Department of Communication Honors Graduate Students at Awards Ceremony


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Ariana Aquino accepts first-year communications teaching assistant award

The Department of Communication honored the recipients of three new awards designed to recognize graduate student excellence at its annual awards ceremony on April 21. teaching assistant, recognizes excellence in teaching by a graduate teacher from the Department of Communication. The Outstanding Graduate Student in Communication Award recognizes excellence in research by a graduate student in the Department of Communication.

Ariana Aquino received the first-year communications teaching assistant award. Aquino brought more than 120 hours of experience mentoring incoming students for the U of A Pan-Hellenic Council with her in the classroom. Her students praised her for creating a friendly, non-judgmental learning environment. When asked how Aquino could improve her teaching, one student wrote, “There’s nothing I don’t like about Mrs. Aquino. She is simply awesome.

Rachel Allard, who teaches courses in communication and gender studies, received the award for second-year teaching assistant in communication. Her students praised not only her preparation and knowledge of the subject, but also her compassion and empathy. Praising his dedication to teaching, one of Allard’s students wrote that his exceptional teaching “made [them] grateful to be able to take an in-person class again.”

Darby Gilliland received the award for best graduate student researcher in communication. She joined the program in the fall of 2021 with extensive research experience, having served as a research assistant in the Department of Psychology’s Memory and Communication Lab for two years. More recently, she collaborated with Professors Margaret Butcher and Jackie Mosley in their series of videos on building cultural competence published by U of A Press. She has also presented research at the World Communication Association’s biennial conference, submitted papers to the National Communication Association’s annual conference, and aims to make her mark on film studies as she begins writing a dissertation supervised by Frank Scheid.

Reflecting on this year’s award winners, Director of Graduate Studies Ryan Neville-Shepard summed up, “We are thrilled to honor our highly accomplished students. We have been recognized by the National Communication Association as having one of the best master’s programs in the country. That way, these students are the best of the best, and we’ve been so lucky to work with them.”


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