On June 14, we hosted our annual Screen Summit to celebrate the end of the academic year with our extended Comm Lead family, recognize stand-out student work, and, of course, eat a lot of good food!
This year was especially significant. We unveiled the Declaration of Communication Leadership, an expression of the vision and values of our program, developed over the course of the year in collaboration with our community. Communication Leadership isn’t just our program’s namesake. It’s a behavioral model for today’s world — anywhere in the world — and we hope that the core tenets of this declaration will be used as guideposts for those in our community and beyond.
But the core purpose of Screen Summit is to showcase the exceptional work of our students — and boy was there a lot to cover this year! To that end, we screened films produced by students, and presented five excellence awards, and celebrated until campus services kicked us out of the building!
Read on for more about the awards and recipients:
The Community Award
Xintong “Shantelle” Liu
Our connections with our community, both within Comm Lead and beyond, make us who we are. This award recognizes a student whose work to strengthen our community connections made us stronger, smarter, and more collaborative. Shantelle’s contribution to enhance the international student experience these past two years has made an incredible impact and will continue to do so for many cohorts to come. She was instrumental in starting our International Student Ambassador Group, and has always made an effort to reach out to, and connect with, other students to help them.
Shantelle has rarely missed a Comm Lead event. When asked by our director Hanson Hosein what inspired her to attend all these events, she said that since she came to Seattle from China, “Comm Lead has always been a home for me.” Not having any professional contacts in the city, these events helped her build her professional and personal network. Last summer, Shantelle and a few other students put together a handbook for international students with information on everything from living in Seattle, job hunting, and other challenges faced by them.
The Creativity Award
This award recognizes a student who took a class assignment and developed it into something that was both novel and useful (in other words, truly creative), using the requirements of the assignment to explore beyond the boundaries of the course. She was an exemplary participant in the Partner Program and consistently went above-and-beyond with her final deliverables, while taking the most creative approach possible. As a fisheries ecologist, it was serendipitous that she worked on our ocean health initiative when she started the program. In her work with Livable City Year, she elevated a research project from a report to a visual booklet that the client could use to convey ideas in an aesthetically pleasing way to key stakeholders.
When Hanson asked what convinced her to get a communications degree being a scientist, she immediately responded, “climate change!”
“Talking to people who didn’t believe in climate change or had trouble understanding what was really going on, got me thinking that this was really a failure of communication,” she said, reflecting on her time as a scientist. “We’re doing something wrong, and there has to be a way to do it better.”
That convinced her to move away from science more toward science communication. Tori intends to use her current experience as a UX Content Designer at Microsoft to learn how things work in a large organization at scale, how small changes impact people, and eventually apply these acquired skills back to mission-driven nonprofits.
The Leadership Award
This award recognizes a student who has exemplified leadership qualities — in a course, across courses, and/or in the program and community. Leslie is applying the skills learned in Comm Lead to our greater community in her work at the City of Seattle. She sets a powerful example to fellow students about what it means to be vulnerable, learn new things, and stay open to new perspectives. She has taught her peers as well as faculty by contributing to meaningful conversation at the intersection of race, privilege, and equity, and truly exemplified what it means to be a leader.
Hanson asked Leslie what inspired her to take leadership of CLEAR (Communication Leaders for Equity, Access, and Representation), a social group for addressing issues of diversity. When Leslie first came to the UW, as a Black woman, she questioned why she didn’t “see a lot of faces that looked like me… why are we not here? Where is the faculty that represents me?”
That was the seed that prompted her to help launch CLEAR. She wanted to hear from her peers, understand who else wanted to address these issues, and come up with ideas to provide equity, access, and representation in the program. She believes that executive leadership is accountable to spearhead that effort and produce messages that students can then help disseminate and put into practice. Leslie aspires to a world where the conversation about race can begin at a point where we all connect and intersect — our humanity.
The Story Award
Stories are the center of our work. This award recognizes someone whose storytelling moved beyond the classroom to draw attention to a pressing human issue, positively influence the work of a client, and/or demonstrate superb instincts for how to tell a story that persuades people. Fan has been one of the most prolific participants in our Partner Program. She was part of the website design team for Ocean Link Northwest last year, and she co-produced a video about Real Change News for the housing and homelessness partner program this year.
She’s pushed herself to take her storytelling beyond video, to graphic design, immersive storytelling, and UX design. When she had only one class in the winter quarter, she took on a 100-day design challenge (to make a vector illustration every day for 100 days in a row), and dug even deeper, using it as a jumping off point for an exploration of the psychological and social dimensions of the creative process.
When Hanson asked Fan how challenging it was for her as an international student to familiarize herself with local issues like homelessness, she said she received help and support from her peers and faculty. She also pointed out that these issues exist in a lot of places, and as such this experience helped her understand how they are addressed in different countries.
Fan has aspired to be a good storyteller since the fourth grade when she lost her position as the class monitor to a student who had just transferred to her class, and shared a compelling story about that change which moved everyone to vote for her. Since then, Fan’s worked hard at her storytelling abilities and now as a designer, she hopes to use her storytelling skills to make her stand out as a unique candidate.
The Research Award
This award recognizes a student who has produced a piece of research deemed superb as part of a class during their time at Comm Lead. Jess started and finished a significant research project in just one quarter, from developing her concept and proposal, interviewing her subjects, reviewing relevant literature, and finally proposing her own solution to the issues she had identified. Her topic — pathways and future practice for accessible design — is timely and important, and includes interviews with UX designers, UX faculty, and diversity and equity professionals.
To Hanson’s question about why Jess chose this particular topic, she recalled that when she took David Holmberg’s class on UX design, she found herself consistently wondering how people with visual impairments and other disabilities interact with content. Her research led her to the conclusion that empathic and inclusive practices are applicable to everything we do as long as the right stakeholders are part of the process. Even though the program isn’t geared toward a thesis, Jess said that the opportunity to “produce a body of work that is representative of all of the amazing things that Communication Leadership has to offer, as well as all of the research that you can do yourself, is just a really meaningful and wonderful experience.”
We thank our students for their inspiring work, extraordinary contributions to the Comm Lead program and community, and wish them the very best for their future endeavors.