Beasley Accepts Award
On October 12, CMS hosted an awards reception to recognize Dr. Vanessa Beasley as the 2023 Outstanding Graduate Program Alumnus. The reception highlighted Beasley’s return to campus, where she received a tour of the college and department, met with faculty for dinner, and visited with graduate students over brunch. Beasley received her MA from our program in 1991 and officially earned her Ph.D. in 1997.
Department Chair Craig Scott kicked off the award ceremony by reminding guests that this award was a relatively new one, designed to help recognize the tremendous accomplishments of those who have completed their graduate degrees here in our program. Each year, the department awards committee considers nominations from faculty and then selects a winner among the hundreds of very accomplished MAs and PhDs who have graduated from this program over the decades.
Graduate Advisor Rene Dailey presented the actual award to Beasley and introduced our award winner as follows: “Dr. Beasley graduated from our program in 1997, which was then named Department of Speech Communication, and she worked with Dr. Rod Hart. Since then, she has been on the faculty of many strong programs—first at Texas A&M, then Southern Methodist University, University of Georgia, and then Vanderbilt, which I can imagine was a bit of a homecoming in that she received her bachelor’s degree there. And it was at Vanderbilt where she started her foray into administration. First as the Program Director for Career Development and American Studies, and then serving as Dean from 2015-2018. She then served as an Associate Provost and Dean of Residential Faculty, and then Vice Provost for Academic Affairs up until 2022 when she became Trinity University’s 20th President.
“And even during these leadership positions, she has been heavily involved in our field. She has served on association committees, she serves on many editorial boards, and is currently president of the Rhetorical Society of America. She also has several mentoring, service, and teaching awards. For example, she received the Mentoring Award from the Rhetorical and Communication Theory Division of NCA and the Thomas Jefferson Award for Distinguished Service to Vanderbilt.
“Her research focuses on the history of U.S. political rhetoric, particularly looking at presidential rhetoric. She has two books and numerous articles on this topic. And given that this award is to celebrate our graduates, I wanted to talk a little about Dr. Beasley’s dissertation. Her project, entitled “You, The People: Diversity and Citizenship in Presidential Rhetoric,” which was also converted into a well-known book, focused on how presidents have addressed the challenge of our demographically diverse citizenry in the US. Her introduction notes that “Although the American citizenry has never been homogenous, it seems particularly troubled by its heterogeneity at the end of the twentieth century,” and I bet we’d believe this is even more true now. Indeed, even though this was written in the late 90s, her words are quite applicable to our current times – if you read her first chapter, you’d likely think it was written today.”
Dailey closed by noting, “As a way of ending my introduction, I want to quote the very start of her dissertation—the first line in her acknowledgements—which states “Writing a dissertation teaches you many things, some of which you are not eager to learn.” Although she does not expound on what these lessons were (and perhaps she will impart us with some of these later), I bet that some of these teachings (and maybe the ones she was more eager to learn) have aided her impactful trajectory and the many significant contributions she has made to our field. Wisdoms of which we hope that all of our current and future graduate students take with them as they continue their own journeys.”
Beasley accepted the award, thanked the department, and then delivered what multiple graduate students called a very inspirational acceptance speech. Most of her remarks are available here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1sVMZFLeNskow0IbpxGKa2oo5Jb4HQcbS/view?usp=drive_link. We congratulate Dr. Vanessa Beasley, President of Trinity University, for being our 2023 Outstanding Graduate Program Alumnus!