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From the Department Chair, Dr. Patricia S. Parker, 


On behalf of the faculty and staff in the Department of Communication, I extend a hearty congratulations to the recipients of the 2020 undergraduate and graduate student awards.   If not for the current global health crisis we would be gathered on campus in Wilson Library’s Pleasants Family Room on or near the last day of classes in the spring semester.  There would be heartfelt tributes from faculty to students who have enriched the academic and cultural life of our department in so many ways. In the reception that followed, we would enjoy little Carolina blue and chocolate tar heel-shaped cookies and punch, along with lots of smiles and good conversation.  


Although we can’t gather in person, and there may not be any cookies in sight, I do hope you will take the time to read through the tributes that follow.  We are extremely proud of these remarkable students who deserve to be recognized for their accomplishments. 


Jim Lampley Award for Excellence in Multimedia, presented by Joyce Rudinsky

Ryan Anderson, Mary Gibeau, DeCarlos Hickson

Ryan Anderson is one of three recipients of the Jim Lampley award for excellence in new media production. Ryan is a double major in the Department of Communication (new media track) and the Department of Computer Science. Ryan has taken many courses in media production. His visual work is thoughtful and well designed. He has good ideas and can express them across platforms. He has the ability to work both creatively and technically. His work was always the strongest in the class. Ryan spent the last two summers interning as a software engineer developing iOS (mobile operating system for Apple) applications. He is the recipient of three scholarships from Apple to attend their annual Worldwide Developers Conference. After graduation he will start as a software engineer at Garmin in Olathe, Kansas. Ryan is from High Point, NC. 

Mary Gibeau is one of three recipients of the Jim Lampley award for excellence in new media production. Mary is a double major in the Department of Communication (new media track) and the Department of Computer Science. Mary’s passion is video games. In the new media track she developed artistic skills in design, user experience, and visual communication. She is a dedicated maker. Her work is focused on environmental and social issues.  Mary is generous in sharing her knowledge. I had the pleasure of having her in three classes. Her technical assistance, critical analysis, and creative work lifted the entire class. She was also active in the Department of Computer Science where she was a teaching assistant for COMP 10 and COMP 110. She participated in semester Hachathons and co-lead workshops centered around making inclusive websites and games. She led numerous other workshops including one on building games for UNC’s all female and non-binary Hackathon, Pearl Hacks. Race to the Moon, a game that Mary worked on will be on permanent exhibit in Morehead Planetarium. Mary had two internships with Microsoft. After graduation she will start her career in Seattle as a Program Manager for Xbox Product Services. Mary is from Asheville, NC. You can learn more at

DeCarlos Hickson is one of three recipients of the Jim Lampley award for excellence in new media production. DeCarlos is a major in the Department of Communication in Media Production and a minor in the Writing for the Screen and Stage Program. DeCarlos excelled in 3D modeling, game design, and animation. He has created many projects in animation and film. His game design has been a showcase for all of his skills. In his final year, he created a prototype for a game title Whose Shoes where a player experiences the lifestyles of the different economic classes through an interactive story. He is a dedicated and talented artist.  DeCarlos is in the Lambda Pi Eta Honor Society, the Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program, and is a UNC Scholarship Ambassador. DeCarlos won the Emmy Internship, a program through the Television Academy Foundation and will be working in the development department for an animated children’s program in Los Angeles. DeCarlos is from Durham, NC.


Special Initiative Award, presented by Kristin Hondros

Summer Lawrence

Summer Lawrence, this year’s recipient of the Department of Communication Special Initiative Award, is a performer, director, producer, screenwriter, and the Station Manager for STV Student Television. For the last four years, Summer has been a vital force in the filmmaking community here at UNC. Known to many from her many roles in STV shows, student films, and award winning performances in College Film Association projects, we in the Department of Communication have had the pleasure of also knowing Summer’s work behind the camera, as a writer, director, and producer. In class, we’ve seen her gift for collaboration and creative generosity lift the room, and her nascent leadership abilities have grown along with her filmmaking skill. She rose up through the ranks to be an official leader in Student Television, and may hold a record for the sheer number of student productions she has contributed to since her earliest days on campus as a first year. In addition to managing STV, Summer is always in demand as an actor, or as a storyteller to provide feedback on a screenplay, or as an advisor, director, creative producer, to be part of some production dream team or another. Her warmth, talent, and work ethic are truly remarkable and her contributions to the student film community and in the classroom will be missed.


John & Tatiana Moore Internship Fund 

Thanks to a generous gift from John and Tatiana Moore, the Department of Communication is pleased to provide stipends in financial support to Communication majors who have received internships related to their course of study during the summer of 2020. The stipend may be used to defray costs for travel, housing, and other expenses during the internship period.


