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Three win awards at Central States Communication Association conference

Karla Hunter, Brooke Brown and Josh Westwick with their awards at the Central States Communication Association in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Karla Hunter, Brooke Brown and Josh Westwick with their awards at the Central States Communication Association in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Two faculty members and one graduate student in the School of Communication and Journalism at South Dakota State University received recognition at Central States Communication Association annual conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on April 2-7.

Recognized for their contributions to the discipline and excellence in teaching, these awards underscore the student-focused approach to academia in the School of Communication and Journalism. 

Graduate teaching assistant award 

Brooke Brown, a second-year graduate student in the master’s in communication and media studies program, received the Pamela J. Copper Award for graduate teaching assistants. 

The Cooper Award is given to one master’s and one Ph.D. level graduate teaching assistant to recognize excellence in teaching. Students submit letters of recommendation as well as teaching materials for consideration.

“I always had a hard time in school before coming to SDSU, and I believe I have found what I am passionate about,” Brown said. “Being in the classroom is a comfortable space for me, and I just hope I can continue to teach and shape individuals into the best person they can be.” 

Brown is the sixth recipient of the Cooper Award from SDSU in the last 10 years. 

“Each of them has played a vital role in shaping who I am as a student, educator and individual,” Brown said of the School of Communication and Journalism faculty. 

Brown said she has the faculty and staff in the school to thank for helping her along her educational journey. After graduating in May, she will start her high school teaching career in Presho. 

“Brooke is a fabulous instructor who is committed to student success,” said Joshua Westwick, director of the School of Communication and Journalism. “Her ability to build connections with her students and help them improve their communication competence is noteworthy and commendable.” 

Faculty award 

Karla Hunter, professor of communication studies, and Westwick were awarded the Outstanding State Manuscript Award at the conference. 

For a paper titled “Introducing Public Speaking Self-Concept (PSSC): A Novel, Qualitatively derived Communication Anxiety and Competence Variable,” Hunter and Westwick’s work was recognized by the Central States Communication Association States Advisory Council and submitted for consideration by the editors of Discourse: The Journal of the Speech Communication Association of South Dakota. 

The manuscript focused on public speaking anxiety, something 30%-40% of individuals experience, according to Hunter. 

“It’s wonderful this award draws attention to the reality that our fears don’t negate our capabilities,” Hunter said. 

Their research followed students in introductory speech communication courses from the first day to the end of the course. The results showed students recognized their ability to publicly speak while acknowledging their separate feelings of being shy or nervous, according to Hunter. 

“My greatest hope, though, is that this work can help even more students learn that they can be both afraid and competent at the same time,” Hunter said. 

Westwick said they did not know their paper was under consideration for this award. 

“Despite a plethora of scholarship related to communication appreciation and public speaking anxiety, there are many nuanced variables worthy of research and consideration,” Westwick said. “I’m hopeful that this manuscript will serve as a launching point for additional exploration of communication anxiety and competence, the ways that we help individuals navigate these constructs, and what we can do as communication educators to support communication skill development.”