Media and Journalism Students, Alumni Recognized with Diversity Awards

Each year, the School of Media and Journalism’s Diversity and Globalization (D&G) Committee recognizes students and their work with The Robert G. McGruder Student Award for Diversity, in honor of the late Robert G McGruder, a 1963 Kent State University graduate, and a trail-blazing journalist.

“We had 11 nominations for The 2021 Student Award for Diversity,” said Luke Armour, associate professor in the School of Media and Journalism and co-chair of the D&G Committee. “That’s the most we’ve had since we started this five years ago. And that’s great news.” 

Students and alumni were awarded this year by the committee for their work that promotes diversity and celebrates different cultures.

Angela Molina, B.S. ‘19, MPA ‘21, was recognized as the first-place recipient of the award for her article, “Looking forward to a Queer-Friendly Future.” Molina received $500 for her recognition.

Cheryl Ann Lambert, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Media and Journalism, graduate coordinator, and member of the D&G Committee, recognized the article and the importance of discussing the message Molina shared.

“‘Looking Forward to a Queer-Friendly Future’ shares a vital, necessary contemporary message,” Lambert said. “It is well written, thoughtful, and offers a detailed focus on how the current and past administrations have a real-world impact on members of the LGBTQ community. The article goes on to discuss all marginalized communities through that lens. The broad social, political, and cultural implications addressed are tied together to not only inspire readers, but to motivate each of us to take action however we can.”

Molina’s inspiration for this article evolved in response to what was happening at the time.

“At that point, we were one year into the pandemic,” Molina stated. “We had the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020, and the turbulence of the election later that year.”

Being editor-in-chief for Fusion magazine at the time, Molina recognized that something had to be done. 

A lot of protections the LGBTQ+ community once had were rolled back during Trump’s administration in 2017. Although Biden won the most recent presidential election, there is still a lot of work to get done, she said.

“For example, LGBTQ+ people face higher rates of housing insecurity,” Molina said. “But the situation is doubly worse for disabled LGBTQ+ people who may lack access to housing that accommodates their disability.”

Molina wants readers to understand that it is more about doing something rather than simply realizing an interconnection between social issues.

“I can't fix systemic homophobia and transphobia, but I can provide some form of mutual aid to my LGBTQ+ siblings,” Molina said. “I can't fix the world, but I can make life easier for someone.”

Yulani Rodgers, BS ‘20, Khalil Thompson, BS ‘21, Amber Cocchilo, XAS 22, Olivia Brown, BA, ‘21 and Ashley Johnson, BS ‘21, received special recognition for their efforts with “Akron Civic Duty,” a 360, interactive website tour of the Akron Civic Theatre.

These five students worked together in a course called Reframing Experience, an interdisciplinary capstone course that focused on redefining experiences co-taught by Assistant Professor Abraham Avnisan of the Schools of Media and Journalism and Emerging Media & Technology, J.R. Campbell, executive director of the Design Innovation Initiative and Bobby Selvaggio, associate professor and director of Jazz Studies in the School of Music.

“The Akron Civic Duty team worked with the Civic Theater and became interested in using the Theater’s story to think about the history of racial justice in Akron,” Avnisan said. “This was a very strong project created by a wonderful team of passionate and committed students that engages with issues of diversity, inclusion and social justice in a new and unusual way.”

This website included a mixture of text, audio and visual elements to tell the stories of the arts and why we need to make them more accessible. 

“This team project makes innovative use of emerging technologies to tell an important and timely story about the history of culture, diversity and equity in Akron, Ohio,” Armour said.

Rodgers acted as the team's project manager where she served as the liaison between the group and the client. 

“It was through extensive research of the theatre and the history of Akron, along with guidance from our professors that the idea for Akron Civic Duty came about,” Rodgers said.

Cocchiola’s role in the project was creating video content and researching software to create the tour. She worked on image content and setting up the content for the virtual reality tour. 

Cocchiola took pride in this project for the unmatched experience, her team’s diversity, and the team’s ability to overcome any challenges they ran into which set them apart and gave them recognition for their hard work. 

“The importance of this project to me was working in a group with unique perspectives,” Cocchiola said. “We each brought something to the table that allowed us to create a well-rounded perspective on race relations in Akron through the lens of the Akron Civic Theatre. I know that I learned the most from working with my teammates.”

The team split $250 awarded by the College of Communication and Information. 

“We are so proud of the passion, commitment and dedication these students demonstrated over the course of the semester,” Avnisan said, “and we know that this honor is well-deserved.”

To learn more about McGruder, his legacy and the Distinguished Lecture and Awards Program in his honor, visit…;

POSTED: Friday, May 6, 2022 03:54 PM
UPDATED: Friday, December 09, 2022 05:43 PM
Haley Kisling