Zuri Best

Will be participating in the Hollywood Internship Program. (Students wishing to go into the film & entertainment industry can apply for this program. If accepted, UNC alumni out in Los Angeles help them gain internships. The students move out there for these internships while taking classes with guest lecturers, who provide them with more connections, thus providing them a boost into the industry.) Zuri will be interning at MAS Production, a film and television production company (Pulp Fiction, A Fish Called Wanda). Her responsibilities will include script coverage, research, and attending staff/creative meetings.


Zoe Hambley

Will be interning at Philmont Scout Ranch, the Boy Scouts of America’s largest National High Adventure Base in New Mexico. She will intern as a videographer there, being responsible for creating documentaries and promotional videos to service the ranch.


DeCarlos Hickson

 He plans on working at an animation studio where his responsibilities could include: Character & environment development, 2D concept art, 2D animation, 3D modeling and textures, 3D animation.


Michael Latham

Will be participating in the Hollywood Internship Program. He will be interning at the De Laurentiis Production Company. 


Summer Lawrence

Will be participating in the Hollywood Internship Program. She has chosen the acting track of the Hollywood Internship and plans on working at a casting company. Under the acting track she can also take acting classes while in Los Angeles.


Xiayang Li

Will be participating in the Hollywood Internship Program. He plans on working in the camera division of a major production house.


Agustin Noguera

Will be participating in the Hollywood Internship Program. His internship will include reviewing scripts for pilot season, watching screeners/first cuts of films & television and giving feedback.


Emma Ravenberg

Will be working as a Marketing/Communications intern with Elavon in Atlanta, a processor of credit card transactions and a subsidiary of U.S. Bank. She will help create strategically targeted communications campaigns for each of Elavon’s different client bases, ranging from small business owners to large airline companies.


Krí Schafer

Her internship will be with Mosaic Media Group, a prestigious talent management & production company with notable A-list clients including Will Ferrell, Judd Apatow, Jessica Chastain, Kumail Nanjiani, Tessa Thompson, and Kate Mara. Her duties will include writing script coverage and completing research projects casting grids. 


Imani Williams

Will be interning at SiriusXM, an American broadcasting company.  She will work with Urban View/The Joe Madison Show in Washington, D.C. Her activities will include contacting guests, working with Joe Madison, and running technical operations.


Sherrill-Pence Award for Applied/Engaged Communication, presented by Cori Dauber

Ashley Mattheis

In addition to an impressive body of scholarship that maps the links between misogyny, white supremacy, hate speech and the far/alt-right in academic journals, Ashley’s work has been cited or quoted in numerous venues, including blogs, newspapers, and other popular formats. Ashley was recently quoted in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and Volksrant (Dutch newspaper). She also contributes regularly to the CARR blog posts (and these are also available through Fair Observer and openDemocracy) and is author of ‘Disrupting the Digital Divide’ in ‘Interventionen’, the journal of the Berlin based Violence Prevention Network, which publishes scholarly research for policy and practitioners.

Ashley has also presented work at international conferences attended by the academic community, representatives of law enforcement, and the major tech platforms (Google, Twitter, Facebook etc.) and she has contributed to a key research group of the British Home Office. Last fall, she was invited by the National Counter-terrorism Center to help the US government begin to address domestic terrorism. She has been named a fellow of several networks of scholars focusing on right wing violent extremists; and this past year she was named an individual associate of the Global Network on Extremism and Technology, an astonishing accomplishment for a scholar at this early stage of their career.

These public facing works reflect Ashley’s ethical and intellectual commitments, and because of this, she is worthy recipient of the Sherrill-Pence Award for Applied/Engaged Communication.


Outstanding Achievement in Service and Leadership, presented by Max Plumpton & Courtlyn Pippert

Elaine Schnabel

During her first two years in the PhD program, Elaine has become a major driving force for creating a sense of community amongst graduate students in the department. By the end of her cohort’s first semester in the program, she had organized a monthly writing group where members could share writing and get feedback and support from one another. Since then, Elaine has worked to initiate summer and break-off writing and accountability groups including graduate students from all cohorts. For the past year, Elaine has served as the Social Chair for the Graduate Student Association in our department. In that role, she has done an excellent job of making sure graduate students have had plenty of opportunities to gather both for recreational and professional purposes. Her work as the social chair for the department’s GSA has helped to broaden the ways that the graduate students socialize and support one another. By including family-friendly events (such as a trip to the farmer’s market and board game night), Elaine has ensured that every graduate student feels like they can be a part of the department’s community. Elaine in an exemplary leader in our graduate community and most deserving of this award.


