McKay-Semmler Receives Doyle Humanities Teaching Award

Photo of Kelly McKay-Semmler. Kelly McKay-Semmler is the 2017 recipient of the Monsignor James Doyle Humanities Teaching Award.

VERMILLION, S.D. – Kelly McKay-Semmler, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of South Dakota, is the 2017 recipient of the Monsignor James Doyle Humanities Teaching Award presented by the College of Arts & Sciences.

Teaching 13 different courses in her discipline since starting at USD in 2008, McKay-Semmler’s favorite courses to teach are Communication and Conflict Resolution, Intercultural Communication, and Communication and Social Identity.

“One of the reasons Communication and Conflict Resolution is one of my favorite classes to teach is that I am able to do my favorite teaching style, which is very participatory,” said McKay-Semmler. “We learn a few principles and then we put them into practice through activities.”

One classroom activity involves inventing a conflict between students, each of whom has two other students acting as a ‘devil’ and ‘angel’ voicing different perspectives of the situation. “Through all of this, the two participants engage in conflict and hear all those voices that may be involved in why somebody is having a disagreement,” said McKay-Semmler. “It gets kind of wild.”

McKay-Semmler also involves students in her research activities which focus on the role of communication in cross-cultural adaptation. “Most recently, my research looks at host attitudes toward newcomers and how those attitudes are formed through media representations of immigrants as well as rumor and how that ultimately influences their adaptation process,” said McKay-Semmler.

The Doyle award is made possible thanks to a gift from Monsignor James Michael Doyle, former chair of religious studies at USD and a prominent theologian inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame. The award is presented annually to an outstanding teacher in the Humanities Division of the College of Arts & Sciences.


USD's College of Arts & Sciences offers students a top-notch undergraduate liberal arts education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well as graduate programs that have earned USD distinction as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation. The college's more than 22,000 alumni include famous journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, novelists, a Nobel Prize winner, South Dakota governors, attorneys, physicians, justices of the state Supreme Court, distinguished university faculty and international humanitarians.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 205 undergraduate and 73 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 17 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Michael Ewald
USD News