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End-of-semester greetings from the Robertson School

Dec 9, 2020

Posted in: News

By Marcus Messner, Ph.D., Director

Robertson School Director Dr. Marcus Messner

Dear Robertson School students, colleagues and friends,

Every day I am in awe about how our School has pulled together and how we have managed to get through another semester with everyone giving it their all despite the challenges. I am grateful to have worked alongside you this fall to accomplish so many remarkable achievements. Looking ahead we still expect the spring semester to bring uncertainties and a continuing need to adapt. However, there’s a silver lining on the horizon with the development of new vaccines, protocols and options for our students. I am confident that no matter what the immediate future holds in store, together we will remain strong. That’s the Robertson way.
Celebrating our recent successes, please take a minute to look at everything that our School and community have accomplished this fall semester despite the pandemic. I hope you will share my pride in our students, faculty, staff, and community.                                                                                        

Celebrating our graduates

- Please join me in celebrating our cohort of graduating students this Saturday. Please mark your calendar for the VCU virtual commencement launching Dec. 12 to honor the many achievements of our December graduates. You will be able to view the names of all of our graduates on our website and watch the commencement speeches of Danny Robinson, chief creative officer of The Martin Agency, and our student speaker Bianca Fermin, a graduating student in our public relations concentration.

- Congrats to all of our Outstanding Student Awards winners, who were selected by our faculty: Caitlin Sherman (Creative Advertising). Chris Woodum (Strategic Advertising), Elizabeth Dozier (Broadcast Journalism), Ada Romano (Digital Journalism), and Bianca Fermin (Public Relations).

- Please also watch a video that our faculty and staff recorded for our December graduates:  


Celebrating our students

- The Strategic Workshop of the One Club for Creativity came back to the Robertson School last month to help students develop their strategic skills. The three-day advertising boot camp welcomed more than 100 students from 25 universities. Thanks to our Ad Club students Khalied Bashri, Michelle Mead and Allison Farrell as well as Professor Jessica Collins for making this happen (after the Ad Club already brought 200 students from 60 universities to our new Camp ADventure this summer). 

- The students in our VCU Votes Campaign honors course and their professor Dr. Nicole O'Donnell were in the middle of the presidential election with a non-partisan get-out-the-vote social media campaign. They created more than 400 posts for social media that provided students with information about how to vote and why voting matters. Our PR senior Katie Hollowell served as a VCU Votes intern and our journalism senior Matt Tessema was the co-chair for the VCU Votes Advisory Council. Professor Judi Crenshaw served as communications committee chair for the Council. Check out an article highlighting this incredible effort. 

- In addition, the students of our Capital News Service, VCU InSight and our mobile and social media journalism class did outstanding election news reporting this fall. 

- Our students also received national honors from the Society of Professional Journalists. Our broadcast journalism senior Hannah Eason was honored with the national Robert D.G. Lewis First Amendment Award for her work at The Commonwealth Times. Former Capital News Service reporter Saffeya Ahmed, who now works at CNN in Atlanta, was a finalist for the MOEy Best in Show Award.     

- Our advertising juniors Ethan Parker, Samantha Ratliff and Jess Som won VCU’s Adobe Creative Jam with an app prototype to help parents and children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

- Lastly, the Richmond Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America honored senior Shayla Bailey with the competitive David P. Hurdle Memorial Scholarship for students aspiring to practice PR after graduation.

Celebrating our faculty and staff

- Our faculty and staff won big at the annual awards event of the College of Humanities and Sciences this fall. Dr. Clarence Thomas was honored with the Trailblazer in Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Award. Associate Professor Emeritus Jeff South won the Distinguished Mentor Award. And our amazing staff members Pamela Williams and Roy Roach were honored with the Excellence in Administrative and Office Support Award and the Excellence in Humanities and Social Sciences Advising Award. 