Jelena Stojakovic &  Melody van Lidth de jeude Award, presented by Max Plumpton

Smita Misra

Smita Misra exemplifies the characteristics recognized by this award. No one contributes more to sustain a healthy graduate culture in our department. Afternoons in Bingham 303 are often filled with shared commiseration about all sorts of problems related to graduate life. However, there is a form to these conversations and the unstated rule is that when someone asks “how are you?” you must always answer half in jest. When Smita asks this question, you know it is genuine and you can answer it as earnestly as you want. When she shares her experiences of hardship in the department, it is not to add another layer of struggle onto the collective graduate experience but rather to validate what her colleagues are feeling at that moment. These examples cannot capture how important Smita is to the graduate community in the department. Most of the care and concern she shows her fellow graduate colleagues is hard to recognize. However, it is incredibly deserving of recognition, and giving her the Jelena Stojakovic & Melody van Lidth de jeude Award would be an excellent way to do that.


Robert Cox Award for Outstanding Achievement in Scholarship, presented by Kumi Silva

Ashley Mattheis

Ashley Mattheis has produced an impressive body of scholarship that maps the links between misogyny, white supremacy, hate speech and the far/alt-right resulting in numerous publications and presentations across multiple platforms, including academic journals and the popular press. Her work most recently has appeared in the Journal for Deradicalization, in the co-authored report on the ways that identarian politics and Jihadi discourses produce women and female gendered identity for the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College, London, and on the digital platform, Fair Observer. This work emerges out of a long-term commitment that Ashley has to feminist theory and intersectionality and the value of these frameworks for understanding contemporary forms of violence, marginalization, and extremism, especially online. It should come as no surprise then that Ashley was recently quoted in The Atlantic, Washington Post, and Volksrant (Dutch newspaper). Even as I write this, I am, as always, struck by the breadth and depth of Ashley’s scholarship, and the ways that her ethical commitments are reflected in these multi-cite projects. She is a remarkable scholar/teacher and I cannot think of a person who is a better representative of the J. Robert Cox Award for Outstanding Achievement. 


Jim Barry Production Scholarship, presented by Media Production Faculty

Gabriella Behailu, Manuel Ricardo, Michael Sparks

This monetary award goes to three academically outstanding rising juniors or seniors majoring in Communication Studies and concentrating in media production who demonstrate sound scholastic work and financial need. The Media Production Unit has awarded this year’s Jim Barry Scholarship to Gabrella Behailu, Manuel Ricardo, and Michael Sparks. 

Gabrella Behailu is a talented and dedicated emerging media maker whose work is inventive, playful, and profound. In her documentary work, she demonstrates a keen eye and deep empathy for those she films. In First Person Filmmaking, she pushed herself to develop her own visual vocabulary to evoke her family’s history in the US and Ethiopia. 

As a narrative production student, Michael Sparks drew on his considerable talents as a cinematographer and budding director to translate his visual ideas into carefully considered and beautifully photographed images. Though early in his filmmaking career, Michael has already shown his ability to elicit memorable performances from the actors with whom he works through his patience, good humor, and keen dramatic sense. 

Manuel Ricardo possesses a keen ability in acquiring information which guides his clever and adept skills in problem solving. As an Assistant Media Technician, Manny leads with a gentle and determined manner, demonstrating a rich knowledge base that he shares selflessly.


Rick Dees Scholarship, presented by Media Production Faculty

Caleb Clark, Gardner Davis, Macy Jones, Summer Lawrence, Augustin Noguera, Nathaniel Owens, Krí Schafer, and Ella Thompson

This award is given to students enrolled in Advanced Projects––the department’s capstone course for graduating seniors. This year the course was taught by assistant professor Julia Haslett. Over the course of the semester, each student works on one major production project. Rick Dees Funds are used to cover the costs of that work and ensure it reaches its full potential. Despite the global pandemic, students created a range of exemplary work. Caleb Clark pivoted from making a coming-of-age film about a boy with magic powers to a suspenseful narrative short about a doctor committed to fighting COVID-19. Originally planning to make a pilot for a comedy sketch show, Gardner Davis developed a fast-paced screenplay about a kind-hearted drug dealer. Macy Jones’ narrative short about two ghosts disposing of a man’s ashes transformed into a tightly wrought screenplay about three people trapped in a submarine. Summer Lawrence directed and starred in a lively and playful film about two college students who turn to robbery to pay for tuition. Augustin Noguera’s comedic short about a stressed-out family who inadvertently purchase sex toys online developed into a screenplay about a young queer man’s experiences as a new college student. Nathaniel Owens developed and produced a finely crafted short documentary about a closed North Carolina speedway and the car racing community who want to bring it back to life. Krí Schafer directed and starred in an emotionally resonant short film about a traumatized U.S. Army soldier who finds solace in music but struggles to maintain her personal relationships. And, finally, Ella Thompson pivoted from producing a surrealistic music video about self-transformation into writing a comedic screenplay about what happens when a hapless young man gets possessed by the devil.


