Past Award Winners

2015 Award Winners

Innovative Teacher Award Winner | Dr. Nancy Jennings, University of Cincinnati

Dr. Nancy Jennings studies the impact of media on the lives of children and their families and public policies and practices involved with children’s media.  Her research focuses on children’s cognitive and social development and their use of media.  She employs experimental design as well as qualitative methodologies to explore children’s relationships with media characters.  She has also conducted evaluation research on educational media and outreach programs as well as conducting content analyses and textual analyses of media content.  She has also recently published a book (Tween Girls and Their Mediated Friends) focusing on girls and their relationships with media characters.  Dr. Jennings has published on other topics including virtual environments, children’s advertising, families and media, and media violence. She provides parent education programs on children’s media use, directs the Children’s Education and Entertainment Research (CHEER) Lab, and has published peer-reviewed journals articles and book chapters.  Her passion for children’s media carries over into her teaching and serves as the inspiration for her innovative study abroad program.  Dr. Jennings teaches students about the integration of research, curriculum, and production (like that of the Sesame Street model) that work together to make learning fun and accessible for young children around the world.  With the motive of teaching and living the Sesame Street global model of education and cultural respect, she developed a study abroad experience in which college students could learn about children’s media from around the world with an appreciation for culture, child development, and media production and research.


Distinguished Undergraduate Student| Megan Salatino, Ashland University

Salatino is triple majoring in public relations and strategic communication, health Megan Salatinoand risk communication and sport communication at Ashland University in Ashland, Oh. In her academic career, she has won the top undergraduate poster award for OCA in 2013 and ECA in 2015. She is a member of Lambda Pi Eta, the communication honorary, Alpha Lambda Delta, an honor society and Omicron Delta Kappa, a leadership honorary. At Ashland, she has been named as the Outstanding Sophomore and Junior award in her department. Actively, she is involved as President of the Sport Communication Club on campus as well as Vice President of the school’s PRSSA chapter. Through experience, she has completed several internships in the communication and social media world. This includes redesigning the University’s Football Team social media sites to rebrand their name into NCAA compliance as well as increase the fandom by over 500 followers. This past summer, she interned at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, Pa. where she managed and updated social media analytics to show increases in hits through all social channels and participated in a market research study to find non-visitors perceptions of Phipps Conservatory. Salatino is passionate about learning all facets of communication and is excited to take that learning upon graduation to her future career.


Distinguished Undergraduate Student| Hannah Peterson, Ohio Northern University

Hannah is a senior public relations major, communication studies and social media minor at Ohio Northern University. She is involved in various organizations on campus, holding leadership roles in each. Within the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), Hannah has served as Secretary, National Assembly Delegate and is currently serving her second term as President. She received the PRSSA Outstanding New Member Award after showing promise and Outstanding Chapter Member for her commitment to the overall success of the organization. Within True North nationally affiliated student-run firm, Hannah has worked on projects for various clients. Her Bateman Case Study Competition team received Honorable Mention for the national client, FISERV. In the Student Planning Committee, she served as an Event Coordinator and is currently the Vice President of External Affairs. A sister of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, Hannah was the Social Chair and is currently serving her second term as the Historian/Chapter Reporter. She is a member of Mortar Board, member and President of Lambda Pi Eta and has been on the dean’s list four consecutive semesters. In addition to schoolwork and leadership roles, Hannah currently works as a public relations intern for Cristofoli-Keeling, Inc., marketing intern for Communications and Marketing, assistant for Alumni Relations and social media intern for Dining Services. Previously, she was a featured blogger for the International Studies Abroad (ISA) top-ranked travel blog during her study abroad experience in Ireland and a special events intern at All Occasions Catering and Banquet Facility in Waldo, Ohio.

Distinguished Undergraduate Student | Margaret Douglass, Denison University

My name is Margaret Douglass, I’m from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and am currentlyM. Douglass a senior at Denison University double majoring in communication and women’s and gender studies. My current research interests explore gender and organizational communication. With regard to academic undertakings, spring term of 2015 I had the honor of being selected to serve as a Communication Departmental Fellow, where I perform research and clerical tasks for professors. I also hold the departmental fellow title within my women’s and gender studies major. Moreover, fall of my junior year a colleague and I co-authored a research paper originally intended for a communication course. The project, “My Three Sons: An Unconventional Approach to American Conformity”, was selected and presented at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies Undergraduate Research Conference which took place at Smith College last April. On an extracurricular front, I hold the Membership and Recruiting Chairman position within my sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, and enjoy volunteering at the Humane Society in Granville, Ohio.



