2023 Holle Awards Celebrate Nationwide Student Achievement

Apr 28, 2023

Tuscaloosa, Ala. – The College of Communication and Information Sciences has announced the winners of the 2022-23 Holle Awards for Excellence in Creativity and Communication.

The awards celebrate national student achievement in the areas of book arts, filmmaking, media writing, screenwriting, public speaking, sports media and forensic competition. Each of these awards includes a $10,000 prize.

Sports Media

The Holle Award for Excellence in Sports Media was awarded to a group project conducted by Yucheng Zhang and Bryan Baker from the University of Texas-Austin. Their project Judges said Baker and Zhang tell Vargas’s record-breaking story with exceptional passion and emotion.


Ava Kanthack

The Holle Award for Excellence in Filmmaking was awarded to University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student Ava Kanthack for her project “On Mother’s Shoulder I Rest,” a short film about a young girl and her mother trying to carry on everyday life while grieving the loss of her father. The judges found Kanthack’s visual style distinctive and consistent throughout, giving the film a tone that felt both nostalgic and somewhat bleak—a difficult balance.

“As someone working in the arts, it can be difficult to find continued belief in yourself and your artistic endeavors, but this award has helped grow my confidence in my filmmaking and storytelling ability. The story told within my film, On Mother’s Shoulder I Rest, is one that is very close to my heart because it weaves my own mother’s experience into a display of the complex relationship between a daughter and mom in emotional distress. I feel that it is a vulnerable experience for an artist to put their work out there, especially if the subject matter is quite personal to them, and consequently I had some resistance to promoting and sharing my film. That said, I am so glad I pushed myself to submit to the Holle Award because it has been an incredibly affirming experience,” said Kanthack.


Riley Michlowitz

The Holle Award for Excellence in Screenwriting was awarded to The University of Alabama’s Riley Michlowitz for her project “The Bad Date Blog.” Judges stated that the screenplay is a fun, engaging script that employs a clever concept in updating a familiar genre and makes for an entertaining read.

“Winning the 2023 Holle award for excellence and creativity in screenwriting means so much to me. Not only is it incredibly validating for my work to not just be recognized but enjoyed, but also with the prize money, I will now be able to focus on furthering my screenwriting career without financial stress,” said Michlowitz.

Media Writing

Chaney Scott McCorquodale

The Holle Award for Excellence in Media Writing was awarded to UA News Media and Communications student Chaney Scott McCorquodale for her features titled “The Star of Dixie: Being Jewish in Alabama,” “Women in Business, or Lack Thereof” and “Coming to America: International Students Experience American Culture Firsthand at the University of Alabama.” When asked what writing meant to her, McCorquodale said “I am passionate about the truth… [in Journalism] you are able to be a voice for those who cannot speak up for themselves.”

“I care deeply about diversity,” she said, “so I knew in my submissions I wanted to shed light on the experiences of minority groups in the South.”‘The Star of Dixie’ took me the longest to write. What began as a short article about Holocaust Remembrance Day quickly grew into a whole feature as I began to realize how poorly Jews are still being treated in America. I am filled with immense gratitude for the Holle Family Foundation. When I accepted the award, I told the audience the award will change my life and that still holds true.”

Book Arts

Thad Higa

The Holle Award for Excellence in Book Arts was awarded to Thad Higa for “This Land is My Land,” a fictional narrative from the imagined headspace of online White supremacists, nationalists and their sympathizers. Judges noted that the striking imagery and text, combined with an innovative structure, effectively and cohesively presents this disturbing content without overwhelming the reader.

“I feel complicated about trying to push [“This Land is My Land] out into the world, but also feel a deep obligation to enter the American education and reading comprehension dialogue with this topic,” said Higa. “Artists’ books should have a place in primary and general higher education courses of all types, and I hope this book can be one flowering example of that. So the validation from this award definitely bolsters this argument in my mind, and it’s personally encouraging to see it resonates with the Holle committee.”

Forensic Competition

Ja Quacy Minter

The Holle Award for Excellence in Forensic Competition was awarded The University of Alabama’s Ja Quacy Minter.

“Winning the Holle award meant a lot to me simply because I was able to show other queer Black kids that you can look different and still succeed,” said Minter. “It was a milestone for the University, the Alabama Forensics Council and most importantly, me. With the award I hope to be able to help other competitors that come after me, to believe that they, too, can be queer, Black, genderfluid or anything else that goes against the norm and still be a champion.”

The  Holle Award for Excellence in Public Speaking was awarded to The University of Alabama’s Sarah Mason Avery.

Avery is a Junior Public Health major on the Pre-Optometry track from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She, along with 6 other finalists, competed on Saturday April 29. The finalists were selected from more than 1,000 students who then competed against more than 70 of their peers to make it to the final round. Avery’s speech addressed the need for UA to require Narcan training for students, faculty and staff to address the epidemic of opioid overdoses on college campuses.

The Holle Awards are named for Brigadier General Everett Hughes Holle, a 1950 graduate of The University of Alabama who served as an announcer, director, writer and producer during his 40-year career at NBC 13. Holle was a member of the College of Communication and Information Sciences’ board of visitors where he passionately invested in the success of University of Alabama students for years.

For more information about the Holle Awards, visit cis.ua.ed/holle.