- Dr. Jeanine Guidry and the team of the Media+Health Lab have been at the forefront of planning campaigns for the forthcoming COVID-19 vaccines. Dr. Guidry has published multiple studies this year on vaccine misinformation on social media and has been consulting with government officials to develop a strategy for the new vaccines. She also taught a class about the topic.

- “Mediated Democracy: Politics, the News, and Citizenship in the 21st Century” is the title of the new book by Dr. Mallory Perryman, which was published by CQ Press this fall. The book offers a timely analysis of the health of democracies and relationships between citizens, journalists, and political elites.

- An international grant was secured by Dr. Karen McIntyre who won a highly competitive Facebook research grant to study digital literacy in East Africa.

Celebrating our alumni

- We are so grateful for our amazing alumni like Sergio Bustos of Report for America, Chandelis Duster of CNN Politics, Mechelle Hankerson of WHRO in Norfolk, and Derick Waller of WABC-TV in New York City. On our Speaker Series panel last month, they helped us to analyze the presidential election results. 

- We are also lucky to call Aaron Gilchrist a Robertson alumnus. You can watch his inspiring talk with our community on our website. The longtime Washington NBC4 anchor just announced that he will join  NBC News NOW, the network’s streaming news channel, as an anchor in New York in 2021. 

- Our alumni have amazing careers and it was wonderful to see Jesse Vaughan, an acclaimed film director and graduate from our broadcast journalism program, win the prestigious Ted Yates Award of the National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

- It was great to hear during Latinx Heritage Month from our alumnus Rodrigo Arriaza, who is a news writer and assistant editor at Richmond Magazine and has been actively reporting hot button issues from the election and COVID-19 to police brutality and the removal of statues on Monument Avenue.

- And to top it all off, three of our recent graduates were recognized by Richmond Inno’s Under 25 list for their achievements within the local tech and startup scene.

Celebrating our resilience 


- Last month, we launched the Robertson Society, our new donor society to raise funds for the Robertson General Fund and our General Scholarship Fund to provide direct financial aid to our students that will help them to be career ready.  

- Our advertising, journalism and public relations faculty again organized virtual portfolio reviews at the end of this semester that connected media professionals with our seniors for discussions about their work and future careers. It just showed me again that nothing can stop our faculty from getting our students ready for their media careers!

- We launched our redesigned master's program with concentrations in Multimedia Journalism and Strategic Public Relations and welcomed 32 new graduate students to the Robertson School. Our faculty have also been hard at work this fall to design new undergraduate and graduate pathways and further improve our programs. We are currently awaiting university and state approval for many of these changes and hope to announce them to you in the coming weeks. 

- Dr. Aloni Hill and our doctoral student Robb Crocker hosted a virtual panel discussion on "Race, Media and the 2020 election" in October and we also invited Washington Post trailblazer Dorothy Butler Gilliam for an inspiring evening with our Speaker Series. She said that she was always driven by the words of Martin Luther King Jr., when he said “Go and make a difference.”  

- I am very proud of our unified reaction to the social justice movements this summer. Together we pledged to take action ourselves. As a first step, the vast majority of our faculty completed a three-part training ("How to Incorporate Diversity into your Curriculum") this fall. Our faculty also voted to make our Diversity in the Media course mandatory for all future students. We recognize that we can always improve and will strive to do so moving forward. 

Wrapping up this semester and preparing for the spring

As we have the final exams behind us now and turn our attention to the spring semester, please make sure to take a look and keep an eye on the One VCU: Responsible Together website for announcements from the university. We will update our Robertson community again in January when we return from winter break. 

We look forward to seeing our returning students again in the spring. To our graduating seniors, please know the Robertson School is always here to support your future. 

To our faculty and staff, please enjoy this well deserved break and take good care of yourself. It has been incredible to see your daily dedication to our students's success in this unprecedented situation. 

Also a big "Thank You" to our advisory board members for their unwavering support of our Robertson School. 

I am wishing all of you a happy holiday season and a safe and healthy start to 2021! 

Go Rams!

Marcus Messner, Ph.D., Director and Professor