Ouachita student media earn top national, state awards

By Felley Lawson 
OBU News Bureay

ARKADELPHIA — Ouachita Baptist University student media have earned three national awards and a Gold Medalist rating from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) for the Ouachitonian yearbook and 64 state awards for the OuachitonianSignal newspaper and Ouachita Digital Sports Network, as well as online and television coverage, from the Arkansas College Media Association (ACMA). 

Ouachita students recognized by the Arkansas College Media Association for their work during the 2021-22 academic year include (from left) Abby Blankenship, first place, Student Life Photo; Gracen Goudy and Anna Roussel, first place, Yearbook Editors of the Year; Amy Jackson, a senior communications & media/film major from Cypress, Texas, representing the Signal staffSara Patterson, first place, Website Editor of the Year; and Valeria Gomez, first place, Social Media Promotion. | Photo by Chris Babb

“I’m so proud of our students for the awards they received for our student publications,” said Dr. Deborah Root, professor of communications and director of assessment and institutional research at Ouachita. Root also serves as chair of the Rogers Department of Communications and faculty advisor for the Ouachitonian. “We know they are talented and are dedicated to their work in our department, but it’s nice to see them honored on a state and national level. They are excellent representatives of the quality education Ouachita provides.” 

The CSPA awards were announced in Fall 2021. Levi Dade, a junior Christian studies/biblical studies major from Senatobia, Miss., earned first place for yearbook sports action photo. 

“This award—or any award—was not something I thought I had the skills to win,” Dade said. “I’m very honored to accept it, and I attribute it to Nathan Dixon, my mentor since high school. Without his teaching and training in photography for the past six years, this wouldn’t have been possible. It’s all in his honor, as well as for the glory of God.” 

Third place was awarded to Abby Blankenship, a senior communications & media/strategic communications major from Little Rock for yearbook feature photo and to Ben Swanger, a 2021 communications & media/sports communications graduate from Forney, Texas, for design portfolio. 

ACMA honors were announced during the organization’s annual convention April 8 at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. Ouachita students entered six of the top seven award divisions; each won or placed in their category, including Ouachitonian editors Gracen Goudy and Anna Roussel who were named Yearbook Editors of the Year. 

“It was exciting getting this award after a year of working so hard,” said Goudy, a senior communications & media/communications studies major from Bryant, “and it made it even more special that I got to win it with Anna. We are both so thankful that we are able to create this book for Ouachita and its students.” 

Roussel, a senior communications & media/strategic communications and political science double major from Searcy, added, “This award was an affirmation of both the hard work we have put into the Ouachitonian this year and the excellent training we’ve received from all of our professors. It felt like the perfect way to close out mine and Gracen’s four years working together on the yearbook.” 

Other first-place winners among the competition’s top divisions were Swanger, who was named Designer of the Year; Sara Patterson, a senior English literature and Christian studies/biblical studies double major from Wylie, Texas, named Website Editor of the Year; Matthew Branch, a senior communications & media/sports communications major from White Hall, named TV Producer of the Year; and Caroline Derby, a junior communications & media/multimedia and political science double major from Arkadelphia, named TV Anchor of the Year. 

Eleven students won first place in individual categories, including Chase Hartsell, a sophomore business administration and Spanish double major from Hot Springs. Hartsell earned first-place honors in the TV Sports Feature category for his segment for the Ouachita Sports Digital Network on Ouachita’s Battle of the Ravine football rivalry game. 

“This award from ACMA is a true honor. It’s the first broadcasting award I’ve ever won at the collegiate level, and to win it with ‘A November Morn’ is just icing on the cake,” Hartsell said. “Getting to tell the story of the Battle of the Ravine rivalry in that way was amazing; it’s unlike any other project that I’ve worked on before. It’s really special to me, and I’m glad others are enjoying it as well.” 

Ryan York, a senior communications & media/sports communications major from Plano, Texas, is one of 11 students who placed in more than one ACMA awards category. York earned a first-place award for online sports writing and a second-place award for sports page layout. 

“At first I was a little surprised to receive the award for sports writing,” he said. “When I first started writing for the newspaper, I did it for fun and for some good work experience. To receive this award helps me see just how far I’ve come in writing and shows how Ouachita has pushed me to become who I am.” 

For more information about Ouachita student media, contact Dr. Deborah Root at rootd@obu.edu or at (870) 245-5510.

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