School of Communications applauds faculty and staff accomplishments

During its annual awards celebration, hosted April 18 in Turner Theatre, the school honored the achievements of several faculty and staff members, while also bidding farewell to Associate Professor of Journalism Rich Landesberg.

Brandon Booker is congratulated by fellow Elon communications faculty.
As he makes his way down the Turner Theatre stairs to receive the School of Communications’ Excellence in Teaching Award on April 18, Brandon Booker (left), lecturer in cinema and television arts, fist bumps Alex Luchsinger, assistant professor of journalism.

As part of its end-of-the-year awards ceremony, the School of Communications honored several faculty and staff members for their exceptional contributions throughout the 2023-2024 academic year. The celebration, held April 18 at Turner Theatre, kicked off recognizing more than two dozen students, transitioned to faculty and staff awards, and concluded with Dean Kenn Gaither’s heartfelt remarks celebrating retiring colleague Rich Landesberg.

“Today, we recognize our faculty and staff members who are all outstanding. But each year there are those who rise a bit above,” Gaither said in his introduction.

Below is a listing of honored faculty and staff, with remarks from Gaither. To read about this year’s student award winners, visit “Student excellence celebrated at ElonComm awards ceremony.

Ceremony photos are available on the school’s Flickr page.

Excellence in Leadership Award
Vic Costello

The award recognizes a member of the School of Communications who richly contributes to the betterment and reputation of the school and the discipline.

In his introduction, Gaither shared that Costello has been celebrated in previous years for his scholarship and his service, and the associate professor of cinema and television arts joins “very select company” as a three-time school award winner.

Vic Costello looks at Kenn Gaither.
Vic Costello, associate professor of cinema and televisions arts, looks on as Dean Kenn Gaither presents the Excellence in Leadership Award. Photo by Aidan Blake ’26.

This fact reveals two things, Gaither told the audience of ElonComm community members. “First, this is a so-called ‘vintage’ faculty member, who has been at Elon for some period of time,” the dean said. “Second, this is a highly effective faculty member who has established an ongoing record of excellence. And indeed, this faculty member checks both.”

Gaither commended Costello for his extraordinary work in the school and with colleagues, often conducted behind the scenes. Colleagues credit Costello for his dedicated support of their respective projects and goals, while also providing encouragement and insightful advice for their professional development.

“Dr. Costello is, in simple terms, a fixer,” Gaither said. “Problems come across his desk daily and he makes them go away. From playing a key role in our recent curriculum revision to course scheduling to questions related to the core or communications minor, Dr. Costello gets things done.”

This includes spending countless hours encouraging students to enter national competitions, and his work on their entries has raised the national reputation of the school, Gaither explained. In recent months, students have openly acknowledged and appreciated Costello’s support of their work.

“His steady influence, knowledge and generosity have served as beacons of light to our faculty and staff alike,” Gaither said. “This award allows us to brag about Dr. Vic Costello, the consummate teacher-scholar-mentor who embodies the greatest qualities of the School of Communications.”

Excellence in Scholarship Award
Chris Cheng

This award recognizes a faculty member whose scholarly and creative work is of high quality and brings distinction to Elon.

Since her arrival at Elon in fall 2022, the assistant professor of communication design has been a prolific researcher, publishing a substantial amount of content delving into the social and psychological effects of media technologies, ranging from AI to mobile phones.

Chris Chen looks at Dean Kenn Gaither.
Chris Chen, assistant professor of communication design, smiles as Dean Gaither remarks on her impressive number of published works during the 2023-2024 academic year.

In 2023, Chen completed three peer-reviewed articles in publications, including New Media & Society and Behavior & Information Technology, as well as three conference presentations. This is just the tip of her research. Currently, Chen has six publications in progress and seven under review. Additionally, she was recently invited to co-author a book chapter titled, “Anxiety and education: how not to become obsolete,” with a focus on AI and strategic communication that will have international reach.

