COMS News | June 2022

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Happy June COMS Mustangs! This newsletter is designed to help keep majors, minors, faculty, and staff up-to-date so you can learn about news, career advice, events, networking opportunities, well-wishes, and inspirational stories about your peers and community.


Special Note to Our Graduates. ConGRADulations :)!  We are so proud of you and excited that you are about to embark on the next chapter of your lives. You have earned this amazing accomplishment through your hard work and resiliency during the challenges of the past few years. You are amazing, for all that you do and will do. Thank you for the time you have spent at Cal Poly and for being a part of our COMS community. You will be missed! In recognition of all your work, the department has a small gift for you, our graduating seniors -- please come by the COMS department office (Building 47, Room 33) to pick it up. The best times to come by are:

  • Mondays, 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.
  • Tuesdays, 8:30 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Graduating Senior Exit Survey. Are you a senior graduating this spring? Congratulations!! Before your time at Cal Poly wraps up, remember to fill out the required COMS Senior Exit Survey. This will help the COMS department stay in touch with our graduates and to know what your plans might be after graduation. Best of luck in your future endeavors and know that we would love to stay connected to you!

COMS Spring Social Survey. We had so much fun celebrating the end of the academic year with our students, faculty, and staff at our spring social! For those of you who were able to make it to the event, we would love to hear your impressions! Your feedback will help us in the planning of future COMS Spring Socials. To share your feedback, just fill out our brief survey by today, Friday, June 3. And check out our Instagram account for some special pics from the event! 

Class Evaluations. Course evaluations are now available to complete on Portal. Your professors would love to get your feedback on what’s working well in your courses and what could be working better. Make sure to complete your course evaluations by today, Friday, June 3 at 11:59 PM.

New Opportunities

COMS Leadership Positions. COMS Club and Lambda Pi Eta (LPH) are now recruiting student board members for the next academic year. These student-driven organizations provide opportunities for you to refine your skills in a leadership setting, connect with professors, and build your resume all while designing and supporting programs for COMS majors. To learn more about these positions, check out the information below: 

  • For LPH leadership positions, fill out the interest form by Friday, June 10.
  • For COMS Club leadership positions, look out for an email announcement. 

COMS Student Assistant Job. The COMS department is hiring a new paid Student Assistant to start work in the fall! Student Assistants work at the front desk and assist with social media coordination. This position serves a vital role in the interactions with current and prospective students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the general public. For more information and application instructions, visit the job page on Handshake (#6513431). Applications are due Monday, June 27. 

Media & Comm Research Initiative. Want to receive travel funding to present the results of a class project at a destination conference? The Media & Communication Research Initiative will soon be accepting applications for the 2022-2023 cohort!  In this year-long program, you can apply to receive funding and support to present original research from a class project at an academic conference. For more information and application materials, keep a look out for an upcoming email announcement. 

Councilmember Social Media Internship. Looking for a social media internship opportunity? Consider applying for a position to manage a SLO political election campaign or a city presence campaign. Two social media interns are needed for a Volunteer Internship in Marketing & Social Media (San Luis Obispo). Position details can be found at this link. 

Student Awards & Recognitions

The COMS Department celebrated the accomplishments of our amazing students at our Awards & Recognitions Ceremony, Thursday, June 2. At this event, we announced student achievements in areas such as academic excellence, research, service, and DEI efforts. We also honored our new Lambda Pi Eta members in an Induction Ceremony. For pictures from the event, be sure to follow our Instagram account next week! Congratulations to our amazing students! 

Department Awards

Recognition for COMS Club

  • Co-President: Berkly Hargon
  • Co-President: Maddie Valladao
  • Club Treasurer: Patty Correa-Gomez
  • Secretary: Jordan Schumann
  • Public Relations: Madison Vernon
  • DEI Officer: Mackenzie Demay
  • Program DirectorCaitlin Willard
  • Faculty AdvisorDr. Megan Lambertz-Berndt & Dr. Askay

Recognition for Lambda Pi Eta (LPH) 

  • President: Alison Viggiano
  • Vice PresidentKatie Holmes
  • Treasurer: Maddie Valladao
  • SecretaryErin Byrne
  • Planning & Events ChairRachel Sealund
  • Member at Large: Berkly Hargon
  • Faculty AdvisorDr. Aubrie Adams

