Campus News

UT Student Receives FCA Student of the Year Award 

By Micah-Simone Durrant

University of Tampa senior Riley Robertson, has received the 2021 Florida Communication Association’s (FCA) Student of the Year Award for her accomplishments in speech studies. 

The FCA Student Award recognizes the outstanding scholarly performance of its student members. Robertson received this year’s award for her achievements as a tutor at UT’s speech center and prior presentations at various FCA conferences. 

Robertson is a communication and speech studies major with a minor in political science. After she graduates this spring, she aspires to pursue a career in law. 

“I’m humbled by the recognition,” said Robertson. “It’s a confidence booster because it tells me that the work that I’m doing is being recognized by other people and they think that I’m doing a good job, so that’s my motivation to keep going.”

UT speech faculty nominated Robertson for the award for her outstanding work within her major. 

“Riley is a rockstar,” said Kristen Foltz, Robertson’s academic advisor and assistant professor of communication and speech studies. “It is only every few years that I encounter a student as hardworking as she is. Added bonus, she is a good researcher, writer, and most importantly public speaker.” 

The award carries a $250 cash prize to be used for Robertson’s future educational pursuits. 

Robertson is excited about the research money. 

“I’m appreciative of that because as I continue to find projects to work on, I’ll have the money to do so,” said Robertson.

Robertson has conducted previous research on protest music, social justice issues, and laws regarding free speech. However, in the midst of all of her work, she still finds time to help others as a freshman seminar mentor. 

Last year, she did a research project on local non-profit organizations with her freshman mentee, Jonathan Vargas, who is now a sophomore communication and speech studies major. 

Vargas met Robertson on his first day of college and gravitated to her due to her approachability.

“I decided to pursue research with her because I saw her as a role model and I thought working on something with her would greatly benefit me and my studies,” said Vargas.

Robertson hopes that her research will provide information on topics that haven’t been studied before. She used a grant from her ​​summer undergraduate research fellowship (SURF) to fund a research project on public speaking in masks.

“I didn’t see any research on how we can best serve our communities while public speaking in masks,” said Robertson. “So, I wanted to start doing that research to help different communities and speaking centers.” 

In November, Robertson will go on to present her research on public speaking in masks at the National Communication Association Conference in Seattle. 

Robertson accredits her passion for speech studies to Foltz. She began at UT as a political science major. However, Foltz persuaded her to pursue a major in communication and speech studies. 

“Professor Foltz has been my research mentor throughout all of my projects. I credit a lot of what I have accomplished to her because she has really helped me along the way,” said Robertson. 

Furthermore, Foltz is eager to help Robertson in her future career. 

“I can’t wait to write her a letter of recommendation for law school…which will likely be novel in length,” said Foltz. “Although I may fail her, so she won’t leave UT and I can continue to work with her next year.”

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