NC Television Award, presented by Media Production, Mark Robinson & the Executive Committee

Krí Schafer & Max Plumpton

The NCTV award is presented annually to the undergraduate or graduate student making the most significant contribution to the Department of Communication. It is with pleasure that the faculty in Media Production award our undergraduate student Krí Schafer this honor. With a concentration in Media Production, Krí has distinguished herself through her remarkable creative endeavors. Through her intelligence, command of craft skills, and artistic vision, she has produced work of the highest quality. Krí is a high achiever whose performance in a variety of Media Production courses has been consistently outstanding. In her filmmaking projects in Narrative Production, she demonstrated her expertise both behind and in front of the camera as she co-produced an original and ambitious short film. In Advanced Audio Production and through an independent study, she focused and excelled in sound engineering, mixing, studio and recording. Through all her course work, Krí’s exceptional writing and acting skills were frequently on display, as was her gift for providing warm guidance and support to her peers and eagerly seeking out opportunities for creative collaboration. In all this, she upholds the department’s mission and vision to engage, create, and critique. Through her inspirational spirit, kindness of heart, intellectual prowess, and above all her creative achievements in the fields of audio and media production, Krí Schafer has contributed greatly to the creative life and culture of the Department of Communication.

Max Plumpton has served admirably as President of the Graduate Student Association, advocating for his colleagues and serving as a liaison with faculty and staff, specifically the Chair, Director of Graduate Studies, and Graduate Student Service Specialists. His work as GSA President has been notable for helping make the department a more open, reflexive, and equitable community. One of Max’s colleagues stated that “Max has worked incredibly hard with the governing bodies of the grad school and as primary point of contact with faculty during extraordinary times. He’s also been incredibly generous with his time where the first-year [graduate students] are concerned. I can’t think of anyone more rewarding, as I also can’t think of a department without him.” 


Michael Piller Excellence in Screenwriting Award, presented by Dana Coen

Henry McKeand and Mihir Shah 

The 2020 Michael Piller Excellence in Screenwriting Award goes to two outstanding seniors from the Writing for the Screen and Stage Minor, Henry McKeand and Mihir Shah. Here’s what they have in common: They’re talented and tall. And, in practice, they share similar traits. Henry and Mihir are two of the most engaged students ever to grace the program. In the classroom, office hours, on the page, in production, on Mihir’s podcast, and in the program’s Long Story Shorts One Act Festival, both were fully present and always prepared to contribute. Their output and excellence in the classroom is a direct result of their eagerness to learn and improve. When discussing craft, however, the comparisons end. Mihir’s work often explores his Indian heritage and its place in the American conversation. It’s well–‐observed, behaviorally rich, layered and writerly. Henry’s characters live on the edge of sanity and civil behavior. They struggle with a world that can be cruel, unforgiving and violent. And yet, at times, they make us laugh at the absurdity of their circumstances. Two young writers exploring worlds 180 degrees apart and yet they’re friends who plan to travel the same career path. The COMM screenwriting faculty chose Henry McKeand and Mihir Shah as the ninth annual recipients of The Piller Excellence in Screenwriting Award because they embody, in every way, the spirit and soul of successful dramatic writers. We look forward to the world discovering what we already consider evident.


Outstanding Achievement in Service and Leadership, presented by Katie Striley

Nicole Saca

No one is more deserving the of the Undergraduate Leadership Award than the current Lambda Pi Eta (LPH) president, Nicole Saca.  I am proud of Nicole’s dedication to building a stronger LPH and creating a supportive climate for LPH members and officers. Her mission has been to help COMM majors feel a stronger sense of community and find a “home” in LPH.  Nicole looked forward to joining LPH since her sophomore year; she was ecstatic when finally invited to join. Even as a new member, she immediately volunteered for leadership positions and her exuberance breathed new life into the organization.  She had so many ideas for LPH that I was thrilled when she was elected president for the 2019-2020 academic year.  I am inspired by Nicole’s love of the communication field, her dedication to LPH, and her determination to bring COMM majors together.  Nicole’s strong leadership has helped LPH to flourish, even during these difficult times. Congratulations, Nicole!


