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Communication Studies fetes its star students

The 50th Anniversary Graduate Awards honour academics and extracurricular dedication
April 6, 2016
By Elisabeth Faure

“The award winners carry the spirit of our department’s 50-year-long history of ethically and intellectually engaged research, teaching and community outreach.” “The award winners carry the spirit of our department’s 50-year-long history of ethically and intellectually engaged research, teaching and community outreach.”

The Department of Communication Studies has yet another thing to celebrate: the winners of its 50th Anniversary Graduate Awards.

Created specially as part of the year-long celebration of Coms Studies’ founding 50 years ago, the awards recognize student contribution to the life of the department, in addition to academic achievement.

“We are delighted to honour the traditions established in our department by our founder, Father Jack O'Brien, and others, by offering awards that not only recognize academic excellence, but recognize the ways students help build the culture of a department,” says Sandra Gabriele, chair of the department.

“This award means a lot to me,” says Rebecca Waldie, a first-year graduate student who won one of two MA in Media Studies Awards, valued at $2,000.

“I chose the communication studies department for my MA because they were the only department to show me I could belong as more than simply a student who would be there for a couple of years,” says Waldie, who was so motivated by the department’s sense of community that she frequently gave up mornings, evenings and weekends to sit on various committees.

“Every faculty member, whether my instructor or not, is always eager to stop to talk with me about my life and research, and the staff are so amazingly supportive,” she says.

“It prompted me to want to be a part of the community both inside and outside the department. I wanted to help improve the quality of life for students, faculty and staff to the best of my abilities.”

Fellow winner Michelle Macklem, who won the second-year MA Media Studies award, echoes Waldie’s sentiments. “Winning this award was a great pleasure, as I’ve really enjoyed being a part of such an interconnected and vibrant department,” she says.

“The communications department has provided me with support and connection throughout my degree and it’s an honour to be recognized in this way.”

Graduate program director Charles Acland, who is director of the department’s MA in Media Studies, is full of praise for the winners. "Among an extraordinary cohort of engaged MA Media Studies students, Rebecca and Michelle have made terrific contributions,” he says.

“They are fine representatives of our 50-year tradition of student participation in the life and scholarship of the Department of Communication Studies."

Other winners included three PhD in Communication Awards, won by Momoko Allard (4th year), Ashley McAskill (5th year) and Katerina Symes (3rd year). Allard played an instrumental role developing and administering the department’s Feminist Media Studio, McAskill co-organized the department’s Joint PhD Biennial Conference in 2013 and Symes chaired the COMS 50th Graduate Student Research Creation Showcase. All three also participated in various committees. The PhD awards hold a value of $2,400 each.

“The PhD in Communication program is delighted to have been able to secure these awards for our outstanding students,” says Jeremy Stolow, PhD program director.

“Given their innovative research and energetic involvement in the community of our department and far beyond, all three of the award winners carry the spirit of our department’s 50-year-long history of ethically and intellectually engaged research, teaching and community outreach,” he says.

For her part, McAskill says her efforts were motivated by the desire to create a sense of community and transparency among her colleagues.

“This award really symbolizes the importance of what a small conversation can contribute to a department, and why collegiality is central to creating a meaningful and supportive graduate student experience, one that moves beyond the walls of the university. I would like to thank the department for this extremely generous recognition-- it really does mean a lot.”

The awards are one of the highlights of the past year’s anniversary activities, which have included art exhibitions, film screenings and a speech by Father O’Brien shortly before his death late last year.

“We are a better department for the contributions of our students and we are just delighted to recognize this as we close out our 50th anniversary,” Gabriele says.

The Department of Communication Studies 50th Anniversary celebrations will come to a close on April 30 with a final panel discussion and celebration. Find out more about it and
other events


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