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USC Annenberg graduates receive top university honors

Continuing the tradition of honoring graduating students from disciplines across the university, USC’s annual Student Recognition Awards ceremony was held via Zoom on May 14. Outstanding members of USC Annenberg’s Class of 2020 were recognized with these top honors, showcasing their stellar academic achievements as well as their meaningful contributions that have significantly enriched the university and the wider community.

Student Recognition Awards

The Order of the Laurel and the Palm

Exemplary leadership and high achievement characterize those selected for the Order of the Laurel and the Palm, the highest honor accorded to undergraduates completing their program of study. Recipients display significant leadership that touches multiple facets of university life and have made notable contributions that leave a lasting impact on the university community and the world at large through their commitment to service and value of the university’s highest goals and ideals. Less than one percent of undergraduates earning their degrees are selected as members of the Order of the Laurel and the Palm.

  • Steven Vargas (BA, journalism)

The Order of Troy

Recipients of the Order of Troy have distinguished themselves beyond their peers in at least one facet of university life and have made notable contributions to the university community as active leaders or critical contributors in service to peers, the university community or the world at large. These students have pursued academic excellence while devoting extensive time and energy in service outside the classroom.  

  • Joelle Ferguson (BA, public relations)
  • Tiana Lyew (BA, public relations)
  • Adriana Bernal Martinez (BA, public relations)
  • Tomás Mier (BA, journalism)
  • Kaidi “Ruby” Yuan (BA, journalism)

The Order of Arête

Arête, taken from the Greek, means virtue or excellence in attaining one’s utmost human potential. Members of the Order of Arête have distinguished themselves above their peers through campus or community leadership roles beyond those required for their programs of study, often making notable contributions to the university, academic discipline, community or world at large. In these leadership roles, members demonstrate significant depth and scope of responsibility, and they are recognized for upholding value and meaning over individual achievement. The award represents the highest honor accorded graduate students upon completion of their academic programs.

  • Aamirah Dastgir (MS, communication data science)
  • Cathy Park (MA, strategic public relations)
  • Veronica Perry (MCG, communication management) 

Academic Honors

Renaissance Scholars

USC Renaissance Scholars are students who graduate in two or more widely separated fields of study with both a major and a minor, or two baccalaureate degrees. Renaissance Scholars must meet requirements for superior academic performance, including no less than a 3.5 overall grade point average, and no less than a 3.5 grade point average in their respective programs of study.  

  • Natalie Balladarsch (major: public relations; minor: Spanish)
  • Zoe Brown (major: communication; minor: cinematic arts)
  • Annanlee Chang (majors: public relations and English; minor: music studies)
  • Erin Craig (majors: communication, and law, history and culture)
  • Sarah Domai (majors: journalism and neuroscience; minors: narrative structure and occupational science)
  • Shelby Durkin (major: communication; minor: music industry)
  • Xianqi “Lexi” Gu (majors: communication and economics; minor: accounting)
  • Nayanika Kapoor (majors: journalism and political science; minor: East Asian languages and cultures)
  • Melanie Holpert (majors: communication and history; minor: cinematic arts)
  • Jessica Milton (major: public relations; minors: nonprofits, philanthropy and volunteerism, and web technologies and applications)
  • Nia Norwood (major: communication; minor: occupational science)
  • Rekha Olsen (major: communication; minor: jazz studies)
  • Isabella Ortiz (major: communication; minors: web technologies and applications, and applied analytics
  • Lacey Pike (major: public relations; minors: applied analytics and technology commercialization)
  • Nicole Renna (major: journalism; minor: digital studies)
  • Lauren Sanchez (major: communication; minor: dance)
  • Steven Vargas (majors: journalism and theatre (acting); minor: dance) 
  • Cindy Yen (major: communication; minor: applied analytics)
  • Kaidi “Ruby” Yuan (major: journalism; minors: digital studies and future cinema)

Discovery Scholars

USC Discovery Scholars are students who have produced exceptional original scholarship or creative work at USC while compiling a distinguished overall academic record, including no less than a 3.5 overall grade point average. 