“The impact of her work has made her a sought-after expert on media effects and technology,” Gaither said. As a result of her hard work, she and her research have made appearances in National Geographic, USA Today, among many other media outlets.

Ben Hannam, associate professor and chair in the Department of Communication Design, effusively praised Chen’s contributions to the school, the university and her research areas. And the university has taken notice. Chen recently received funding from the Academic Technology Committee, new faculty summer research grant, the Center for Writing Excellence, Writing Across the University, and her department.

“Her research is substantial, significant and relevant,” Hannam said. “Professor Chen has established herself as a rising star and she is well-deserving of this recognition.”

Excellence in Teaching Award
Brandon Booker

The award recognizes a faculty member who is outstanding in the classroom, current in the discipline, a quality academic adviser, and committed to student learning at the highest level.

In his introduction, Gaither commended the gathered audience of faculty and staff members, nothing that the School of Communications is “a community of great teachers.” He then pointed out that Booker is undoubtedly one of them.

Brandon Booker stands with Kenn Gaither.
Lecturer Brandon Booker (left) poses with Dean Gaither following the presentation of the Excellence in Teaching Award. Photo by Aidan Blake ’26.

During his time at Elon, the lecturer in cinema and television arts has developed a hard-earned reputation as a dedicated faculty member “who nimbly balances skills­oriented courses with student mentoring,” Gaither said.

In total, Booker has taught 10 different Elon courses, including Web and Mobile Communications, Creating Multimedia Content, Motion Graphics and Digital Media Production. Additionally, Immersive Production, a course he developed, prepares students in cutting-edge theoretical and technical processes.

“The Immersive Production class is now one of the few class opportunities in the country that introduces Unreal Engine, virtual cinematic production, and motion capture technology, helping prepare students for new types of in-demand industry roles,” Gaither said.

Colleagues applaud Booker’s ability to balance diverse and challenging topics in the classroom, while also being an empathic and available mentor long after his course work has concluded.

Excellence in Diversity Award
Lee Bush

The award recognizes a faculty member who provides exceptional leadership in diversity, equity and inclusion and enhances DEI initiatives across the school through action-oriented outcomes.

While the 2024 Excellence in Diversity Award recognizes contributions during the most recent academic year, Gaither acknowledged that Bush has championed DEI initiatives across the school and the university throughout her tenure.

Lee Bush looks at Kenn Gaither.
Lee Bush, professor of strategic communications, is the second recipient of the school’s Excellence in Diversity Award.

“She is an indefatigable advocate for thinking about difference and doing the hard work to affect meaningful change,” he said.

As chair of the school’s Inclusive Excellence committee, Bush engineered the school’s much-needed development of its long-term DEI plan. One of the plan’s early successes was the inaugural Spotlight on DEI event that brought together more than 75 students, faculty and staff in February. Additionally, she is the lead author on an upcoming textbook, titled “DEI in Strategic Communications: Becoming Culturally Proficient Communicators,” which will be coming out in the fall.

Gaither championed Bush for her instrumental role in planning for intercultural competence at Elon, particularly related to the advancing equity initiative.

While much of her scholarship is varied and rooted in her professional background in public relations, Bush has published in peer­-reviewed journals on DEI and participated in panels and poster sessions at the confluence of DEI, curriculum and strategic communications.

“She is a force behind a vision of fairness and belonging, and a moral compass for equity always facing true north,” Gaither said.

Outstanding Staff Member Award
Amber Moser

The award recognizes a staff member of the School of Communications who contributes to the betterment and reputation of the school and its initiatives.

Gaither praised Moser, director of internship, for her ability to successfully navigate “one of the most demanding jobs in the School of Communications,” he said.

Amber Moser stands near Kenn Gaither.
Amber Moser, internship director in the School of Communications, laughs as Dean Gaither offers remarks during the presentation of the Outstanding Staff Member Award.

Because all School of Communications students are required to complete an internship before graduation, every undergraduate passes through Moser’s office door at one time or another – and often many, many times more.