Outstanding Achievement in Performance Studies, presented by Smita Misra

Jenai Johnson 

Jenai Johnson embodies and exemplifies some of the best qualities of a Performance Studies scholar: careful observation, generous criticality, and informed doing. Having taught her in my Spring 2020 Performance and Social Change (COMM 260) course, I was astounded by her dedication and commitment. Jenai’s work throughout the semester showed a deep commitment to grasping performance theory as well as performance praxis. When I checked in during class, “is everyone with me,” it was comforting to know that Jenai always was. Her commitment did not fade with the transition to online. If anything, it got stronger. One example of her outstanding work is a blog post that she created to fulfil a course assignment. Using the concepts of ethnographic interviewing, Jenai interviewed her aunt– a mental health practitioner who has been providing essential services during the pandemic. Jenai has an extraordinary ability to see how relationships configure our world. In addition to highlighting the relationships between mental health providers, their clients, and their communities, Jenai boldly relates to her readers: “I wanted to bring you, the readers, into contact with something: mental health is still…stigmatized, and taboo, it is something that is often otherwise intangible, unlocatable— I want [you] to join the journey to minimize stigma about mental health.” Like the best scholars, it is clear that Jenai doesn’t work as hard as she does to impress her instructor or for the grades. Instead, she has a deep desire to make her community a better place.


Saint-Hayden Humanitas Award, presented by Julia Haslett

Olivia DeRienzo

This monetary award goes to students whose work in screenwriting and media production demonstrate excellence in craft while simultaneously addressing age-old human concerns related to moral integrity, interpersonal relations, community, and a respect for differences.

Olivia DeRienzo and her film Skin Deep received this award. Skin Deep takes an unflinching look at the filmmaker’s severe acne that worsened once she began a new treatment regime when she got to college. Delving deep into the psychological struggles brought on by this physical condition, DeRienzo artfully captures her daily routine and her journey to transcend what this condition means in our beauty-obsessed culture. She ultimately finds solace in a faith-based community that helps her come to see her intrinsic value, and, in so doing, offers a searing critique of consumer capitalism. Beautifully photographed and expertly crafted, Skin Deep epitomizes the humanistic values this award seeks to celebrate.


Martha Nell Hardy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Teaching, presented by Steve May

Carolin Südkamp

The Department of Communication is pleased to recognize Carolin Südkamp as this year’s recipient of the Martha Nell Hardy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Teaching. The award acknowledges the department’s strong commitment to teaching and honors one of the university’s outstanding educators, Martha Nell Hardy, who set a standard for high-quality teaching for so many years in our department. Carolin’s teaching is characterized by her strong sense of commitment to the process of education and her desire for all students to strive to excel. Her students have described Carolin as “inspirational,”  “motivating,” “engaging,” “challenging, yet fair,” “smart and insightful,” and a “teacher who truly cares about our success and well-being.” Carolin creates a seamless educational experience, moving easily between theory and practice, offering insights that are relevant to students, while also stretching them to consider their taken-for-granted assumptions.  In each of her courses, Carolin is incredibly well-prepared, thorough in her coverage of course material, and encouraging and supportive of her students. Her engagement of students and her ability to draw out dialogue is evident in her student evaluations. For example, among a group of 20 responses in one course, more than a quarter of Carolin’s students described her as their favorite instructor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill so far. In the classroom, she is smart, witty, and her engagement of students and her ability to draw out dialogue inspires in students an incredible devotion to her. We anticipate that Carolin will win numerous teaching awards in her career and we congratulate her on being such a deserving recipient of this important award that affirms how much we value teaching in our department. 


Lucia Morgan Scholarship Award, presented by Max Plumpton

Jaclyn Olson

The Lucia Morgan Scholarship recognizes those who have demonstrated excellence in the field in their studies. In her short time as a PhD student at UNC she has published a peer-reviewed journal article – “Our bodies & the language we learn: The dialectic of Burkean identification in the 1930s” (Rhetoric Review 33:3) – and won a top paper award for an earlier draft of this essay at the Kenneth Burke Triennial Conference in 2017. Additionally, she has presented several papers at competitive conferences. I have also had the pleasure of taking several graduate seminars with Jackie and have been able to listen to the ways she meaningfully engages with scholarship in our field. When she reads works that resonate with her she treats them with the care and reverence they deserve. Hearing her discuss her studies is both insightful and energizing. This approach to scholarship also carries over to the way she treats her colleagues. Jackie is smart. So, when she gives you feedback it is always challenging and incisive. However, it is also always generative. Jackie asks the difficult questions that we all need to be asked if we want our work to advance, but she also reminds you that you’re smart enough to answer those questions. She makes the scholars around her better and any consideration of excellence in the field should take this into account.

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