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Hugh Downs School faculty, students recognized at communication convention

A collection of photos and letters that spell "human connection"
February 28, 2023

A number of doctoral students and faculty from Arizona State University's Hugh Downs School of Human Communication were recently recognized for their scholarship at the Western States Communication Association (WSCA) annual convention, held Feb. 17–20 in Phoenix.

Laura K. Guerrero, professor of communication at the Hugh Downs School, received the 2023 Distinguished Scholar Award, a prestigious career award given each year to a member of WSCA whose scholarship has had a significant and lasting impact on the field. 

When announcing Guerrero as the recipient, the chair of the selection committee, James Cherney from the University of Nevada, Reno, noted that Guerrero was selected from a highly competitive pool of qualified nominees. 

Hugh Downs School Director and Professor Sarah J. Tracy noted that Guerrero’s program of research is “extensive, well known and widely respected, not only by interpersonal communication scholars but those across the social sciences as well.”

Guerrero has authored or co-authored several books and over 100 articles and chapters on communication in relationships, including groundbreaking work in the areas of jealousy, emotion and nonverbal communication. She is also lead author of the bestselling book "Close Encounters: Communication in Relationships," a research-based textbook used in upper-division and graduate classes in universities across the country. 

Receiving the award, Guerrero said, “I am honored and humbled. WSCA has been an academic home to me since I was a graduate student, so it is very special, and very motivating, to be selected for this award.”

ASU hosts the WSCA convention

Professor Paul Mongeau from the Hugh Downs School, a past president of WSCA from 2016–17, led the host team for the 93rd annual WSCA convention. Other local host-team leaders included Hugh Downs School doctoral students Marco Dehnert and Pablo Ramirez.

Held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Phoenix Feb. 17–20, the event brought communication scholars from around the country to share research and discuss issues and ideas.

The primary program planner for the WSCA convention was Heather Canary of San Diego State University, a Hugh Downs School doctoral program graduate. Canary also assumed the role of president of WSCA at the convention. Canary took the leadership reigns from outgoing President Christina Yoshimura of the University of Montana, also a graduate of the Hugh Downs School doctoral program.

The convention's keynote event was coordinated by ASU’s Southwest Borderlands Scholar and Hugh Downs School Associate Professor Amira de la Garza, in conjunction with the organizing efforts of Carmen Guerrero of Arizona’s Cultural Coalition. 

This event highlighted work from the Center for the Future of Arizona, the Black Theatre Troupe, Native Health, Chispa Arizona and Cultural Coalition. It included a program of music, performance and dance, featuring an array of artists including Los Waukis, Coatlicue Danza Mexica, Zarco Guerrero and Music of the Americas with Zarco and Carmen.

“The keynote event highlighted the ways that Arizonan's well-being has a long tradition of powerful nonprofit and grassroots community organizations dedicated to the needs and lives of the people of Arizona, often sustaining and working towards the development of policy and infrastructure in state and local government, as well as building community and celebrating our culture and strengths,” De la Garza said.

Hugh Downs School Top Paper Awards

Several Hugh Downs School faculty and graduate students were honored at the WSCA convention with Top Paper Awards from nine different interest groups.  The top papers include:

Top Papers in Communication & Instruction 

  • “Educative Erasure, Resistance, and Well-being among Asexual-Spectrum Individuals” by ben Brandley and Angela Labador.
  • “Letter to A Former Student” by Ana Isabel Terminel Iberri.

Top Paper in Health Communication

  • “COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy: Communicating Cultural Medical Mistrust” by LD Mattson.

Top Papers in Intercultural Communication

  • "My first words were 'knock-knock-knock housekeeping': Queer Femme Brownness, Humor, and Whiteness Performative Drag” by Michael Tristano, Jr. and Lore/tta LeMaster.
  • “When Liberalism Fails Liberation: On Axiomatic Whiteness and Praxis" by Dacheng Zhang.

Top Papers in Organizational Communication  

  • “Shut Up and Color: How K-12 Teachers Are Subjugated and Silenced Through Contradictory Institutional Logics and the Good Teacher Ideal” by Rowdy Dale Farmer.
  • “Phronetic Iterative Qualitative Data Analysis (PIQDA) in Organizational Communication Research” by Sarah J. Tracy, Marco Dehnert and Angela Gist-Mackey.
  • “Occupational Socialization and Identification in Pain Work: (Re)Conceptualizing the Experience of Pain as an Interactional, Coconstructed Process” by Laura V. Martinez, Alaina C. Zanin and Sarah J. Tracy.

Top Paper in Communication Theory and Research 

  • “The Queer Political Potentiality of Collaborative Storytelling” by Lore/tta LeMaster and Tyler S. Rife.

Top Debut Papers in Racialization of Gender in Trauma, Public Memory and Marketing 

  • “Engaging Black Feminist Liberation Pedagogies to Address Historical Trauma” by Sarah Keeton.

Top Paper in the Performance Studies Interest Group

  • “After Inclusion: A Trans Relational Meditation on (Un)belonging” by Lore/tta LeMaster.

Top Papers at the ORWAC Top Paper Panels

  • “Silent Witnessing: Navigating the Silences of Survivor Rhetoric” by Kaylee Mulholland.
  • “Interrogating power with high school students: Care and humanization through pláticas methodology” by Ana Isabel Terminel Iberri.

Top Paper of the Communication, Identities and Difference Interest Group 

  • “A Sense of Healing: A Relational Meditation in Queer (and Trans) of Color Communism” by Lore/tta LeMaster and Michael Tristano, Jr. 

See the full list of WSCA presentations from the Hugh Downs School.

WSCA Undergraduate Scholars Research Conference

Three undergraduate research projects from the Hugh Downs School were also presented at the convention after their instructors encouraged them to submit their work. 

The Hugh Downs School students and papers that were presented at the Undergraduate Scholars Research Conference (USRC) are as follows:

  • Sara Downs, “Coming out: Constant Self-Disclosure of the LGBTQ+ Community.”
    Graduate student mentor: Marco Dehnert (COM 407)

  • Grace Lahey, “Lost but not Forever: A Dialectical Autoethnography of Ambiguous Loss.”
    Graduate student mentor: Angela Labador (COM 407)

  • Christina Reimche and Tara Rastkhiz, “Living Unplugged: Effects of a Social Media Detox on Well-Being.”
    Faculty mentor: Assistant Professor Joris Van Ouytsel 

“The USRC is an excellent opportunity for our undergraduates to present their research and receive constructive and supportive feedback from experienced scholars,” Tracy said. “They are also able to network with faculty in diverse graduate programs and learn how to advance academically in the field of communication studies.

Western States Communication Association, founded in 1929, is a not-for-profit educational association of scholars, teachers and students of communication with over 1,000 members from around the globe. WSCA publishes two scholarly journals--Western Journal of Communication and Communication Reports, as well as an online newsletter, WSCA News.

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