As the unprecedented 2019-2020 academic year comes to a close, the School of Communication would like to congratulate its Outstanding Overall Senior, Ben Ezzy, Outstanding Student Worker, Alexandra Naessan-Do, Outstanding Staff Member, Michael Lester, and Staub Faculty Excellence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Effective Teaching recipient, Heidi Carr. Join us in celebrating their accomplishments by watching the video above, or by clicking here, for a message from Dean Karin Wilkins.

Outstanding Senior, Ben Ezzy

Photo courtesy of Ben Ezzy.

Ben Ezzy, majoring in broadcast journalism, received this school-wide recognition for his dedication to the University of Miami, leadership, and academics. He is the executive director of the COVID-19 special on UMTV, organizing the production of the broadcasts from student homes around the country. Ezzy has been involved with UMTV since his sophomore year and, in his senior year, was unanimously elected station manager. Throughout his time at UM, Ezzy has received numerous awards including the NBS award for Outstanding Multi-camera Direction for NewsVision, an NBS award-winning and CTA-nominated episode of NewsVision (the CTA award has not been announced yet), and the UMTV Rex Pompadur Award for Outstanding Service to UMTV. Since his freshman year, Ben has been a President’s 100 Student Ambassador and an Intramural official/referee. He was promoted to Special Events Chair for the P100 Advisory Board and Intramural Supervisor.

Outstanding Student Worker, Alexandra Naessan-Do

Alexandra Naessan-Do, studying motion pictures, has worked for the Department of Cinema and Interactive Media for more than two years providing support to its faculty, staff, and students. In the nominations for this recognition, she was described as dedicated, committed to excellence, and reliable. During the transition from working in the office to working from home, Naessan-Do was instrumental in exploring alternative ways to support the Department.

Outstanding Staff, Michael Lester

Michael Lester, IT manager for the School of Communication, came to Miami from Lexington, Kentucky in 2017. He began as a help desk technician and quickly proved his abilities in not only IT, but in management and customer service. He is known for having pride in his work, willingness to help, and always being courteous. His extraordinary leadership in navigating the School’s transition to working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic is especially lauded.

Staub Faculty Excellence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Effective Teaching, Heidi Carr

Heidi Carr, lecturer in the Department of Strategic Communication, is the recipient of the 2020 Robert and Christine Staub Faculty Excellence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Effective Teaching. Carr came to the School of Communication in the fall of 2013 with 25 years of experience as a newspaper editor. She is the faculty adviser to the University’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America. Since her involvement with the student organization, she has worked to provide valuable opportunities for students to network with industry professionals, tour local agencies, and gain meaningful professional experiences. She is also the faculty adviser to undergraduate students studying public relations. Students who nominated Carr for this award said she is very involved with her students, caring, and a great mentor who fosters a supportive work environment in her class.

The School of Communication would also like to congratulate the following outstanding department area seniors, graduate students, and Ph.D. student.


Benjamin Ezzy, Broadcast Journalism

Sophia Espinosa, Electronic Media

Justin Stevens, Media Management

Sydney Knapp, Communication Studies

Anya Balsamides, Advertising

Valerie Farrante, Motion Pictures

Teddy Wilson, Journalism

Alexa Dawid, Public Relations


Angelica Torun-Rios, Journalism and Electronic Media

Songyi Liang, Communication Studies

Nicole Rankow, Media Management

Laura Miller, Interactive Media

Cathleen Dean, Motion Pictures

Jinyao Li, Public Relations


Wei Peng

The Staub Faculty Excellence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Effective Teaching is an endowed gift from UM alumnus Robert Staub, B.B.A.’56, and his wife, Christine. The award recognizes a School of Communication faculty member for effectiveness in teaching, advising, mentoring, and service roles in and outside the classroom. All of the above award recipients are selected through a School-wide nomination process with final decisions made by a School committee.