Winning Paper – A Grounded Theory Analysis of Turkish Online New Comments After the Charlie Hebdo Attack

Esen Saygin Koc, Bowling Green State University

Winning Poster -Bullies on My Phone!: A Discursive Analysis of “Yik Yak’s” Impact on the Social Culture of Liberal Arts College

Archit Agarwal, Denison University

2014 Award Winners

Innovative Teacher Award | Dudley Turner, The University of Akron

DudleyDudley B. Turner has been at The University of Akron since 1986 as faculty, Director of the School of Communication, and Interim Dean of the College of Creative & Professional Arts.  He received his Ph.D. in Organizational Communication from Purdue University, but started out with a Speech and Drama, Secondary Education degree from Asbury University (Kentucky) and performed in many productions (such as You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, The Mouse That Roared, The Most Happy Fella, Animal Farm and The Fantasticks).  He has taught junior and senior high school students to university graduate students, courses across the spectrum of communication – public speaking, interviewing, professional presentations, communication theory, persuasion, research and pedagogy.  He also completed a Professional Development certificate in distance education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

After 14 years in administration at the university, Dr. Turner returned to his first love of full time teaching and research.  He develops online courses and uses various technologies in all learning.  He is devoted to service learning and various experiential learning approaches whether on campus or virtually using Second Life and other mediated communication.  His research focus is on technology use in learning, such as augmented reality and quest-based educational games, and the use learning management systems, online learning, and virtual worlds.

Dr. Turner lives near Akron, Ohio, enjoys outdoor activities, sports, swimming and golf, and when indoors likes to read and watch movies.  He is married (35 years) and has two grown daughters and a dog.



Distinguished New Teacher Award | Laura Russell, Denison University

Interested in ethics and civic engagement, Laura situates teaching as a platform for involving students as active citizens. At the Russell OCA 2014 Picinterpersonal level, she designs unique assignments in which students act as co-researchers and co-participants in one another’s lives. These dialogic projects and the co-operative inquiry methods they employ take place in courses with a creative twist, such as “Communicating Kindness” and “Communicating to Inspire.” Such courses promote supportive communication, while also empowering students to seek out both conference and service opportunities. For instance, last year her students attended OCA to present a roundtable discussion titled, “Cultivating an Ethics of Goodwill: How Kindness Enlightens Practices of Scholarship, Teaching, and Service.”

In the realm of service, Laura and her students worked with Behavioral Health Partners, a nonprofit organization in Newark, Ohio, to research techniques for raising awareness and reducing the stigma around mental illness. This service opportunity enabled students to acquire richer understandings of health communication, while also developing insight into the disparities affecting their surrounding communities. As one student noted, “My overall health and perception of health has changed considerably over the past semester. Not only do I see myself differently, but the world as well.” Beyond the course context, students in Lambda Pi Eta expressed interest in continuing service with this organization. As the advisor for Denison’s LPH Chapter, Laura and members of the honorary visited homes of in-patient residents during the holidays. Alongside these activities, Laura is a Restorative Justice Facilitator while serving on various health-education committees at Denison.



Distinguished Program | Integrated Media Corps, Wittenberg University

2014-15 IMCWittenberg University’s Integrated Media Corps (IMC) is a collaborative academic and work-study program developed to train media professionals of the future.

Created in 2010 as a collaborative effort of the administrative Office of University Communications and the academic Department of Communication, IMC provides Wittenberg students with opportunities to apply classroom lessons while gaining technical expertise. The program welcomes students from all majors, providing hands-on experience in media production and broadcasting while also meeting publicity and public relations needs for the university.

In its first year, the IMC included five students who primarily gained experience streaming live video of athletics events. It has evolved to include as many as 20 students working in a wide range of interest areas, including digital media, news releases, feature writing, website maintenance, video and audio production, and social media promotion. Many of the IMC students’ projects are featured on the university’s website, in printed publications, and across various social media outlets, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

IMC students also attend classroom sessions that provide opportunities to discuss communications strategies and network with industry professionals who periodically give presentations. Guest lecturers have included journalists, videographers, cinematographers, photographers, radio and television personalities, public relations professionals, and entrepreneurs in the communications field.

