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For the second consecutive year, a Whitman College student earned a top prize in rhetoric from the National Communication Association (NCA).

Emma Dulaney '17 received the James L. Golden Outstanding Student Essay in Rhetoric Award for "Framing the (Un)Grievable American Citizen: Black Precarity and the Katrina Event." Judges praised the rhetoric major's analyses of 53 images from an online photo exhibit about Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as "an exemplar of theoretical sophistication, close textual reading, clear, lucid argumentation, and compelling prose," according to the organization's website.

"I've always been interested in visual communications, specifically how political imaginaries—or the ways in which we are constructed to imagine various identities—influence policy," said Dulaney, an electoral media fellow for Planned Parenthood in the Washington, D.C., area.

The intersection between visual rhetoric and critical race theory intrigued Dulaney, and "Hurricane Katrina stood out as an artifact since it is one of the most over-saturated images events of my lifetime. Katrina also fascinated me since, in 2005, social media was in its infancy, so the general public was reliant on the narrative of the news media to create their understanding of the event," she added.

Each year, the NCA presents awards for teaching, scholarship and service at its annual convention. Dulaney won one of 18 scholarship awards for her work, which grew out of her thesis project, advised by Assistant Professor of Rhetoric Heather Hayes.

"Emma did an incredible amount of work on a difficult topic," Hayes said. "She analyzed the race discourses around social justice and the Katrina event in New Orleans. She traveled to New Orleans with the aid of a Whitman College Adam Dublin Award for Global Multiculturalism and spent a tremendous amount of time working on a project that speaks to the racialization of the Katrina event." Indeed, during her first rhetoric class, Dulaney was "inspired by the breadth of the major and the critical lens rhetoric provided to address intersections of race, class and gender," the alumna said.

Last year, another of Hayes' advisees, rhetoric major Samantha Grainger Shuba West '16, received the same NCA award for her paper "‘This is Not a Legal Proceeding:' Deconstructing the New Title IX." The organization praised the paper's theoretical grounding and timeliness "as a response to sexual assault" in part by "drawing on feminist deconstruction."

"Heather is the reason that I'm pursuing postgraduate work and I'm beyond thrilled to celebrate this accomplishment with Emma," said West, who last year started a master's degree program in rhetoric and culture at the University of Colorado Boulder. "By the time I earned my B.A., I was writing at a graduate level. In fact, it was my senior thesis from Whitman [about this same topic] that got me into graduate school with a full teaching assistantship."

"Heather is a brilliant academic and incredible mentor," Dulaney added. "She pushed me harder than any other professor academically, while also seeing me as more than a product of my work."