Comm Department awards $118,000 to exceptional students

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In two end-of-the-academic-year award ceremonies, the UW Department of Communication presented students with certificates worth more than $118,000 in total. These students have proven to be exceptional in the areas of journalism, research, communication, public speaking, and ethics.

“This is one of our favorite hours of the year as we get the chance to honor some of our best students – students that have plowed a lot of their time and talents into outstanding scholarship, excellence, and leadership,” Professor and Department Chair David Domke said. “It’s a real investment and engagement in all sorts of ways and we are happy to honor you.”

Each certificate given at the Scholarship Ceremony and the Excellence Awards has a story behind it – whether it was created to honor a prestigious professor of Communication, recognize a prized alum, or remember a fallen journalist who is leaving behind a legacy.

The Scholarship Ceremony highlighted this summer’s Foreign Intrigue students who will be working at a news outlet in Cambodia, Jordan, Sierra Leone, Kenya, and India. There were also awards that were started by esteemed alumni like Harold E. Carr and Assunta Ng, and partnerships recognized with the Association of Women in Communications, the Northwest Automotive Press Association, and the Seattle Times.

The Excellence Awards, emceed by Senior Lecturer Matt McGarrity, kicked off with a public speaking contest. The three finalists, chosen from 60 eligible students who all attended McGarrity’s intro to public speaking course throughout the academic year, presented persuasive speeches on a contemporary policy issue. Thinking as a citizen and negotiator, Misha Krushelnytskyy, who argued against Initiative 522, won the judges votes. The judges were alumni Shanon Johnson, Megan Coppersmith Szerwo, and Alyson Teeter-Baker.

President and CEO of the Pioneer News Group Mike Gugliotto presented the next group of awards for different areas in journalism, including entrepreneurial, international, and investigative.

“I’m sure you read and hear about where newspapers are today, where they were, and where they’re going and I can tell you from our experience and from the commitment in our company that the industry is very strong,” Gugliotto said. “There has never been, in my opinion, a better time to be in the field of communication and journalism and make a difference as a young professional entering the field.”

Riley Taitingfong accepts her Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award from Distinguished Alumna Jody Deering Nyquist at the Excellence Awards ceremony.

Riley Taitingfong accepts her Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award from Distinguished Alumna Jody Deering Nyquist at the Excellence Awards ceremony.

Department of Communication Hall of Fame member Don Kraft (B.A., 1948) called the next awards a “historic moment as it may be the first time an award has been given for ethics on campus.” Named after his friend Fred Baker, who transformed from a child of the depression to a skilled political consultant and later started his own advertising and public relations agency; this award recognized students for their character rather than their work.

“I could sum up Fred’s entire bio in one word: ethical,” Kraft said. “He never competed by stretching the truth, he steadfastly refused to use his political influence for personal gain, he allocated a significant portion of his time and resources for the betterment of the community, and he knew what it meant to be a true and loyal friend.”

The last set of awards was given to students who are making a difference through research. Aligning with the public mission of the University to become thought-leaders by creating knowledge and new insights, these students are analyzing the racial and ethnic discourses within Seattle’s Habesha community, anti-intellectualism in American political discourse, the effects of press-government competition on institutional trust, and more.

To read award descriptions and learn more about the recipients, click here. To see photos from the events, visit our Flickr page.

Article and photos by Erica Thompson.