IMC students continue to explore their creative outlets, thanks to new curricular opportunities developed by academic advisors Sheryl Cunningham, associate professor of communication, and Matt Smith, professor of communication, and site supervisors/program directors Ryan Maurer, director of athletics communications, John Strawn, associate director of athletics communications, Erin Pence, university photographer, and Seth Iiames, director of communications and online content.


Distinguished Undergraduate Student | Lauren Fattlar, Ashland University


Lauren is originally from Westlake, Ohio and a senior at Ashland University.  She holds a triple major in communication studies,Lauren Fattlar specifically, Health and Risk Communication, Strategic Communication and Public Relations, and Sport Communication.  She has presented research at Ohio Communication Association and Eastern Communication Association, and will be debuting at National Communication Association this coming year. In addition, she presented a paper titled “A Discourse Analysis of Contradictory Health Messages on the Iconic Show, The Secret Life of the American Teenager” at Ashland University’s Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity symposium last spring.  Outside the classroom, she serves as vice-president of Ashland University’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter and its sister organization, Accent on PR, and as the secretary of the Sports Communication Club.  She also serves as the president of the honorary fraternity, Lambda Pi Eta. Throughout her years at Ashland, she has held three internships applying her knowledge and skills in PR at the following organizations: The Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, Ohio, the City of Ashland, and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.



Top Graduate Paper
“#BostonStrong: Exploring the Impression Management Strategies of Twitter Users During the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing”

Benjamin Brojakowski, Bowling Green State University



Top Undergraduate Paper
“Calvin Klein and the Use of Sex in Advertising”

Lauren Nicole Staley, Ohio Northern University



Top Student Poster
“Expectancy Violation Theory: How Expectations Impact Incoming University Athletes”

Lauren Fattlar, Ashland University
Adena A. Siefert, Ashland University



Top Poster
“The United Nations: Images from Two Worlds, 1945-65”

Anne Cooper-Chen, Ohio University
Kay-Anne Darlington, Ohio University
Kesha Liao, Ohio University


2013 Award Winners

Distinguished Teacher Award | Heather Walter, PhD.

Dr. Walter

Heather is an Associate Professor at The University of Akron, where, for the last 15 years, she has taught MA and BA students in organizational communication and conflict classes.  She was recently appointed Associate Director of the School of Communication at The University of Akron.

Prior to this appointment, Heather served the last three years as the Director of Graduate Studies, working closely with graduate students, teaching the Introduction to Graduate Studies courses and advising many Master’s Theses and Projects.

Heather spends a great deal of time helping graduate students to become budding scholars.  One such relationship blossomed into an article published recently in the Ohio Communication Journal with her student Andrea Mitchell.

Heather is currently working on an internal University of Akron grant to transfer her Analyzing Organizational Communication course into an interactive online course for future Organizational Communication Consultants.


Distinguished New Teacher Award | Sheryl Cunningham

Dr. Sheryl Cunningham teaches courses in Rhetoric, Media Studies, and Communication Theory in Wittenberg University’s Communication Department. She is currently teaching the introductory theory course, an intermediate course on media literacy, and an upper level course which focuses on environmental communication. She is also in the process of developing a new upper level course, to be offered in the spring, in which students will learn about feminist theoretical approaches to film and television criticism.

Sheryl Cunningham

Most of her research is in the area of political communication; she is interested in how gender, as a category of identity, is both implicitly and explicitly (re)produced in political rhetoric. She’ll soon be traveling to the Feminisms and Rhetorics conference at Stanford University to present her paper “Image Events in Pro-life Activism: Fetal Testimony and Performing Personhood.” Her most recent publication is the co-authored piece “Accruing Masculinity Capital: Dominant and Hegemonic Masculinities in the 2004 Political Conventions” forthcoming in the journal Men and Masculinities.

Dr. Cunningham holds a B,A. from Bluffton University and an M.A. from Ohio University, both in English. She earned her Ph.D. in Communication at the University of Washington in June of 2008 and joined the Wittenberg faculty in the fall of 2008. While at Wittenberg she has been honored with the Outstanding Faculty Member Award from Wittenberg’s Greek Life and the Lou Laux Environmental Sustainability Award for her work with students on a project to help decrease Wittenberg’s energy consumption.


