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7 Members of Robertson School Receive 'Black History in the Making' Award

Feb 27, 2020

Posted in: News

By Mario Sequeira Quesada, Communications Intern

Group shot of Black History in the Making Award winners
The seven award recipients from the Robertson School receive a recognition plaque from Dr. Marcus Messner and Dr. Clarence Thomas.

The Department of African Studies from the College of Humanities and Science of VCU recognized seven members of the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture with the “Black History in the Making” award. The award recognizes the achievements of African American students, faculty and staff members who have made an important contribution to their communities and programs.
Interim Associate Director Marcel Jennings, academic advisor Roy Roach III and students Taylor Herndon, Brea Hill, Claire Ozah, Maia Stanley and Lauren Thomas received the award during a ceremony at the James Branch Cabell Library on Feb. 24.
Roach and Jennings were introduced during the ceremony and both had the opportunity to speak about their motivations for teaching and representing their community.
“I do it for the students, I do it for the school and I do it for the culture,” Jennings said.

Tressie McMillan Cottom delivering keynote at Black History in the Making Awards Ceremony
Author Tressie McMillan Cottom delivers a speech encouraging students to build their own history and make good decisions.

Meet the Roberston faculty, staff and students working to leave their impact in the school and beyond.
Marcel Jennings, Interim Associate Director
Jennings, who has won multiple awards as a copywriter, worked in the advertising industry as an associate creative director for more than 14 years. He has created multimedia advertising campaigns for international and regional brands at agencies such as Fallon and Ogilvy in New York, DDB, Chicago, and most recently Big River in Richmond.
Roy Roach III, Academic Advisor
Roach is passionate about education and entrepreneurship as vehicles for social and global change. He currently leads a pilot program providing mentoring to male African American and Latinx students in the Robertson School.
Taylor Herndon, Strategic Advertising Major
Herndon was selected for the 4A’s Foundation’s Multicultural Advertising Internship Program. This highly prestigious and competitive program places students in some of the best advertising agencies in the country and around the world. She will intern at the independent creative company Mother in New York this summer.
Brea Hill, Broadcast Journalism Major
Hill has worked as a production crew member for VCU Insight and the Robertson School Speaker Series. Last fall, she was a feature writer for VCU Athletics, where she published news articles about VCU student-athletes and coaches. Hill recently interned with RVA Magazine, reporting on local food events.
Claire Ozah, Public Relations Major
Ozah’s professors and instructors find her personality and positive energy as some of the traits that will help her find early success after graduation. She regularly takes leadership roles among her peers in the Robertson School.
Lauren Thomas, Creative Advertising Major
Thomas is the communication and social media manager for Strategic Enrollment at VCU. She is also a CreateAthon Team Leader this year and will produce branding for OAR of Richmond, a nonprofit organization that advocates for formerly incarcerated individuals. Thomas has produced advertising campaigns for clients such as Rage RVA and Corner Barre RVA. She also participated in The One Club’s Strategic Workshop and traveled to the Here Are All The Black People conference in New York City.
Maia Stanley, Digital Journalism Major
Stanley is one of the reporters of the Robertson School’s capstone course Capital News Service. Her instructors said Stanley’s keen reporting skills and work ethics have helped her publish five stories so far during the current semester. Two of these stories have been published by the prestigious national news outlet The Washington Post. Stanley completed an internship at Q Media in the Spring of 2019.
Stanley said she is motivated to represent African Americans as a journalist, working in a field that she thinks often underrepresents the community, especially its female members. She is proud of her work and looks forward to giving people the platform to have their stories and voices heard.
“Hearing all sides of a story and making sure that everyone is at the table and included is something that I intend to bring with me throughout my career,” Stanley said. “I think that college students can make a lot more of a difference than they think or than they are led on to think.”

Audience at Black History in the Making Award Ceremony
The auditorium on the third floor of the James Branch Cabell Library hosts family and friends of the award recipients.

Dr. Marcus Messner, interim director of the Robertson School, and Dr. Clarence Thomas associate professor of broadcast journalism, attended the ceremony and congratulated the students for their success. “It was great to see so many members of the Robertson School community get recognition for their outstanding work,” Messner said.
Professor Thomas said it is important for any person to represent their community because that gives people who may be unfamiliar with the community a better understanding of the qualities and characteristics of it. He said the recipients of the Black History in The Making award should feel happy and proud because it shows that faculty members and the school believe in their work and their future success.
“Some departments only pick one person, but we generally pick a variety of people because we have so many tracks here,” Dr. Thomas said. “So, I think that that is a good thing. We're able to pretty much show people that we have a variety of things to study in the Robertson School.”
The keynote speaker for the ceremony was Tressie McMillan Cottom, an award-winning author and associate professor of sociology at VCU. She encouraged the audience to stop waiting to make the big decisions, and instead start making the correct small decisions. She motivated the award recipients to “make the history that you are called to make, not the history that somebody else tells you.”
“Congratulations on getting this far,” she said. “You made a whole lot of little decisions that clearly matter, I hope you'll keep making good ones and I will try to do the same thing.”