The School of Communication honored its outstanding students, alumni, faculty and staff on May 9 at its Annual Awards Ceremony. Dean Gregory Shepherd presented the awards amid family, friends, faculty and staff at a reception at the Student Activities Center.

Catie Staszak, who graduated in broadcast journalism and spoke at the School’s commencement ceremony, received the School’s Outstanding Senior Award. Italome Ohikhuare, an MFA in Motion Pictures whose thesis project, The Mermaid, is a film about schizophrenia, was honored as Outstanding MFA Student. Funing Tang, a doctoral student whose dissertation, Acting as Being: Ingrid Bergman’s Performances, has been presented at numerous conferences, received the Outstanding Doctoral Student Award. 

Art Hertz, UM Trustee and long-time supporter of the School of Communication, was honored as Outstanding Alumnus. Hertz, Chairman and CEO of Wometco Enterprises, has been supporting the School for more than five decades, dating back to his earliest work with Wometco, which founded WTVJ, Miami’s first television station. 

In less than a month after it went on the air in 1949, WTVJ and UM’s Radio and Television Department began collaborating to telecast live student productions from the station’s downtown studio facilities. Hertz helped to secure UMTV’s first transmitter and the School’s early broadcasting equipment, all donated from Wometco. “Our roots were planted in the community, and you grew with us,” Hertz said in his acceptance speech. Hertz said he was honored to receive the award and proud of the School of Communication’s work through the years.

The Robert and Christine Staub Faculty Excellence Award was presented to Tom Musca, lecturer in screenwriting in the motion picture program. Musca joined the Department of Cinema and Interactive Media in 2010, and his students cited his mentorship and exciting teaching style in their nominations. Musca is a graduate of Rutgers University with a bachelor’s degree in English and earned his M.F.A. in screenwriting from UCLA in 1981.

Maria Lopez, office manager for the Department of Strategic Communication, received the Outstanding Staff Award. Lopez has been with the School of Communication in a variety of roles for 14 years, and colleagues praised her positive attitude and ability to problem solve in her nominations.

Matthew Fernandez, a student receptionist for academic advisors and the assistant dean, earned the School’s Outstanding Student Worker Award. Fernandez also has become one of the School’s most popular tour guides, and was honored for his professionalism, outstanding customer service and enthusiasm.

Congratulations again to all award winners:

Catie Staszak, Outstanding Senior
Funing Tang, Outstanding Doctoral Student
Italome Ohikhuare, Outstanding MFA Student
Art Hertz, Outstanding Alumnus
Tom Musca, Robert and Christine Staub Faculty Excellence Award
Matthew Fernandez, Outstanding Student Worker
Maria Lopez, Outstanding Staff