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CommArts Students Earn NCASCD Outstanding Undergraduate Scholarship Award  

NCA Award student work

In her virtual Petersheim project, award recipient Rhania Kamel illustrated her point about Jesus' relationship with the social hierarchy via this 19th century painting. [James Tissot (1836-1902). Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees (Malheur à vous, scribes et pharisiens) (1886-1894). Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, 17 x 26.4 cm, Brooklyn Museum, NY. Wikimedia Commons.]

The National Communication Association (NCA) is the premiere scholarly organization for the Communication disciplines. In a break from tradition NCA's Spiritual Communication Division will confer a joint Outstanding Undergraduate Scholarship award to six Communication Arts students. Mark Graziano, Devin Luehs, Rhania Kamel, Alli Olla, Ellen Paul, and Chris Rice -- will receive the award November 12, 2021 at a virtual NCASCD business meeting

In the Spring semester of 2020, six student projects from the special topics course Communication in Abrahamic Religions were presented at the Petersheim Academic Expo. The course was developed by the Institute for Communication and Religion (ICR) to research communication topics essential to religion and society. Designed and taught by ICR Director Jon Radwan, Ph.D., the class is unique to the College of Communication and the Arts. It identifies communication patterns within the Hebrew Bible, Greek Bible and Qur'an to trace both similarities and differences and place them within a context of Abrahamic unity. Student research presentations at the exposition discussed a range of topics including Jesus' communication model, interpersonal power dynamics, and social class structures within sacred texts.

The 2020 Expo was held via Microsoft Teams due to Coronavirus concerns. All presentations were recorded and then published online for NCA's "Special Series: Poster Sessions." This year's NCASCD award recognizes all six presentations collectively, designating "Seton Hall University" as the winner in the Outstanding Undergraduate Scholarship category. Course instructor Jon Radwan, Ph.D. nominated the entire class for the award, citing the course's spiritual themes of unity and collaboration.

NCA Award student work

Award recipient Devin Luehs used this famous 14th century painting in her presentation to help explain how Jesus communicated His humanity to the people of Bethany. [Duccio di Buoninsegna (c 1255–1318), The Raising of Lazarus (1310–11). Tempera and gold on panel, 43.5 x 46.4 cm, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX. Wikimedia Commons.]

"I cannot be more proud of our COMM2421 students. Spring 2020 was the semester we all had to abruptly pivot to remote learning," said Radwan. "A major pandemic should have derailed us, but instead we supported each other in our research and achieved special work that has now been praised at the national level."

He added, "This recognition is not due one person, instead our entire University deserves credit for fostering outstanding spiritual communication scholarship." In addition to the 11/12 virtual award ceremony, Radwan will accept the award in person at NCA's annual convention in Seattle on 11/17.

Each student's recorded presentation is also available for public viewing on the NCA's official YouTube channel. The Seton Hall topics and presenters featured are:

Student presenter and Communication major Ellen Paul said, "Often as a society we just hear about or focus on the differences and negative relationships between different religions, so I really enjoyed being able to create and be a part of a dialogue of different faiths."

The NCA is the largest professional association of communication academics in the United States, working to "advance communication as the discipline that studies all forms, modes, media, and consequences of communication through humanistic, social scientific, and aesthetic inquiry." Recognizing all six students as a unit at this level points to both research skill and passion.

"Although my participation started off as a class requirement, I found myself really excited about my research and to have the opportunity to discuss it with others beyond the scope of my class," said Kamel, who shared advice for those hoping to participate in future academic conferences. "When you've got a personal connection to what you're doing, it makes the work that much easier and enjoyable to pursue," she said.

Four of the six students have since graduated from the College. Rhania Kamel is now an NBC News Associate, working as a Crash Researcher on the Today Show. Devin Luehs works as an Office Coordinator for Medix, an industry leader for workplace solutions and staffing. Mark Graziano is the President of Apex Concepts, a telecommunications marketing firm. Alli Olla is a senior Communication major, and Chris Rice is now pursuing an M.A. in English here at Seton Hall, including teaching as part of the graduate TA program. Ellen Paul, currently in her final year as an undergraduate, has designed a dialogue event through the ICR featuring experts from the Catholic and Latter-day Saint traditions, set to take place November 12.

About the Institute for Communication and Religion

Launched in Fall 2017, the Institute for Communication and Religion within the College of Communication and the Arts provides a nexus for ongoing scholarly exploration of communication topics critically important to religion and society. Guided by the spirit of ecumenical and interreligious cooperation, the Institute seeks to engage in public dialogue and debate, promote academic inquiry and support the religious dimension of creativity — all while upholding the values of servant leadership, curricular innovation and intellectual excellence. For more information on click here to visit the Institute for Communication and Religion.

Categories: Arts and Culture

For more information, please contact:

  • Jon Radwan
  • (973) 275-2170
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