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Josh Pilate, Communications Student

Joshua Pilat honored by
Pennsylvania Communication Association

Penn State New Kensington adult learner Joshua Pilat earned the first-place award Oct. 18 for his research on rhetoric at the annual conference of the Pennsylvania Communication Association at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Pilat’s paper, “One Nation Under God: The Rhetoric of American Exceptionalism in the Inaugural Address of Barack Obama,” took top honors in the association’s Undergraduate Writing Competition. The organization recognizes undergraduate scholarship in the communications field and provides an opportunity for students to present their work in a public forum.

Twenty-five papers were submitted by undergraduates from across the state. A blind review of the submissions was conducted by communications faculty from a selection of Pennsylvania colleges and universities. Jennifer Wood, associate professor of communication arts and sciences at the campus, accompanied Pilat to the conference.

“Joshua presented his paper on a panel with graduate students, and he more than held his own,” said Wood, who holds a doctorate degree in communication and rhetoric from the University of Pittsburgh. “He’s not only an excellent scholar, he is also a great speaker.”

The genesis of Pilat’s project was 9/11. The 29-year-old Butler, Pa., native was an exchange student in Switzerland at the time of the terrorist attack. After coming home, Pilat detected a shifting of the country’s political conscience.

“When I returned from Switzerland the next summer, I had noticed the way politicians and the news media talked about the country,” said Pilat, a graduate of Knoch High School. “It was different than I had remembered prior to the attacks. I needed to find a way to examine how this idea of ‘American Exceptionalism’ still pervaded the political speech today.”

Pilat worked on the paper under the direction of campus faculty Allen Larson, associate professor communication, and Wood, who served as the second reader. What started out as a senior class project morphed into an award-winning research paper.

“Dr. Wood suggested that I submit the paper to the PCA competition,” said Pilat, a member of the Alpha Sigma Lambda honor society. “So with a few tweaks and shedding a few bits to get the paper under the competition page limit, I sent it off.”

Pilat’s circuitous journey to Penn State New Kensington started at Butler County Community College. After taking courses for a few semesters, he landed a job in the retail business, only to lose it due to the recession. He returned to college looking for a second career. Pilat calls his decision to attend New Kensington “one of the best choices I ever made.”

“I love the faculty, especially my communications faculty, said Pilat, who pays tuition with a combination of loans, grants and an Honors scholarship. “The top-level education I have received here is even better because I have had the chance to work closely with some really smart people who have constantly challenged me to deepen my understanding of the course material. The small classes have allowed me to really get to know and learn from professors in a way that wouldn't have been possible at a large campus.”

A member of the Honors program, Pilat has earned numerous academic awards, including the President Sparks Award, which is presented annually to undergraduates who have earned a 4.0 cumulative grade-point average. In addition to his classroom prowess, Pilat is active outside of the classroom. On campus, he is a peer tutor and student orientation leader and works at the help desk in the Computer Center. Off-campus, he works as a disabilities caregiver for Family Services of Western Pennsylvania.

Pilat will earn his bachelor’s degree in corporate communications in December. He plans a career with the United States Foreign Service, whose professionals serve diplomatic missions around the world or with the United Nations Young Professionals Program, which provides college graduates under the age of 30 with the opportunity to start a career in an international organization.

For more on the Communications program at the campus, visit http://www.nk.psu.edu/comm


Dr. Jennifer Wood

Communication professor Jennifer Wood co-edits book on prison education

Jennifer Wood, associate professor of communication arts and sciences at Penn State New Kensington, co-edited a book that was published in July by University of Illinois Press.

“Working for Justice: A Handbook of Prison Education and Activism,” is a compilation of the latest scholarship on prison issues in the United States. It offers practical approaches to prison education and advocacy, and promotes education, activism and reform as a means to solving societal issues. Her co-editors were Stephen Hartnett, professor of communication at the University of Colorado Denver and Eleanor Novek, associate professor of journalism at Monmouth (NJ) University.

“The book details communication scholars’ work teaching in prisons and prison reentry programs, as well as their efforts to raise awareness about prison issues in the United States,” said Wood, who holds a doctorate degree in communication and rhetoric from the University of Pittsburgh.

An author of numerous publications for scholarly journals, Wood has taught several college communication courses at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution in Pittsburgh. She is a trained volunteer mediator for the Victim/Offender Dialogue Program for Crimes of Violence, and has served as a mediator for the Pittsburgh Mediation Center’s Victim/Offender Mediation program, and has volunteered as a medical advocate for Pittsburgh Action Against Rape. In addition, she is researching a project that examines restorative justice policies across the country.

Wood joined the campus faculty in 1999 and teaches courses in conflict resolution, rhetoric, and effective speech. Her research focuses on crime victim policy, the prison-industrial complex, and restorative justice. Her work has been published in numerous scholarly journals, including Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, National Women’s Studies Association Journal, and Western Journal of Communication.

For more information about the book, email Wood at jkw7@psu.edu

For more about Wood, visit http://www.nk.psu.edu/Academics/Degrees/28821.htm

For more about the Penn State New Kensington Communications program, visit http://www.nk.psu.edu/comm

Shawn Annarelli on the PSNK Lion


( Penn State New Kensington Communications graduate in Corporate Communications, Class of 2013) received the Penn State New Kensington Literary Award.


Shawn Annarelli of Allison Park, Pennsylvania, was the 2013 recipient of the Penn State New Kensington Literary Award.

Annarelli, who earned his bachelor’s degree in Communications in May, was honored for his work as a contributing writer for the Nittany Pride, the student newspaper at the campus. Prior to enrolling at the New Kensington campus, Annarelli was on the staff of the Behrend Beacon at Penn State Erie, first as a reporter, and then as sports editor and managing editor.

“I started reporting for the Beacon in my freshman year, and I was hooked on being a journalist,” said Annarelli, a product of Hampton High School. “I moved on to an internship with Trib Total Media after my sophomore year. I have been regularly published by the Trib ever since.”

As a contributing writer for Trib Total Media, publisher of the Tribune-Review, Valley News Dispatch and other local newspapers in Western Pennsylvania, Annarelli covers high school sports and writes a weekly feature on Butler County residents. Feature writing is of special interest to Annarelli.

“I like to really dig into a person’s life and find out who they are and what their motives are for doing what they do,” said Annarelli, who earned an Elisabeth. S. Blissell Scholarship at the campus. “You have to take the time to really find out the in-depth nature of stories.”

Annarelli’s reporting acumen was honed in the classroom. He credits the campus communications faculty -- Jennifer Wood, associate professor; Allen Larson, associate professor; and Abhinav Aima, instructor -- with molding his work ethic.

“I think a lot of my reporting skills stem from taking classes with the professors in the communications department,” Annarelli said. “One intangible that can’t really be taught is hard work, and they constantly push students to reach their potential.”

While Annarelli awaits a full-time position in his chosen field, he continues to be a stringer for the Trib. He also lined up a gig covering Penn State football for Football.com, a website that offers year-round coverage of college and professional football.