New Lambda Pi Eta (LPH) Inductees 

  • Brookelyn Bochenek
  • Mia Chaney
  • Savannah DeBaets
  • Chloe Decas
  • Mackenzie Demay
  • Delaney Hulshof 
  • Natalie McCormick
  • Stephanie Melsheimer
  • Sydney Rosenthal
  • Ava Whitehorn
  • Kailey Zeiders

Debate Team Awards

  • English Language Debater of the YearRory Dinkins
  • Spanish Language Debater of the Year: Klara Perkins
  • Winebrenner Award for Outstanding Contributions & Commitment to the TeamAustin Grassbaugh
  • Co-director of Forensics: Dr. John Patrick & ProfessorChristopher Skiles
  • Director of Spanish Language Debate: Dr. Marion Hart

Recognition for Involvement with Undergraduate Research

  • Mackenzie Demay
  • Berkly Hargon
  • Delaney Hulshof
  • Corey Quillen
  • Christina Rakhamimov
  • Sierra Seratti
  • Marie St. James
  • Claire Weinhardt
  • Caitlin Willard

Outstanding Research Award

  • Berkly Hargon

Recognition for Service

  • Savannah DeBaets
  • Mackenzie Demay
  • Sierra Erdem
  • Madison Gann
  • Bryanna Gay
  • Amy Gillham
  • Berkly Hargon
  • Katie Holmes
  • Olivia Jones
  • Cristina McCarthy
  • Samantha McKinley
  • Sara Pedro
  • Savannah Tompkins
  • Leslie Torres
  • Cristian Valenzuela
  • Maddie Valladao
  • Alison Viggiano
  • Lauren Vollert

Outstanding Service Award

  • To the COMS Department: Maddie Valladao
  • To the University: Katie Holmes
  • To the Community: Olivia Jones

Recognition for Visionary Student Contributions

  • Mackenzie Demay
  • Bryanna Gay
  • Olivia Jones
  • Katie Holmes
  • Alison Viggiano

Visionary Student Award

  • Bryanna Gay

Academic Excellence Award

  • Sierra Erdem
  • Amy Gillham
  • Berkly Hargon
  • Katie Holmes
  • Olivia Jones
  • Esther Lo
  • Cristina McCarthy

Outstanding Senior Award

  • Katie Holmes

University/Leadership Awards

In addition to our COMS Department awards, we're also enormously proud of our students who have won recent college, university, leadership, and events awards! Another round of congratulations goes to the following students:  

Legados Debate 

  • First Place Winners: Austin Grassbaugh
  • First Place Winners: Klara Perkins 

Leadership in Action at the LEAD Awards

  • Maddie Valladao

Social Science Student Symposium 

  • McCall Award for Best Undergraduate Paper: Marie St. James
  • Runner-up Award for Best Use of Data: Marie St. James 

College of Liberal Arts Awards

  • CLA Service to the Arts Award: Amy Gillham
  • CLA Service to the Community Award: Olivia Jones
  • CLA Contributions to Objectives/Public Image of College Award: Katie Holmes 


Faculty News & Accomplishments

Congratulations on the many achievements your professors have made throughout the year! In our June Newsletter, we’re spotlighting faculty accomplishments from both the personal and professional realms. Check out the great things your professors have been up to and join us in celebrating their accomplishments and life events: 

Dr. Aubrie Adams and her husband John Nelson recently celebrated their 11th Wedding Anniversary in May. In addition, two of their cats, Agamemnon & Zelda, both have birthdays coming up this summer. And even though they will both be 15 years old, they both were recently praised at the vet for being so healthy! In the past year, Dr. Brie is most proud of being able to provide mentorship and support for 7 students who presented their research at conferences. In addition, Dr. Brie was also recently awarded funding for a RSCA grant for a project titled "Developing transformative VR learning experiences."  

Dr. David Askay won an award for his organization of the Camp Polyhacks program! This program received the honor of being the Program or Event of Distinction at the LEAD Awards. This award is given to Cal Poly organizations that implement a high-impact program or event during the academic year. Big congratulations to Dr. Askay!

