Communication studies faculty members Michael Riecke and Francisco Suarez showed they are more than outstanding professors, but also top creators in their field in earning 2021 Broadcast Education Association national awards.

In the organization’s On-Location Faculty Creative Competition, Riecke earned an Award of Excellence in the Faculty Audio category for “For Changemakers, By Changemakers,” with Suarez winning the category of Faculty Educational Interactive Multimedia for his “From Suarez’s Basement” video podcast series on YouTube.

“It's fantastic when you see SUNY Oswego represented twice in a competition where there were only five categories, and only a handful of winners,” Riecke said. “I think it speaks to the quality of our program and sends a message about the kind of work we're doing here at SUNY Oswego.”

“This is a national competition, which means hundreds of applications, so for them to pick us means that we must be doing something right in the quality of what we are producing,” Suarez said.

Notable work

“It was the first episode and an audio series I produced for WRVO that started airing last March as part of their women's history month programming, in collaboration with Humanities New York,” Riecke said of his winning entry. “It complemented Humanities New York’s series titled ‘Amended,’ which focused on the untold stories of women who played a significant role in the women's suffrage movement, both before leading up to women's suffrage and even after as it continued to evolve and develop. Minds had to be changed, so it focused on the women who weren't part of that narrative but played a significant role.”

Riecke’s six-week program localized the series, taking “a more contemporary look at women regionally who are doing similar work today, whether that's in the realm of social justice and leadership in advocacy who are active in their communities and fighting for change,” he said.

“It was a narrative series so there was a lot of storytelling,” Riecke noted, which was challenging to do in the middle of a pandemic. When he could meet with people and get their stories on location, it helped with elements of an audio series, but ultimately he learned the reality of journalists adapting to new ways to tell stories. 

“It was a lot of fun and to be able to dive in and do the writing and tell their stories was rewarding for me,” Riecke said. “To see their reaction was also really nice because many of these women are not people who get much attention from media every day; they're just doing the y the hard work without much fanfare.”

The hard work Suarez has put into his video podcast continues to earn recognition that previously included the 2021 Communicator Award of Excellence in the educational video category from the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts.

At the time he noted the importance of “a program made with a genuine interest in educating and informing our audience, primarily students and faculty interested in the communication, media and the arts fields," Suarez said. 

“It's always refreshing to know people out there that appreciate what we're doing,” Suarez said. “The category was the overall concept of the video podcast -- not necessarily just a video, but the podcast’s educational aspect of the multimedia content.”

The submission included Suarez’s introductory video and a link to his YouTube channel, and he thinks judges checked out the older videos. Between a high quality of guests and Suarez’s clear passion for the production, the series stands out along the way to winning these awards.

Teachers and creators

Riecke and Suarez agreed that the awards both reflect and extend their dedication to teaching and storytelling.

“When I show examples of the work I've done, particularly if it has been recognized by something like this competition, I think it lends credibility to what I'm teaching,” Riecke said. “It shows my students that I'm doing what I'm expecting you to do in class, and what you're working on is something I'm still practicing as well -- so I can relate to some of the struggles or challenges or obstacles you may be facing.”

While Riecke noted he shows a lot of examples from other journalists and content producers, “there's something about showing your own work that resonates with students,” he said. “I think it helps build a stronger connection between my students and me, because I really do think most of them get the sense we're all in this together and I can empathize with their situation.”

“Really, 100 percent of it is about walking the walk,” Suarez said. “It allows our students to have that connection, where we are in this together. In a way, I feel like I need to prove myself that I'm worthy of your attention.”

“I really appreciate the support, particularly that the School of Communication, Media and the Arts offers us as creatives to do what we do and allow us to continue to produce creative content as part of our scholarship,” Riecke explained. “We're not exactly traditional researchers or traditional academics, but we are creative scholars. To work for an institution that recognizes and values that is really fantastic, and I can't say enough about how appreciative I am of the support and encouragement that we're given to pursue that route.”

Connecting excellence

Suarez praises Riecke for becoming a mentor and for connecting him with opportunities to work at Oswego in the first place.

“It’s really a good example to our students again about the importance of networking,” Riecke said. “Here was this phenomenally talented person living just down the road, and making that connection has been great for our students and the college.”

“Michael really has been a person that I can relate with when I need some kind of advice or just talk to about anything,” Suarez noted.

“During the academic year, it sometimes seems like we're like ships passing in the night but I know, whatever he's up to, it's helping our program, it's helping our students and you know just know that it’s great,” Riecke said. 

Suarez agreed that the communication studies department works so well not just because of its talented members but because of its commitment to students.

“Our ultimate goal for each of us, no matter how different we are or what we do, we have the well-being of our students in mind, and I feel like it's so clear to every single one of the faculty members,” Suarez said. “When I say well-being, I mean not only their education and the capacity to create skills they can use, but their well-being as a human being, which I think is the ultimate goal for all of us.”