Posted March 27, 2018
by Rebekah Friedman, communications manager
Leslie Dennis, director of Scholastic Media Organizations in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, has been recognized with the 2018 James Paschal Award for Outstanding Service to a Scholastic Press Association. Dennis was presented with the award by the Columbia Scholastic Press Advisers Association at its annual conference at Columbia University in March.
The award is given each year to a state or regional school press association official who has distinguished themselves in the field. Dennis was chosen by the CSPAA’s selection committee for her involvement with the Southern Interscholastic Press Association and the South Carolina Scholastic Press Association, as well as her work reinventing the Carolina Journalism Institute, SIPA’s summer workshop.
“I am very humbled and honored to be recognized by an organization with such a strong, long history of supporting scholastic media,” Dennis said. “I attended a Columbia Scholastic Press Association conference 17 years ago as a student and it feels surreal to be honored as a director of scholastic media organizations.”
Phillip Caston, yearbook adviser for Wando High School, was one of several people who wrote letters in support of Dennis’ nomination. Through his work with her in both SIPA and SCSPA, he’s seen the difference she’s made in the two-and-a-half years she’s been in the role.
“Since taking the helm of both organizations, Leslie has brought new energy to scholastic journalism in the state and the Southeast,” Caston said in his nomination letter. “She does this as she always has — by putting students first. She finds ways to get more experienced students working with younger scholastic journalists at conferences and workshops. She has asked many of my editors to teach sessions to the younger students, giving attendees the unique chance to learn new methods through the eyes of more experienced students.”
Increasing attendance at CJI was one of the most dramatic changes Dennis made.
“Instead of tweaking the CJI, I smashed it,” said Dennis in a quote for the ceremony’s program. “It had seen declines in attendance, so I proposed a new model based on collaborative team projects and a holistic application process.”
She also focused on updating the SIPA and SCSPA websites, enhancing the organizations’ social media presence and strengthening the SIPA Endowment.
“We’re proud of Leslie, and of the exceptional work she’s done raising the profile of our scholastic journalism organizations,” said Dr. Tom Reichert, dean of the College of Information and Communications. “Her innovative spirt has already had a profound impact on the next generation of journalists and communicators, and we look forward to seeing where her leadership takes us next.”