Professor Lisa Kawamura has been busy teaching Public Speaking classes online and attending online trainings, facilitations, and events online too. Lisa spends much of her time outside of the classroom dedicated to fighting for faculty rights in the CSU. She was recently elected as the CFA-SLO Chapter President after spending many years serving CFA-SLO as the Lecturer Representative and a Lecturer Representative on the CFA Board of Directors – we are so honored to have Lisa represent us in this important position! Lisa also spends a lot of her time working on different social justice issues by conducting trainings on Anti-Racism and Social Justice for CFA, facilitating Healing Circles, fighting for social justice with Tsuru for Solidarity, and as a leader in the APIDA communities in CFA and at Cal Poly. One of the most important campaigns Lisa worked on this year was to have "caste" included as a protected class for all Cal State faculty. When she's at home, she and her family enjoy movie nights, spending time with visiting family, and playing with their orange tabby, Furikake and their Skye Terrier, Kishi. 

Dr. Lauren Kolodziejski has had one busy year. This January, she became department chair, a role in which she has been able to bombard and hopefully amuse faculty and students with her frequent (and informative) emails. But before that, she had a baby (welcome to the world Madelynn Scout!) and then 6 weeks later bought a house (that she still hasn't moved in to). She also had an article on guilt appeals in vaccine advertisements accepted for publication in Women and Language. She is grateful for all the challenges and opportunities this year has provided as well as the community of supporters around her.

Professor Martin Mehl and his wife Jennifer are incredibly proud to celebrate a major milestone of their twin sons, Alex and Carsten. After a full year of in-person instruction at Orcutt Junior High, they made the Honor Roll for all eight quarters of 7th and 8th grade.  They are excited to have their grandparents visiting from Germany to celebrate their 8th-grade graduation with them in person. Next year, both boys will be members of the first Early College Cadre at Orcutt Academy High School.  Martin has enjoyed reconnecting with many mentees, catching up with their careers -- hearing about new leadership roles and how they have brought their classroom experience with mentorship communication and digital literacy into the workforce.  Rounding out the family is 11-year-old Doberman Hazel, who is adjusting to a slower pace of life in her golden years.

Dr. Leslie Nelson will be traveling to South Africa this summer, funded by a Cal Poly Global Programs Travel Grant, to explore Cape Town as a site for a 5-week Cal Poly Global Programs Custom Study Abroad Program she is creating and hopefully launching Summer of 2023. Her partner, Seamus, and her best friend, Hilary, will be joining her on this exciting adventure! She is also serving as the Quarter + COMS Faculty Coordinator for Summer 2022. She is very excited about this role and looks forward to working more closely with COMS faculty and students associated with the Q+ program. In addition, Dr. Nelson received a CLA Summer Research Stipend and will continue her research exploring racial identity differences in foster care placements! In another exciting update, she was elected to the Faculty Director position for the Cal Poly Alumni Association's Board of Directors (2022-2024). Lastly, Dr. Nelson has some exciting personal events coming up this summer too! She will be celebrating her partner's completion of his Ph.D. with a camping trip to Big Sur and she is looking forward to a week-long family trip to the Great Smoky Mountains! Congrats to Dr. Nelson on an exciting year! 

Professor Nina Truch recently received her 20-year teaching pin last week! Amazing! She is also proud of completing two 4-week long courses through the Cal Poly Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology which are designed to enhance her online instruction. We applaud Nina for her commitment to student success!


What have COMS students, faculty, and staff been up to recently? Here, we use this space to archive past announcements so you can browse notices that were posted previously on our social media, web pages, and email list: 

Internship & Jobs. Interested in what kinds of jobs Coms majors intern and apply for? Previously, the COMS Department shared a variety of student internships and opportunities including:

SLO Food Bank Drive. We invited students to participate in Phi Alpha Delta’s food drive. They gave back to the community by donating nonperishable food to the SLO Food Bank!

COMS Summer Classes. The COMS department announced some great summer classes for those who would like to get ahead before the fall. 

ICA Annual Conference. Congrats to COMS alum Matia Mathes (who graduated spring 2021) and Dr. Anu Dhillon. Who presented their joint project on “Comparing the Effectiveness of Visuals in Medical Education Instruction” at the International Communication Association (ICA) Annual Conference in Paris, France!

COMS Student Advisory Council. Coms students had the opportunity to get involved in the department and network with fellow students by joining the Student Advisory Council, which will launch next year (Fall 2022 - Spring 2023). 

COMS Spring Lecture. Dr. Kristina Scharp from the University of Washington joined us on campus in May and gave a talk titled: "How Communication Processes Address Inequity and Marginalization: The Importance of Remaking, Resistance, and Resilience."

Sharing is Caring

Do you have an announcement to share with COMS majors, minors, faculty, and staff? Email Dr. Brie to find out how to share it! Follow COMS on Social Media: Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn 

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