Distinguished Student Organization Award | WMCO Radio

Muskingum University

WMCO Staff

WMCO is celebrating 52 years on the air. The station was founded by a student and ran by students.  Currently there are 32 members on staff.  The station broadcasts new music, local news, sports, and specialty programming 24/7/365 from the Burlingame Communication Center at Muskingum University.

Top Poster Award
“Standing up for Spirituality: Legitimizing the Role of Chaplains in Health Care Interactions”

Kelly E. Tenzek, Bloomsburgh University
Emily M. Cramer and Mike Allen, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


Top Undergraduate Poster Award
“Applying Expectancy Violation Theory in Skin Cancer Diagnosis”

Megan Salatino, Ashland University


Top Undergraduate Paper Award
“Attribute Agenda Setting and Framing of Political Messages: A Comparison of the News Media and Presidential Responses to School Shootings” 

Kathryn Johnson, Ohio Northern University


Top Graduate Student Paper Award
“Digitally Impaired Driving: Understanding the Predictors of Mobile-Multitasking While Driving”

Scott Owen Chappuis and Sarah Conner, The University of Akron

2012 Award Winners

Distinguished New Teacher Award | Dr. Tang Tang

Dr. Tang Tang is an Assistant Professor in the School of Communication at the University of Akron. She teaches courses in media management and leadership, programming and audience analysis, media writing, mass communication theories and quantitative research methods. Her current research focuses on uses and impacts of new communication technologies in post-convergent environments, social media business models, and the attributes that lead to career success in the creative industries.

Dr. Tang Tang

Dr. Tang has published journal articles in the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, International Journal on Media Management, Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, Journal of Media Education, Mass Communication & Society, Journal of Sports Media, Chinese Journal of Communication, and International Journal of Business & Social Science. She is also a co-author of Strategic Social Media: From Marketing to Social Change.

Dr. Tang received her Ph.D. from the School of Media Arts and Studies at Ohio University in 2008. She was previously an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, where she taught media management and leadership.

Dr. Tang currently serves as the Vice Chair of the Management, Marketing and Programming Division of the Broadcast Education Association, and is a member of the Ohio Communication Association, the Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication, and the International Communication Association. She has given more than 40 national and international conference and invited presentations. Dr. Tang is also a NATPE (National Association of Television Program Executives) Faculty Fellow.

Innovative Teaching Award | Dr. Deleasa Randall-Griffiths

Dr. Deleasa Randall-Griffiths

Dr. Deleasa Randall-Griffiths is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Ashland University.  She received her bachelor’s degree in Theatre from Indiana University, her master’s degree in Performance Studies from Southern Illinois University, and her Ph.D. in Interpersonal Communication, also from Southern Illinois University.

Dr. Randall-Griffiths has over 25 years of experience teaching at the college level.  She loves working with college students because they are at such pivotal life-stage when they truly discover their own unique communication styles.  She teaches the basic communication course, along with courses in interpersonal communication, family communication, performance studies and international storytelling.

Her research interests in performance studies include:

    • performance of local history
    • multicultural storytelling
    • healthcare narratives

She has also worked in the areas of family communication and conversation analysis.  Her research appears in Text and Performance Quarterly and the American Journal of Semiotics.  Dr. Randall-Griffiths is active in campus leadership, serving as chair of the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.  She also stays connected with the local community by chairing the Ashland Chautauqua Planning Committee which brings history alive through performance.  She has also written and directed three local history performances for the Ashland Chautauqua utilizing archival research and oral history.  Dr. Randall-Griffiths and her husband, Tom, live on a lake near Ashland, Ohio with their 10 year-old daughter, Faith.


Distinguished Service Award | Kenneth A. Carano

Ken Carano has worn many hats- educator, entrepreneur, advocate and politician, just to name a few. Carano will be the first to admit that it is his love for the art of communication that makes him so versatile.Kenneth A. Carano

He was a successful educator for 36 years at Austintown Fitch High School and Youngstown State University. He was a championship Speech and Debate Coach, and his teams were recognized as “Team of the Decade” after winning twelve state titles. For this, he was inducted into the National Speech League Coaches Hall of Fame. Carano also served as General Manager of the local Austintown Television Station, Channel 19.