Since joining the school nearly a decade ago, Moser has guided hundreds of students through the maze of uncertainty toward internships.

“Along the way, she has served as a talent scout, matchmaker, mentor, counselor, liaison and teacher,” Gaither said. “Make no mistake, Amber is a teacher, and she is always scanning the horizon for opportunities for our students to find internships, from North Carolina to the country’s largest media markets.”

Her colleagues champion her approachability, relationship building, and expertise, which leads to her develop strong and meaningful relationships with students and colleagues. Those relationships produce positive outcomes for students and alumni, while helping create a collegial and caring atmosphere on campus.

“Amber makes the process of vetting internships, ensuring they meet school requirements, and connecting students to them look easy,” Gaither said. “And she does it all with a cheerful disposition, professionalism and efficiency.”

Gaither and Landesberg stand in Turner Theatre.
At end of the school’s April 18 awards ceremony, Dean Gaither shares remarks about his retiring friend and colleague, Rich Landesberg. Photo by Aidan Blake ’26.

Retirement Recognition
Rich Landesberg

At the conclusion of the 90-minute ceremony, Gaither offered an eloquent and deeply personal farewell to Landesberg, noting their strong connection – a bond that began while earning their doctoral degrees together at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and growing deeper during their two decades together at Elon.

“The final part of our ceremony is a farewell that is bittersweet to me personally and for the School of Communications,” the dean said.

Following a distinguished career as a journalist and educator, Landesberg announced his upcoming retirement at the end of the spring semester. Prior to Elon, Landesberg’s news career included coverage of presidential campaigns, the Gulf War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and so many other news topics of the 1980s and 1990s. To the benefit of his students, he brought those experiences and insights into the classroom.

Kenn Gaither and Rich Landesberg
Gaither (left) and Landesberg pose for a photo at the end of the April 18 ceremony. Photo by Aidan Blake ’26.

“He will be the first to tell you he is a recovering journalist, and I’ll be the first to tell you he hasn’t recovered,” Gaither quipped.

Gaither applauded Landesberg for being “one of the purest guardians of truth and information through journalism.” As faculty adviser to the Elon News Network, his students and the organization have won hundreds of awards, and ENN has earned national acclaim as a training ground for tomorrow’s broadcast journalists.

“Rich’s unofficial motto is that students always come first,” Gaither said. “And know this about Rich Landesberg: He always puts students first.”

During the last three Winter Terms, Gaither co-taught the Holocaust Journey course with Landesberg, shepherding 30 students across multiple European countries and five concentration camps. Those immersive experiences left Gaither thoroughly impressed with Landesberg’s teaching style and his personal touch with students.

“What I have seen in our travels is a master teacher who finds the golden mean between wisdom and care to guide students through one of the darkest chapters of modern times,” Gaither said. “He has an uncanny ability to be tough and gentle, demanding but fair and sensitive to student needs. In this way, he is more than a journalist and an educator. He is a model global citizen who simply makes our world a better place.”

Anthony Hatcher, professor and chair in the Department of Journalism, credits Landesberg for establishing Elon’s strong reputation for journalism.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that Rich transformed journalism at Elon University,” Hatcher said. “Through his classes and his mentoring of generations of students who have passed through the Elon News Network, he has helped to populate newsrooms around the country with qualified journalists.”

It comes as little surprise that many students – and alumni – “recount their relationship with Rich as one of the most defining aspects of their Elon career,” said Gaither, quoting one of Landesberg’s colleagues.

Landesberg shared a few thoughts following Gaither’s remarks, taking the opportunity to thank the school’s leadership, specifically Dean Emeritus Paul Parsons, for its collective support during his two decades on campus. He singled out the friendships he’s built with Gaither and Hatcher, and he thanked his wife, Ginette Archinal, university physician, for allowing him to pursue his passions – educating the next crop of news reporters and producers.

“The most important part for me has been the students,” he said. “And that’s the reason I do this … For so many of them, I don’t think of them as my students, but as my family.”