Identical twin sisters Nikki and Kendal Lyssy began their studies at the University of North Texas with different paths in mind before ultimately landing in their respective departments. Kendal started out as a Converged Broadcast Media major and Nikki, a Journalism major.
When Kendal took her first Communication Studies course, she realized that was where she was meant to be. "In every career, a great communicator is essential for success," she said.
Nikki thought she wanted to tell other people's stories as a features reporter. After taking her first English class, she felt drawn to tell her own story and took an interest in fiction as well. She pivoted to Creative Writing.
Kendal and Nikki developed a condition called retinopathy of prematurity due to being born twenty-five weeks early, and have been blind their whole lives. Their intelligence, determination, and background has undoubtedly helped others better understand the challenges of navigating campus life and coursework with a disability. Despite the challenges, Kendal and Nikki are both vehemently involved in extracurricular activities and student organizations.
The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences is proud to recognize Kendal and Nikki as Outstanding Undergraduates for their incredible show of strength and perseverance throughout their college career. Both standout students in their fields, we acknowledge their remarkable tenacity, curiosity, enthusiasm, and leadership skills.
Kendal and Nikki both wanted to recognize the importance that UNT faculty have had in their success during their time on campus.
Kendal: I have so many professors and mentors who helped shape my academic future, and I am forever indebted to them for their unending encouragement, support, and mentorship.
I would especially like to thank my faculty mentor, Dr. Karen Anderson-Lain, for her constant mentorship and support in and outside of the classroom. Under her guidance, I completed a special problems course that expanded into a current research study exploring peer mentoring in graduate school and the communicative behaviors used in those relationships, which I presented at Scholar's Day 2020.
I am also forever indebted to Dr. Mark Congdon, who had a significant impact on me as a researcher, scholar, and person. Because of Dr. Congdon, I was granted the incredible opportunity to attend the National Communication Association conference and be on a panel with him and present my own research.
I would not have been granted this opportunity had it not been for the guidance and mentorship of Dr. Congdon and Dr. Anderson-Lain, among many other professors who have taken it upon themselves to mentor me. I am excited to continue working with all my amazing professors in the Communication Studies Department in graduate school, and to pay it forward one day by hopefully having an impact on future students the way my mentors have impacted me.
Nikki: During my time at UNT, there are many mentors that have supported me and helped me grow not only as a student, but as a person. There are four I would like to thank in particular: Dr. Kim Garza, Dr. Matt Davis, Dr. Jill Talbot, and Dr. Jeff Doty.
Dr. Garza was the first English professor I had at UNT, and she was one of the first who encouraged me to pursue creative writing beyond my time at UNT. Her kindness is unmatched, and she truly has a desire to see her students succeed beyond the classroom. I hope to emulate her teaching style when I begin teaching in the next few years, the way she truly made each student feel valued and important and heard.
Dr. Davis was the first creative writing professor I had, and the first to tell me that it was possible to pursue creative writing on the graduate level. Since that conversation a few years back, he has poured countless hours into my writing, and believed in me when I didn't always believe in myself, providing encouragement and editorial advice that has contributed to my growth as a writer. Additionally, I hope to be the kind of professor he is: caring, driven, and determined to help each student succeed.
Dr. Talbot has been an invaluable mentor since I first enrolled in her creative nonfiction form course two years ago. We collaborated in an independent study, have written and published an essay together, and I had the chance to be on a panel at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference earlier this year as a result of the work we have done together. In addition, she has allowed me to connect with many writers who have helped me advance my career and is always unfailingly kind, compassionate, and deeply invested in me as a person and writer both. I hope to be the kind of teacher and mentor she has been for my future students.
Finally, Dr. Doty came into my life when I enrolled in his Shakespeare course, and has been a mentor ever since, offering me advice and guidance in my literary endeavors and beyond. He has been instrumental in teaching me how to write academically, the benefits of close-reading and research as they pertain to literature. I can always count on him to be honest and encouraging--and to remind me that I don't always have to be in a hurry, that it is important to enjoy the present moment. I hope to hold my students to the level of academic excellence that Dr. Doty expects of his students, while also providing advice, kindness, and encouragement along the way.
CLASS is exceedingly proud of all of our graduating students and dedicated faculty, now more than ever as they have successfully transitioned to online studies.