Rogers (left) and Berson (right) at the 2019 National Communications Association’s 105th Annual Conference in Baltimore.
Scott Gratson

Iron sharpens iron. This is how Director of Communication Studies Scott Gratson describes students Rachel Berson and Grace Rogers, who have made each other stronger and sharper by supporting and pushing each other in every way during their time at Temple University.

On April 29, Berson and Rogers received the inaugural Communications Studies (CMST) Outstanding Scholar Award. Gratson, a former professor of both recipients, recognized them and presented each with a 2,000-year-old oil flask from Ancient Rome to represent the fuel of knowledge.

This award, being given for the first time this year, is given out on the basis of GPA, graduate school acceptance, presentations and/or publications in academic conferences or journals, other academic notoriety and awards, completion of the Major of Distinction thesis and any international study and research. Berson and Rogers were the only students to fulfill all six criteria.

Rogers began her time in Klein as a CMST major, but had plans to go into advertising. After taking ADV 1101: Intro to Media and Society with Dana Saewitz, Saewitz encouraged her to apply to TURF-CreWS - now called the Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity - and the DePauw Undergraduate Honors Research Conference. Still on the fence even after getting into both, Professor Gratson suggested she send her paper to the National Communication Association. Rogers was accepted, presented her work at the conference, and by the end of the conference was ready to fully immerse herself in the research aspect of communications studies. Now, she says, she is "such a research nerd" and has presented at several conferences since about the topic of her first research paper: Asian-American representation in media.

Berson became interested in communications studies after taking CSI 2111: Argumentation and Advocacy with Gratson her freshman year. She thrived in the course's challenging environment. "I realized in that class that if I wanted to succeed academically, I would have to recreate that environment as much as possible, and I was able to find that in communications studies," she said. 

Since then, Berson has presented at several conferences, including the National Communications Association, and has pre-recorded a presentation for the International Communications Association Conference on her Major of Distinction thesis about World Pride, and how its rhetorical identity has evolved since it began 20 years ago.

Berson and Rogers met when Berson was a sophomore and Rogers was a freshman in ADV 1011. From ADV 1101 to presenting their research at the same conferences, they have progressed together throughout their time in the CMST program. "They pushed each other; they have been through semester after semester together," Gratson said.

"In academia, or in anything, we need each other," Berson said. Rogers acknowledges that she and Berson are both very driven people, and is grateful to have had Berson check in on her and stop her if she ever worked too hard, and was happy to do the same for her. 

"I cannot think of anyone else I would rather be accepting this award with," Rogers said at the award ceremony.

In addition to recognition and a customizable certificate, Berson and Rogers will each be receiving an oil flask. Gratson chose this award because, to him, light symbolizes knowledge. "They're not just lamps," Gratson said. An oil flask spreads light by adding oil to lamps. Berson and Rogers spread knowledge by encouraging each other and the people around them to achieve as much as possible. Berson and Rogers were speechless upon finding out about the oil flask, and are incredibly grateful for Gratson and everyone that has supported them in their educational careers.

Berson graduated in the fall of 2020, and will be attending Temple University Beasley School of  Law where she hopes to pursue public interest law. Grace will be graduating in May 2021, after which she will attend University of Utah for graduate school.

"It's been really cool to watch her and I grow into our own people, but do it together," Rogers said.