The Department of Communication Studies is proud to name Dr. E. Michele Ramsey as our 2020 Alumnus of the Year. Since earning her master's degree in Communication Studies in 1995, Dr. Ramsey subsequently earned her PhD from the University of Georgia in 2000 and has since served as a professor at Penn State Berks where she founded the university's degree program in Communication Arts & Sciences (CAS) in 2007. As an Associate Professor in CAS and Women's Studies at Penn State Berks, Dr. Ramsey is a prolific scholar who researches representations of gender in the media, women's rights rhetoric, and political rhetoric, in addition to the ever-increasing relevance of humanities education. Combining her love of teaching courses such as American Horror Films, Gender & Communication, Black American Rhetoric, and Contemporary American Political Rhetoric, Dr. Ramsey's research is informed largely by her connections with students who bring to the classroom their stories, curiosities, and new ways of imaging the world.
Just this year, Dr. Ramsey published a co-authored book with Dr. Laurie Grobman, Major Decisions: College, Career, and the Case for the Humanities. This book makes the powerful case for why majors like Communication Studies are so valuable to students both while they're in college, but importantly, once they move into their careers. As we often tell our students at UNT, COMM graduates aren't trained to do just one thing--they can (and do!) pursue careers in a wide range of industries, non-profits, and educational sectors. Major Decisions makes this case directly, noting that "humanities students meet a very specific need in this economy: they are agile and flexible thinkers and actors" (p. 23). Dr. Ramsey is a staunch advocate who views higher education not as a product, but as a process that enables students to leave the university as life-long learners, thinkers, and civic actors who are invested in social justice. As Ramsey notes in Major Decisions, humanities work "is a kind of mind training (rather than specific job training) that teaches us to look beyond what we know and sometimes beyond what we thought we could even imagine and to constantly make connections between our past, present, and desired future" (p. 79). In a podcast interview on the New Books Network, Dr. Ramsey reflected on data indicating the high employability and earning capacity of humanities majors, sending a message to leery parents: "It's a good investment in [your] kid, but also a good investment in [their] life. You just don't want to spend those years doing something you don't enjoy."
Dr. Suzanne Enck nominated Dr. Ramsey for this award based on Dr. Ramsey's incredible history of advocating for higher education as a pathway toward a more socially just world. As Dr. Enck stated: "Michele Ramsey exudes an indelible passion for lifting student voices and helping them become informed critical thinkers who are equipped to improve the worlds in which they live. She demonstrates a striking integrity for both what she does as an educator and how she uses her expertise to advocate for those who might otherwise be ignored or disenfranchised. Dr. Ramsey's blend of research, teaching, and service (to both her local communities and to higher education more broadly) demonstrates all the best we can hope from our alumni."
Dr. Ramsey has earned a number of significant accolades in her career, all spotlighting her passion for teaching, mentoring, and outreach to various communities. Among her many honors including recognition from Berks for "Outstanding Faculty Service" (2008) and "Outstanding Faculty Advising" (2006), the Organization for the Study of Communication, Language, and Gender's awarded Dr. Ramsey with their prestigious 2017 "Feminist-Teacher-Mentor Award" and the "Cheris Kramarae Dissertation Award." Penn State's President's Commission on Women has also recognized Dr. Ramsey with the 2015 "Rosemary Schraer Mentoring Award" and the "Achieving Woman Award" in 2010. Additionally, the President's Commission on LGBTQ Equity at Penn State University honored Dr. Ramsey with the 2009 "Curricular Integration Award" for her commitment to incorporating meaningful course content related to representations and experiences of LGBTQ communities and individuals. In 2016, Dr. Ramsey was awarded the Junior League of Reading's "Community Partner Award" for her local community workshops with youth to improve media literacy related to representations of gender and additional workshops with local parents to help support their children in navigating the murky waters of social and popular media.
Over the years, Dr. Ramsey has continued to eagerly support the UNT COMM department, bringing her Berks students to our department's research conferences, promoting our graduate program to her Berks undergraduates as a welcoming place to pursue their master's degrees, teaming up with various UNT faculty and students for research panels at NCA and SSCA, and even hosting a surprise tenure party for Dr. Enck in 2016. 25 years after earning her master's degree from UNT, Dr. Michele Ramsey remains one of our most enthusiastic alumni advocates, always looking for ways to highlight what makes UNT COMM "something to talk about." Upon hearing that she had been named our Alumnus of the Year, Dr. Ramsey posted this response to her Facebook page: "Truly, I'm not sure who or where I'd be if I hadn't bumped into this department all those years ago. They were a family to me as an undergraduate minor and an MA student. And although only one faculty member is left from my days there, the faculty I know there now are continuing the tradition of being a place of academic excellence and just plain kindness. There is no place like UNT COMM. Always proud to be a COMM(ie)!!!"
To be sure, we're all so very proud to call Dr. Michele Ramsey part of our COMMunity, family, and long legacy of excellence.