be more inclusive, three successful promotion cases (Josh Gunn, René Daily, and Jennifer Jones Barbour), a new associate chair (Jeff Treem) and new graduate advisor (René Dailey), two new hires this past year (Stacey Sowards and Craig Scott) and two more arriving next year (Nik Palomares and Roselia Mendez Murillo), and a “pandemic” worth of publishing and professing (including collectively providing instruction to over 5700 undergraduate faces and nearly 300 grad student faces this past summer, fall and spring).
One of the highlights of the event was a special recognition of Madeline Maxwell, who will be retiring later this summer. Madeline has contributed to the department in immeasurable ways for over 4 decades. Rod Hart delivered a presentation celebrating some of Madeline’s many qualities that had those in attendance both smiling and crying.
The awards began by congratulating Mary Hardesty (daughter of Sharon Jarvis) as the winner of the March Madness Bracket Challenges sponsored by the department and the Center for Sports Communication and Media. Associate Chair Jeff Treem then recognized our undergraduates who were graduating with special honors, including 31 members of our new Lambda Pi Eta Honors Society. Special note was made of two honored graduates who will join our graduate program in the fall: Stephanie Vargas and Faith Osterberg.
A highlight of each year’s Honors Day is the forensics team performance. This year Texas Speech coach Randy Cox prepared a video highlighting multiple team members and their performances as a way of celebrating the team’s success in this challenging year. UT Debate Coach Brendon Bankey also presented information highlighting the tremendous success of their team.
Graduate Advisor René Dailey presented the following awards to members of our graduate community:
- Outstanding 1st Year Masters Student – Olivia Gellar
- Outstanding 1st Year Doctoral Student – Nancy Carlson
- Outstanding Masters Student – Qing Huang
- Outstanding Doctoral Student – Jared Jensen
- Outstanding Doctoral Student – Katie Lever
- Outstanding Departmental Citizen – Rudy Pett
- Outstanding Teaching Assistant – Elizabeth Bradshaw
- Outstanding Teaching Assistant – Audrey Shaffer
- Outstanding Assistant Instructor – Courtney Powers & Shelbey Rolison
- Outstanding Graduate Student Research with Faculty Collaborators – Jessica Collier
- Outstanding Graduate Student Research – Inbal Leibovits
The following members of our graduate community who are graduating (or recently graduated) this year were also recognized:
- Summer 2020 – Susannah Bannon (PhD)
- Summer 2020 – Emily Ball Cicchini (PhD)
- Summer 2020 – Abigail Hazlett (MA)
- Summer 2020 – Curt Yowell (PhD)
- Fall 2020 – Fred Jenga (PhD)
- Fall 2020 – Kyle Kearns (PhD)
- Fall 2020 – Lingzi Zhong (PhD)
- Spring 2021 – Jessica Collier (PhD)
- Spring 2021 – Zachary Fechter (MA)
Additionally, Inbal Leibovitz presented the new graduate student leadership for next year:
Chair: Sam James
Vice-Chair: Olivia Gellar
Secretary: Bhoopali Nandurkar
Treasurer: Nathaniel Repay
One of the most enjoyable parts of Honors Day was a video highlighting the lives of our CMS community through some of the images as pulled together by Anne Bormann and Marc Speir.
Department Chair Craig Scott then highlighted just a few of the many faculty who had been honored by others over the past year, including Dina Inman-Ramgolam (who just last month won a Transformational Online Instruction Contributions, or TONIC, Award from the UT Provost’s office for her exceptional creativity and rapid innovation as we moved to hybrid and online instruction), Jennifer Jones Barbour (who just this week was announced as the recipient of the Cale McDowell Award for Innovation from the UT School for Undergraduate Studies for her amazing teaching and course development), Stacey Sowards (whose book about The Legacy of Dolores Huerta and the United Farm Workers won 3 different awards at the most recent NCA), and Josh Barbour and Jeff Treem (who received the Bill Eadie Distinguished Article Award from NCA’s Applied Communication Interest Group). Scott also recognized some of the many faculty and staff who provided strong service to the department over the past year, including Robert Carroll (who has led our DEI committee with such thoughtfulness), Scott Stroud (who worked so hard to make our spring colloquium series a success), Maddie Redlick (who launched the new Communication Foundations courses in our college during a pandemic), Anne Bormann (who has brought new ideas and energy in service to our grad programs), Erin Donovan (who has done great work as chair of our awards committee), and of course Jennifer Betancourt (who gives so much to our department year in and year out and was especially supportive during the snow-pocalypse).
The formal faculty awards went to the following very deserving individuals:
- Graduate Faculty of the Year (as given out by the graduate students and presented by Dakota Park Ozee) – Shiv Ganesh and Keri Stephens
- Faculty/Staff Service Award – René Dailey and Sharon Jarvis
Finally, a new Friend of the Department Award was presented to John and Laurie Korinek for their generosity to the department. The Dr. John Korinek Family Endowment for Communication Studies Graduate Student Travel is a $50,000 endowed gift that will begin providing several thousand dollars each year to support graduate students who need financial assistance to present their research at conferences. More details on this award and the winners can be found at https://commstudies.utexas.edu/spotlight/endowed-gift-support-graduate-student-travel-announced.
The event ended with a wonderful toast from Barry Brummett and then multiple breakout rooms where people could celebrate the winners, try and answer Jeff Treem’s trivia questions, and simply connect with colleagues. Congratulations to all the winners and everyone in the CMS community for all their work over this rather challenging past year.