  • Sofia Bosch (BA, journalism)
  • Elise Burger (BA, communication)
  • Dana Dinh (BA, communication)
  • Joelle Ferguson (BA, public relations)*
  • Nia Norwood (BA, communication)
  • Christopher Cheshire (BA, journalism)
  • Daniel Toomey (BA, journalism)

*Denotes one of 10 prize recipients universitywide who received $10,000 toward graduate study. 

Global Scholars Prize

The Global Scholars program recognizes undergraduates who have excelled in their studies both at home and abroad, spending at least 10 weeks outside the U.S. as part of their undergraduate experience, and achieving no less than a 3.5 overall grade point average. 

  • Sofia Maria Bosch (BA, journalism)*
  • Brianna Devons (BA, communication)

*Denotes one of 10 prize recipients universitywide who received $10,000 toward graduate study. 

Communication Department Honors

  • Brooklyn Brady
  • Elise Burger
  • Ayse Cevikel
  • Sarah Shen-Min Chan
  • Dana Le Dinh
  • Nia Norwood
  • Rekha Olsen
  • Lingjun Renee Shi
  • Kristijana St Clair
  • Cindy Yen

Journalism Department Honors

  • Joyce Chamoun
  • Christopher Cheshire
  • Ellice Ellis
  • Nayanika Kapoor
  • Rachel Parsons
  • Diana Postolache
  • Carly Price
  • Simrin Singh
  • Trevor Sochocki
  • Daniel Toomey
  • Kaidi “Ruby” Yuan

Public Relations Department Honors

  • Chelsea Burnside
  • Goldie Fields
  • Brooke Furniss
  • Tatum Johnson
  • Timaj Kalifa
  • Stefanie Rikki Lao
  • Celina Lindemann
  • Laura Montilla
  • Julia Nash
  • Anthony Pulvirenti
  • Nyla Rawjee
  • Joi Wade

External Academic Honors

Fulbright U.S. Student Program

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers research, study and teaching opportunities in over 140 countries to recent graduates and graduate students.

  • Natalie Balladarsch (BA, public relations), English teaching assistantship, Spain
  • Nayanika Kapoor (BA, journalism), English teaching assistantship, Taiwan
  • Michael Smith (BA, communication), English teaching assistantship, Bulgaria

School of Journalism Awards

In addition, USC Annenberg’s School of Journalism announced the following recipients of their annual awards for graduating students. 

  • Rachel Parsons (BA), Outstanding Journalism Scholar Award
  • Daniel Toomey (BA), Outstanding Journalism Scholar Award
  • Jessica Milton (BA), Outstanding Public Relations Scholar Award
  • Annanlee Chang (BA), Outstanding Public Relations Scholar Award
  • Chace Beech, Outstanding MS in Journalism Scholar Award
  • Abhinanda Bhattacharyya, Outstanding MS in Journalism Scholar Award 
  • Isaiah Murtaugh, Outstanding Specialized Journalism Scholar Award 
  • Mia Hairston, Outstanding Specialized Journalism Scholar Award
  • Catherine Young, Outstanding Specialized Journalism (The Arts) Scholar Award
  • Victoria Alejandro, Outstanding Specialized Journalism (The Arts) Scholar Award 
  • Jordan Joyner, Outstanding Strategic Public Relations Scholar Award
  • Claire Sisun, Outstanding Strategic Public Relations Scholar Award
  • Manuelita Maldonado (MA, strategic public relations), Center for Public Relations Research Award
  • Kaidi (Ruby) Yuan (BA, journalism), Director’s Award for Excellence 
  • Jamia Pugh (MS, journalism), Director’s Award for Excellence
  • Kaidi (Ruby) Yuan (BA, journalism), Norman Corwin Award for Service and Scholarship
  • Lorena Bourdevaire Casillas (MS, journalism), Penny Lernoux Award for International Reporting Award
  • Jamia Pugh (MS, journalism), Jack Langguth First Amendment Award
  • Kaidi (Ruby) Yuan (BA, journalism), Bryce Nelson Award for Distinguished Journalism