Dr. Len O’Kelly wins CMA Distinguished 4-year Broadcast Award

Distinguished 4-year Broadcast Award

Dr. Len O’Kelly, a GVSU Multimedia Journalism professor, was recognized in August of 2020 with the College Media Association (CMA) Distinguished 4-year Broadcast Award. 

The CMA Distinguished 4-year Broadcast Award recognizes excellence in media advising among advisers with more than five years of experience on the job. The award is divided into categories. The 4-Year Broadcast Award means that O’Kelly is a broadcast adviser at a school with 4-year degrees. There are also 2-year categories, as well as categories for print, multimedia, and yearbook. 

O’Kelly was nominated by Bob Stoll, who up until this past August, was the director of student life and chair of the GVSU Media Advisory Board. Stoll also appointed O’Kelly, adviser of WCKS Radio, in 2010.

Once nominated, letters of support are needed from students. O’Kelly received letters from GVSU graduates Alaina Taylor and Rachel Syrba, previous WCKS Radio managers. 

“They shared their letters with me after they sent them, and they were touching,” O’Kelly said. “Phil Tower, who is the operations manager of WOOD-AM in Grand Rapids, and who has served as an industry liaison to the GVSU Media Board, also wrote a strong letter of support.”

Upon finding out he was nominated, he was asked for his advising philosophy in a document. O’Kelly submitted that and then waited to find out if he had won the award.

The award has meant a lot to O’Kelly. He indicated in his statement that the only reason he went back to school and finished his degree was to become a college radio adviser. 

“I figured no one would hire a dropout, so that was my motivation to get back to school and finish,” O’Kelly said. “College radio made my career, and it is very important to me. This award serves as a nice reminder that what I am doing is hopefully making a difference in a student’s life. I’d like to think that they’ll leave GVSU and look fondly on their time in radio just as much as I do mine.”

 The broadcast category award has only been awarded 16 times in the last 30 years, and no one from GVSU has ever won it. 

In standard years, there would be a ceremony at the Fall National Media Convention. This year’s CMA convention was a virtual event, and the ceremony was a presentation done by video due to COVID-19. 

“I’ve worked in radio for 33 years now, with time spent at some legendary radio stations,” O’Kelly said. “The station that I am most proud to be a part of, though, is our student station. I have learned so much from the students who have worked here over the last ten years, and hope that they’ve picked up a few things as well. I’m glad I went back to school.”

Dr. Velez Ortiz, School of Communications professor contributed to the ASHR

Dr. Melba Velez Ortiz, Grand Valley State University School of Communications professor, contributed to the American Society for the History of Rhetoric (ASHR). The ASHR offers rhetoricians multiple points of entry and enthusiasm. The common purpose of this particular society is the study of rhetoric as a historically situated cultural practice. 

Her article “Medu Nefer (Ancient Egyptian) Rhetoric” was published on October 8, 2020, as part of the ASHR’s Teaching the History of Rhetoric series. The article makes a case for why Ancient Egyptians as African people had already developed a distinct rhetoric style two thousand years before the Greeks.

“I aim to add my voice to those who seek to bring about some justice to the intellectual history of communication studies by finally acknowledging ancient non-western canons of rhetoric ignored or concealed until now,” Dr.Velez Ortiz said.

Dr.Velez Ortiz uses this same approach when teaching communication ethics at GVSU. Rather than starting with the Greeks’ contribution to the study of ethics and rhetoric, she begins with Ancient Africa. She believes there is quite a bit of cross-pollination between ancient cultures regarding the definition of excellent speech.

Dr.Velez Ortiz believes that this article is an essential read for GVSU students and Communications scholars because “successful leaders in the communication field communicate ethically and understand the importance of ethics in the contexts of human history.”

The inspiration for “Medu Nefer (Ancient Egyptian) Rhetoric” is the references made by ancient Greek scholars and historians to the heavy influence of ancient African people to Greek philosophical, political, and communication theory in the form of footnotes and passing references. After observing this, Dr.Velez Ortiz saw it as her job to remind us of something ancient Greeks acknowledged without shame or hesitation.

“The research that is done in this area, including mine, helps to dispel myths about the lack of contributions of ancient African people to our intellectual history and morality,” Dr.Velez Ortiz said.

This article’s research began with a book she published with Routledge press titled “Maatian Ethics in a Communication Context.” She plans to continue to develop these ideas in other articles and books. 

“Dr. John Henrik Clarke once said, “All history is a current event;” I agree with this view and hope eventually, the field of communications revises its curriculum to reflect these ancient African foundational approaches to the practice and study of communication,” Dr.Velez Ortiz said. “If we started to take ancient African thought and communication seriously, future undergraduate students would both take speech classes and listening courses that honor the more ancient intellectual tradition.”