National Communication Association honors several Penn State faculty, students

November 24, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s Department of Communication Arts and Sciences continues to demonstrate its strength within the discipline by securing two of the most prestigious awards given annually by the National Communication Association (NCA).

Michele Kennerly, associate professor of communication arts and sciences, received NCA’s 2020 Karl Wallace Memorial award, which is given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to rhetorical studies by a scholar within 10 years of earning their doctorate and to foster and promote philosophical, historical, or critical scholarship in public discourse.

Kirt Wilson, associate professor of communication arts and sciences and African American studies, received the organization’s 2020 Douglas W. Ehninger Distinguished Rhetorical Scholar Award, which honors scholars who have executed exemplary research programs in rhetorical theory, rhetorical criticism, and/or public address studies.

Kennerly and Wilson were recognized with NCA’s other award recipients during the organization’s annual Presidential Address and Awards Presentation, which was held virtually on Nov. 21 in conjunction with the NCA 106th Annual Convention.

“The honors bestowed on professors Kennerly and Wilson underscore the caliber of rhetorical scholarship for which our department is known,” said Denise Solomon, Liberal Arts Professor and head of the Penn State Department of Communication Arts and Sciences. “The Wallace Memorial Award, which was awarded to Abraham Khan, assistant professor of African American studies and communication arts and sciences, last year, signifies the rising star in rhetorical studies. The Ehninger Award, which was awarded to Debra Hawhee, professor of English and communication arts and sciences, in 2017, marks a career of distinguished rhetorical scholarship. We are incredibly fortunate to have these colleagues in our department, and we are grateful for their scholarship, teaching, and service contributions to our community.”

Kennerly was recognized for her project, “Automatic Athens,” which seeks to complicate appeals to Athens as both an influential and innovative model democracy. In addition to expanding on her existing research that builds important linkages between contemporary technologies and ancient rhetoric, the selection committee notes that Kennerly’s award-winning project makes “important interventions into some of the field’s most sacred, taken-for-granted assumptions about democracy, progress, and the future.”

Wilson, meanwhile, was lauded as one of the foundational scholars in Black rhetorical studies. He is the author of “Reconstruction’s Desegregation Debate: The Politics of Equality and the Rhetoric of Place, 1870-1875” (Michigan State University Press, 2002) and dozens of articles, book chapters, and keynote addresses on Black public address and politics in America. For decades, Wilson’s work on public memory, abolitionism, Reconstruction-era public address, civil rights rhetoric, rhetorical space and place, and cosmopolitanism has advanced the field of rhetoric by modeling historical rhetorical methods. Within the field of rhetoric, Wilson’s eloquent and theoretically rich work has expanded Black public address studies and Black rhetorical criticism by offering readings that elevate and amplify important orators and artifacts across the history of Black America.

Several additional Penn State faculty and students received division and/or top paper awards during this year’s ceremony. They included:

  • Sarah Dweik, doctoral student in communication arts and sciences, won the Top Student Paper Award in the Communication & Critical Studies Division for a paper titled “White-, Pink-, and Art-washing Violence: Boycott Eurovisions's Position in Exposing Coloniality in Palestine.”
  • Kelly Williams Nagel, doctoral student in communication arts and sciences, won the Top Paper Award in the Visual Communication Division for a paper titled “’How Real, How Immediate, How Profoundly Truthful’: Prosthetic Memory of World War I in They Shall Not Grow Old.”
  • Natalie Bennie, doctoral student in communication arts and sciences, won the Top Student Paper Award from the American Society for the History of Rhetoric for a paper titled “Enlightenment How? The Reception of Cicero and the Repetition of Judeophobia in the French Enlightenment.”
  • Robin Duffee, doctoral student in communication arts and sciences, received the Theatre, Film, and New Multi-media Division’s Top Student Paper Panel Award for “Witnessing Live PD’s Pro-police Reality.” Duffee was also recognized for one of NCA’s Top 12 Great Ideas for Teaching (G.I.F.T.S), “Which Member of COMM 101 Are You?!: Engaging Students Through Internet Quiz Writing” (along with Michelle Hershberger from West Virginia University).
  • Denise Solomon, Liberal Arts Professor and head of the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences, and Miriam Brinberg, post-doctoral research fellow in communication arts and sciences, received the Interpersonal Communication Division’s Top Paper Panel Award for “Discovering the Fabric of Supportive Conversations: A Typology of Speaking Turns and Their Contingencies” (along with Graham Bodie from the University of Mississippi, Susanne Jones and Amy Joyer from the University of Minnesota, and Nilam Ram from Stanford University).
  • John Gastil, Distinguished Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences and Political Science and senior scholar for the McCourtney Institute for Democracy, received the Group Communication Division’s Top Paper Panel Award for “How Deliberative Experiences Shape Subjective Outcomes: A Study of Fifteen Minipublics from 2010-2018” (with Katherine R. Knobloch from Colorado State University).
  • Brian Manata, assistant professor of communication arts and sciences, received the Applied Communication Division’s, Top Paper Panel Award for “Communicative Processes in Workgroup Socialization” (along with Vernon Miller, Kenneth Levine, and Scott Shank from Michigan State University).
  • Kirt Wilson

    Kirt Wilson, Penn State associate professor of communication arts and sciences and African American studies

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Kennerly

    Michele Kennerly, Penn State associate professor of communication arts and sciences

    IMAGE: Penn State
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Last Updated November 25, 2020