Shawnee State’s Samantha McLaughlin receives Dean’s Award

PORTSMOUTH- Shawnee State University senior Samantha McLaughlin (Hometown: Portsmouth, Ohio) presented this year at the annual Celebration of Scholarship conference. Her research, “When We See: Incorporating Visual Literacy into the English Language Arts Classroom”, was recognized with the Dean’s Award.

“It is an action research study that explores how to supplement students’ interpretations of complex literature, particularly in the wake of virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “Visual literacy promotes a deeper understanding of abstract aspects of literature, including figurative language and characterization, so students can evaluate the effectiveness of particular visuals in relation to the written word.”

Using her research to better identify ways to engage and familiarize students with literature, McLaughlin, an Adolescent-to-Young Adult Integrated English Language Arts Education major, always wanted to participate in Celebration of Scholarship.

“As a young woman in academia, which is a privilege that sadly not all women around the globe are allowed to experience, there is something euphoric about diligently working on a topic, a brainchild if you will, and sharing it with others for constructive feedback,” she said.

Throughout her research, McLaughlin was seeking to answer questions such as “How can teachers teach visual literacy as a form of communication?”, “How can visual literacy be used to analyze the social impact of literature?”, and “How can students use visual literacy to discuss literature’s validity and worth in contemporary society?”.

Taking the time to prepare in the classroom and to thoroughly understand her research, McLaughlin felt she was very prepared to present at Celebration of Scholarship thanks to the assistance of her mentor Dr. John Roush.

“Prior to Celebration of Scholarship, Dr. Roush reserved chunks of class time for each student to practice their presentations,” she said. “By the time I presented at the real Celebration of Scholarship, I was accustomed to someone holding up a five-minute warning card in the back of the room. I was even accustomed to knowing how much time I should spend on each slide.”

McLaughlin was honored to receive the Dean’s Award as she felt that it signified other academics’ belief in the promise of visual literacy.

“This award means that I am part of a team that still believes in the power of education,” she said. “The Deans recognize that I can enact that change in my own classroom in the fall. Winning the Dean’s Capstone Scholar Award proves to me that there is a place in academia for visual arts and for people, like myself, who see the world a little differently.”

To learn more about the annual Celebration of Scholarship conference at Shawnee State University, visit

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