Honors Day 2024

Honors Day 2024

“The CMS Talk Show” was the theme for Honors Day 2024, held on May 1. Craig Scott, Stacey Sowards, and René Dailey served as talk show hosts for the event, which celebrated accomplishments of CMS students and faculty. The show featured a one-person band (Jared Jensen), a talk show format where award winners were briefly interviewed, and several efforts to tie in features from various daytime and late night talk shows—including Comm-nac the Magnificent, The CMS Questionnaire, Thank-You Notes, and a special video feature of CMS Walking created by our own Leonard Memon. The event culminated with a reception at Hole in the Wall and JewBoy Cantina.

CMS Honors
CMS Talk Show Hosts; Craig Scott and Stacey Sowards

The event began with a Top 10 List of CMS Memories from the past year—highlighting big promotions, things we gained (and lost), the Barry Brummett Endowed Lecture fundraising, fall/spring events/visitors, CMS Week, forensic team success, NCA events, and more. Inspired by Last Week Tonight, images from the past year (assembled by Jenn Porras) were shown as part of Last Year Today.

For undergraduate honors, Faculty Advisor Roselia Mendez Murillo talked about our Lambda Pi Eta honors society. Officers of our chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators were recognized. Additionally, all 162 of our graduating undergraduates for this year were also listed.

Shiv Ganesh Award
Shiv Ganesh receives Graduate Faculty of the Year Award

Randy Cox and Brendon Bankey were also guests as they shared some of the many successes of the debate and speech teams. Combined, the teams were once again the top program in the nation across speech and debate. Senior co-captain of the team and CMS major (political communication track) Fernando Cereceres, who was recognized as the top overall speaker in the country at nationals, impressed the audience by presenting his award-winning communication analysis.

The final three awards of the program included special interviews of our award winners. The Outstanding Graduate Program Alumni Award went to John P. Caughlin, who took the CMS Questionnaire during his online interview to confirm he was worthy of the award. Caughlin graduated from UT Austin with his Ph.D. in 1997. He has been a mainstay in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois—serving as their Graduate Advisor and now department Head. Caughlin is a Fellow of both ICA and IARR and he has received the NCA Early Career Award and the Brommel Award. He publishes in our top journals, has contributed to key handbooks, helped edit the International Encyclopedia of Interpersonal Communication, and is a co-author for one of the most popular textbooks of interpersonal communication. Caughlin has mentored and advised many students who have gone on to make substantial contributions in their own right—with Tammy Afifi and our own Erin Donovan being two of those star advisees. As one of Caughlin’s nominators concluded, this person is “a pillar of our field—someone who has conducted rigorous and meaningful research but also a great colleague who is generous in sharing knowledge, expertise, and wisdom…. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather see be our …Outstanding Alum Award recipient.”

Friend of Department
John Caughlin will receive our Outstandinig Graduate Program Alumni Award in Fall 2024

The Friend of the Department Award can go to anyone who is NOT currently a faculty member, staff member, or student in our department. The goal is to recognize a special act in this past year or the accumulation of support over multiple years that benefits the department and its mission. Department leadership selects the recipient in consultation with key others. This year’s winner was Kay Hopper. This past fall we had our rededication of what we fondly call the Hopper Lab, named after long-time faculty member Robert Hopper. For years this lab was primarily about having the technologies and software and workspaces our graduate students needed to do their research. As technologies changed, so did the lab. We needed fewer cubicles and fewer desktop computers, which allowed us to create other more flexible workspaces, add books and other reference material, bring in whiteboards and large monitors, and, more recently, move the grad kitchen down here and add furniture to make this the welcoming space it is today. Of course, changes like this take funds and the annual upkeep of the lab requires resources. We are so fortunate that Robert’s wife, Kay Hopper, has been so supportive of work here in CMS and Moody over the years. This past year Kay donated $10,000 to CMS to be used for needs related to the Hopper Lab. This is an incredibly valuable gift that will be used to make this facility even more impressive and useful to our students in the years to come. For this wonderful donation and her ongoing support of our program over the years, Kay Hopper is a wonderful choice as recipient of this year’s Friend of the Department! Kay was in attendance to accept the award and make a few remarks.

Kay Hopper
Stacey Sowards interviewing our Friend of the Department Award winner, Kay Hopper

The final award of the talk show was the Faculty/Staff Service Award. Faculty and staff nominated and voted on the winner, which was Director of Texas Speech Randy Cox. Randy’s interview was done “Hot Ones” style (with chips and ghost pepper salsa). During the interview, it was noted that Randy was hired as a full-time lecturer and Director of Texas Speech in 2003. Since that time, he has clearly had the touch as Director, winning the American Forensics Association’s (AFA) national tournament in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2022, 2023, and 2024. Cox has already received the AFA’s Distinguished Service Award in 2017, the highest honor bestowed by the organization. He was elected as President of the Texas Speech Communication Association recently as well. He steps down from his role as director with the team recognized as the top one in the country. Randy shared some of his memories of the program and his appreciation to the department for the support shown to Texas Speech. The department applauded Randy for his service over the past 20+ years as Director of Texas Speech and as a faculty member in our department!

Randy Cox Award
Randy Cox received our Outstanding Faculty/Staff Award

Congratulations to all the award winners who make CMS such a wonderful and accomplished community!

Mark Strama Award
Mark Strama receives Instructoral Mentorship Award

The following MA and PhD graduates were recognized and presented with a gift:

  • Abbey Cole, Masters (Spring 2024)
  • Drew Coolidge, Doctoral (Spring 2024)
  • Cassidy Doucet, Doctoral (Spring 2024)
  • Rachel Herschmann, Masters (Fall 2023)
  • Sam James, Doctoral (Spring 2024)
  • Jared Jensen, Doctoral (Spring 2024)
  • Braidyn Lazenby, Doctoral (Spring 2024)
  • Cate (Siyu) Li, Masters (Spring 2024)
  • Eve Margarita, Doctoral (Spring 2024)
  • Kristina Miller, Doctoral (Summer 2024)
  • Carolyn Montagnolo, Doctoral (Summer 2024)
  • Caroline Murray, Masters (Spring 2024)
  • Leona (Yinglang) Pang, Masters (Spring 2024)
  • Mackenzie Pike, Doctoral (Summer 2024)
  • Karly Quaack, Doctoral (Summer 2024)
  • Nandini Sharma, Doctoral (Summer 2024)
  • Shuting Yao, Doctoral (Summer 2024)

Congratulations to all those graduates. Other graduate student accomplishments during the past year were also recognized.

  • Outstanding Teaching Assistant (MA): Ari Davidson
  • Outstanding Assistant Instructor: Sam James
  • Outstanding First-Year MA Student: Leonard Memon
  • Outstanding First-Year PhD Student: Cynthia Marentes
  • Outstanding MA Student: Caroline Murray
  • Outstanding PhD Student: Sam James
  • Outstanding Graduate Citizen: Yohanna Tesfai
  • Outstanding Graduate Research: Yifan Xu
Grad Student Winners
Graduate Student Award Wiinners

Outgoing chair of the CommSGC Yohanna Tesfai introduced the new leadership for this graduate organization:

  • Chair/PhD Representative: Ellen Alley
  • Vice-Chair/MA Representative: Leonard Memon
  • Secretary: Mir Rabby
  • Treasurer: Nicole Butterbaugh
NCAA Bracket Winners
Our 2024 NCAA Bracket Challenger Winners Mackenzie Pike and Nicole Butterbaugh