Meet the Speaker: Amber Alvey


Gracie Terrall, Copy Editor

Amber Alvey was lost, but she found her place through communications.


This spring, Alvey finished her Master of Arts in communications and media studies and was chosen as the 2020 graduate program commencement speaker, but her collegiate career started on a much different note.


Alvey came to South Dakota State University as a pharmacy major in fall 2014. There was one problem, though.


“My first years at SDSU, I felt at home, but I felt lost in where I was going or what I was doing,” Alvey said. “I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and I wasn’t feeling super connected in all my classes. … But I finally did when I switched my major to communication. … So an obstacle that I had to overcome was just being able to figure out who I am and what I want to do with my life, but also how am I going to impact others through what I’m doing.”


The turning point was an interpersonal communication class during her sophomore year. By her junior year, Alvey dove headfirst into the School of Communication and Journalism (COJO).


“I think [communication] is an interesting field because of how versatile it is and how it affects so many areas of our lives… Communication is so integral to a lot of different areas,” Alvey said. 


For Alvey, becoming a part of the COJO family finally allowed her to find a home at SDSU and provided her with direction. A significant step Alvey took in the journey to discovering herself was finding ways to impact others.


Many are familiar with the five love languages: words of affirmation, gifts, quality time, physical touch and acts of service. For anyone that knows Alvey, they are acutely aware that her love language is acts of service.


“Sending a text, a call, going out of your way to do something for somebody else that’s going to make their lives a little bit better, whether that’s being able to drop off some food at their dorm. Those are little things that I tried to do and establish my friendships and continue to show them that I care,” Alvey said.


Communication permeates all aspects of life for Alvey, but one of the most impactful places that communication is present is with her Deaf uncle. Alvey saw how communication was ineffective for her uncle and watched his struggles to communicate with people.


In response, Alvey took three semesters of American Sign Language so she could effectively communicate with her uncle when others could not. Her passion for communication and building strong relationships, and her empathy for her uncle lead her to her master’s thesis: “Examining Family Communication Patterns and Identity in Families with Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.”


Alvey explored the communication patterns that families use and how people who are Deaf communicate their identity. After graduation, Alvey hopes to stay connected with disability studies and eventually pursue a doctorate.


It is because of Alvey’s devotion that she has received a top-panel award from the Central States Communication Association, the 2020 Pamela Cooper Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award and was selected as the SDSU Students’ Association Senator of the Year.


“These accolades are a result of Amber’s passion and enthusiasm for human communication inquiry… Amber is one of the most dynamic graduate students that I have worked with,” said Joshua Westwick, associate director of the School of Communication and Journalism and Alvey’s graduate school mentor.


During her time at SDSU, Alvey was a morale leader for State-A-Thon and was involved in the SDSU Students’ Association, American Sign Language Club and Black Student Alliance. She also served as a middle school and high school religious education teacher and a graduate teaching assistant (TA). 


For Alvey, being a TA taught her to communicate more effectively.


“Being a TA has been the best experience I’ve had at SDSU,” Alvey said. “It has taught me so much and it’s allowed me to continue building relationships. My students inspire me every single day I am in the classroom.”

From morale leader to teaching assistant, Alvey’s involvement at SDSU utilized her communication skills, commitment to relationships and desire to help others while doing it.


“I think the little things that make a difference are me putting myself out there and being able to help others through my actions, not just words,” Alvey said.


***Alvey will be speaking during the 5 p.m. graduate commencement ceremony, Saturday, May 9.***