Illinois State University students have a lot to be proud of. Students utilize different creative outlets to touch on crucial topics and implement change. 

Claire Bottom, Ian Roberds, Akila Howard, and Colin Connelly received an “Award of Excellence” at the Broadcast Education Association’s Festival of Media Arts in the Documentary Short Category. The documentary short is called Making a Mural and delves into the controversy surrounding the removal of the mural in Uptown Normal. 

Making a Mural, Collage of individuals with the mural in Uptown Normal.

Collage of individuals with the mural in Uptown Normal. (Photo courtesy of the “Making a Mural” Facebook page)

“By covering the mural, we enticed students, artists, government officials, concerned and curious citizens and more,” said Bottom, co-director of the documentary. “We put out some feelers when we first thought of it, and people immediately responded with support.” 

Bottom said the most satisfying part of the experience was seeing everything tie together in the end, and it was interesting seeing the interviewee’s statements link up with one another. 

Another undergraduate student who has achieved great things during her time at Illinois State is Tiffani Jackson-Skinner, a junior majoring in journalismJackson-Skinner created a black student-run media outlet called Onyx that continues to expand. A year after its creation, Ryan Denham at WGLT reached out to Jackson-Skinner after seeing the success of Onyx and asked her to join the station. She covers stories about the black and minority community, contributing to her goal of displaying more excellence from underrepresented communities in local media outlets. 

Jackson-Skinner dove into history to learn about the injustices minorities have faced. One of her main goals was to create a “Black Wall Street” that would provide resources for black students that attend predominantly white institutions due to there being a lack of stores catering to black culture. 

Onyx group photo

Onyx team members in the Quad

“In addition to helping student businesses gain exposure, we find black and minority faculty and staff on campus, as incoming students don’t know who they can go to for educational resources, that look like them,” Jackson-Skinner said. “We cover events held in the minority community, which I noticed rarely get any coverage from other media outlets, yet when something big and negative happens, everyone tries to be the first there.” 

Onyx started out in fall 2018 only with Jackson-Skinner and photographer/co-founder Onoriode Dugbo. They worked on a newsletter that introduced new businesses, faculty members, and student and Greek organizations. Onyx has a segment on black-owned radio station WXRJ 94.9 every Saturday night called “In the Mix with Onyx.” Their team has now grown to be over 25 student photographers, reporters, and graphic designers. 

Visit Onyx’s website,, and follow Onyx on Twitter. 

Vidette group picture

The Vidette students with their awards at IPA. (Photo courtesy of The Vidette’s website)

Those at The Vidette, Illinois State’s student run newspaper, deserve recognition as well. Staff and sub-editors at The Vidette won 29 awards at the Illinois College Press Association in February 2020. The newspaper placed first in overall General Excellence, which recognizes the newspaper as a whole. It was an aggressive competition in a total of 30 categories. The Vidette left ICPA with a total of four first-place awards and 13 second-place awards. 

Visit The Vidette’s website at

The inaugural “Image of Research at Illinois State” competition invited Illinois State students to create or capture one static image of their research and to write a brief narrative explaining how the image relates to their research. Students were asked to choose compelling images to capture the viewers’ attention. The images could take any form, including photographs, drawings, or digital creations, and could convey the research concretely or abstractly.  “Recoloring a Colorless Community: The Rhetoric and Discourse over the New Pride Flag” was graduate student, Rocky Roque’s, entry, and he won “Honorable Mention.”  Congratulations Rocky!

Rocky Roque photo

Rocky Roque, COM graduate student