Back to News

Outstanding Robertson School students honored with Faculty Awards

May 12, 2019

Posted in: News

By Marcus Messner, Natasha Long, Josh Smith, Scott Sherman, Bill Oglesby, Jeff South, and Mallory Perryman, Robertson School faculty and staff

Seven outstanding students were honored with Faculty Awards and the Kappa Tau Alpha Top Scholar Award of the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at the spring 2019 commencement ceremony on May 10 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. The School’s Director Dr. Hong Cheng and Dr. Joshua Langberg, Associate Dean of Research for the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences, congratulated the winners of the Faculty Awards and the KTA Award on stage at commencement.

In the selection process for the Faculty Awards, faculty look for students who distinguished themselves while at VCU and in the Robertson School. This could be through campus involvement in clubs and organizations, amazing class work, demonstrating a can-do attitude or being an unforgettable member of the Robertson School family. Faculty vote on the awards for graduating students in each of the School’s undergraduate and graduate programs.


The following are the Spring 2019 Faculty Award winners:

Melissa Allbrandt

Melissa Allbrandt was selected by the public relations sequence for its Faculty Award. Allbrandt’s professors note that her professional, polite and positive attitude is contagious. Her production professor, Dr. Kaitlin Hanger said, “When we were creating WordPress websites for instance, Allbrandt quickly became the class expert and was eager to help other students resolve their WordPress problems. I was really impressed then with how smart she is and what a great team player she was.”

Her other professors, Joshua Smith and Dr. Mariam Alkazemi note that Allbrandt’s academics are superior, and her courteous and polite demeanor are honorable. According to Smith, “Melissa quickly stands out as a student who goes beyond what’s good and what’s required to produce what’s innovative, new and exciting. She goes that one extra step that makes all the difference in the industry. Keep your eyes on this one, she’s sure to make us all proud.” 

Saffeya Ahmed received the Faculty Award from the digital journalism concentration. Ahmed is graduating as a double major in mass communications and political science. Throughout her journalism career, she has written stories on immigrant rights, solitary confinement, hate groups and rising hate-fueled violence, government assistance and the opioid crisis. Her articles have been published by news outlets across the country.

Ahmed spent the bulk of her collegiate journalism career with The Commonwealth Times, starting off as a writer, then moving into a copy editor position and then taking over as managing editor for her final semester. She interned with WCVE, helping create a podcast on refugee resettlement. In her free time, she paints Arabic calligraphy and writes poetry. 

Tonecia Brothers-Sutton

Tonecia Brothers-Sutton is a senior broadcast journalism student and was selected as the winner of the Faculty Award for the broadcast journalism concentration. She is double-majoring in Journalism and Political Science, with a concentration on civil rights. She was selected for the Dean’s List from 2015-2018 and has a GPA of 3.76. Brothers-Sutton was selected for the prestigious Governor’s Fellow Program in Summer 2018 and has also served as a legislative intern.

She volunteers for a literacy program in Hampton Roads and provides voice talent training at the Studio Center in Richmond. She currently serves as president of the Black Student Union and as a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Brothers-Sutton will be attending law school a the University of Maryland in Fall 2019, where she plans to specialize in civil rights law. 

Emily Mattice

Emily Mattice won the Faculty Award of the strategic advertising concentration. She is a creative strategist and a strategic creative — a rare combination. Her professors say that she is a multi-talented force. She is a double major who is consistently the hardest working person in the room.

She is an insightful and strategic thinker, a strong writer, and a visual problem solver. She always leads by example. Mattice already has job after graduation at renownened The Martin Agency. As a student she won the prestigious scholarship of the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame.

Malcolm Richardson

Malcolm Richardson won the Faculty Award of the creative advertising concentration. He is a strong writer and passionate about creative problem solving and advertising. He always finds an interesting way to approach his work. He’s a double major with a Creative Writing minor, and a certificate in Leadership Studies. He does communication work for VCU’s Wellness Resource Center (The Well).

He contributes in the community: RA in Johnson Hall, a New Student Orientation Leader, a consultant at the VCU Writing Center, and a volunteer leader/mentor back home in Hampton. Richardson has incredibly positive energy that makes his creative work soar. He elevates everyone else in the classroom. 

Jacob Sexton

Jacob Sexton was selected by all Robertson School sequences as the recipient of the Josephine Varnier Stone Award, named in memory of a former graduate of our program who died tragically. The award recognizes Sexton as the student who best exemplifies the spirit of generosity, creativity and dedication. 

Sexton was a member of the VCU ASPIRE class of 2018 and was a senior student reporter and chief videographer for VCU InSight, a broadcast journalism capstone course involving the production of a regular news magazine that runs on WCVW-TV, Richmond PBS. A broadcast journalism major with a minor in history, Sexton has also worked at NBC 12, and has recently been hired to work after graduation at WRIC-TV 8, Richmond's ABC affiliate.

Erin McEwen

The Robertson School also honored its Spring 2019 Kappa Tau Alpha Top Scholar award winner at commencement. Kappa Tau Alpha is the honor society for journalism and mass communications. 

Erin McEwen, a Robertson School undergraduate student, has been named the Kappa Tau Alpha Top Scholar for Spring 2019. 

Read more about McEwen and all of the Spring 2019 KTA inductees here.