However, it wasn’t through speech or television where Carano earned his most famous title, but as announcer for the Fitch football home games where he was affectionately known as “The Voice of the Falcons”.

Carano’s political career is where his versatility is most evident. He began as a precinct committeeman 41 years ago. He ran a successful campaign for Austintown Township Trustee and served for six years. In 2000, he was elected to serve the 65th district of the Ohio House of Representatives and was re-elected three additional times in the newly designated 59th district. With the election of Governor Ted Strickland, Carano became the Governor’s Regional Director for the four counties in the Mahoning Valley.

To this day, he is also the Executive Vice-Chairman, the Election Chairman and the Parliamentarian of the Mahoning County Democratic Party, posts he has held for 15 years.


Distinguished Graduate Student Award | Steve Phalen

Steve PhalenMy interest in communication began in the early 2000’s as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin at River Falls.  While there, I took to the idea that communication does not solely transmit meaning between individuals but is a key component in the  (co-)creation of the social worlds we inhabit.  My formative experiences at River Falls, lead me to pursue my M.A. at the University of South Florida in 2007.  There I was exposed to the idea that communicative practices are never innocent and became sensitive to the role communication plays in the pursuit of social justice. Since 2009, I have been pursuing my Ph.D. at Ohio University, where I was introduced to the relationship between communication and pragmatist philosophies that situate knowledge generation as an active process stemming from lived experience. I spend my time at OU fulfilling my graduate student teaching responsibilities and volunteering at The Gathering Place, a community drop-in center for people living with mental illness.  I have become taken by music’s expressive and relational capacities through my participation in their weekly musical activities and music therapy groups and providing free guitar lessons to interested members.  My musical experiences with the organization form the backbone of my dissertation research as I explore the relationship between communication, music, and self-expression.  It is an honor to be named Distinguished Graduate Student by the Ohio Communication Association and hope to uphold the integrity of the award.


Distinguished Undergraduate Student Award (Two winners)

Lauren Tennet

Lauren Tennet is a senior Public Relations student with a double minor in history and Spanish at Ohio Northern University. Tennet is a Dean’s List student and a member of Ohio Northern University’s Honors College program. A native Houstonian, Tennet is currently the intern at The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in Texas. In the fall, she will serve as True North Public Relations’ Firm Director, Advertising Manager for FORUM and Vice-President of Membership for Delta Zeta. Tennet is a member of the academic honoraria Alpha Lambda Delta and Phi Eta Sigma, as well as Lambda Pi Eta, the communications honorary.

Lauren Tennet

She serves on the Student Advisory Board to the College of Arts and Sciences, President’s Club and Alumni Singers. Tennet has received the Presidential Scholarship at Ohio Northern University and was nominated “Best Student Firm Member” in May of 2012. Besides academic achievements, Tennet has a passion for music and performance. At Ohio Northern, Tennet was a part of four musical productions, including The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Oklahoma! In the future, she hopes to be happy.




Megan Wise

Megan WiseAs a student at Ashland University, Megan currently serves as the Editorial Assistant for the nationally peer-reviewed scholarly journal Communication Research Reports, and she recently developed instructor material for the text, Organizational Communication: Strategies for Success. During the spring, Megan presented at Ashland University’s College of Arts and Science Undergraduate Symposium about the seriousness of medical professionalism and the detection of suspicious behavior through nonverbal communication tactics.

At Ashland University, Megan is the President of the public relations club, Accent on PR, where students work toward representing the Department of Communication Studies in an alluring light to attract future students and highlight the many accomplishments of our alumni and students. Additionally, she is the President of Lambda Pi Eta, a communication honorary, where they celebrate the successes of current communication students and present research at various conferences. For the past two years, Megan has received the academic honors award for both the Department of Communication Studies and the Department of Journalism and Digital Media based on academic performance.

During the fall semester, Megan will carry out a marketing and public relation campaign for the Ashland YMCA by developing, implementing, and maintaining a variety of marketing components. By using forms of media, she will promote and advocate the company in order to increase awareness and participation.

Upon graduation, Megan hopes to secure a position in the public relations field with a prestigious organization where the skills of writing, marketing, planning, and coordinating events help her strive toward her passion of communication.