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Hannah Ratigan

Strategic communication major named CAS Orange Gown Graduate

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

A lack of traditional graduation ceremonies this year didn’t stop the College of Arts and Sciences from selecting an outstanding student as the December 2020 Orange Gown Graduate. Hannah Ratigan from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, received the honor—and bright orange robe—in recognition of all her work while at OSU. 

“I didn't expect to get this at all,” said Ratigan, who majored in strategic communication and minored in marketing. “When [CAS Assistant Dean] Amy Martindale called me, I had just finished taking senior photos on campus. I got in my car and had a missed call from a 405 number. There was a text, an email and a voicemail. I thought, ‘Oh no, what did I do?’”

After learning the good news, Ratigan said she felt “truly honored to represent the School of Media and Strategic Communications and CAS” as the Orange Gown Graduate. Just before Thanksgiving, she was able to commemorate finishing school along with her SMSC classmates at a modified, COVID-complient celebration. “I think my class is excited to see each other one last time, even if it's from six feet apart with our masks on,” she said before the event. “Everyone is excited to be able to walk and get that closure.” 

Ratigan’s Orange Gown Graduate honor is one of many accomplishments she has accumulated while at OSU. Included among them were being named a College of Arts and Sciences Top 10 Senior, placing third in the regional National Student Advertising Competition along with her SMSC teammates, raising over $50,000 for philanthropy as vice president of community service at Kappa Delta, and winning the 3-Minute Thesis competition for her honors thesis on business linguistics in internal communications. 

“I studied the way that specific words develop emotion in employees and leads to employee engagement and loyalty — and how that ultimately drives company profit,” Ratigan explained. “I intend to do more research, even if that's just for a company and not toward another thesis. It's well worth my time to learn why people do what they do and help companies apply that to what they're producing.” 

Ratigan said a main source of support for doing the 3MT came from SMSC professor Dr. Skye Cooley. “He has been so incredible in helping me bring the vision of my thesis to life, especially because it's not super typical for a strat comm major to do an honors thesis,” she said.

“I encouraged Hannah to do the 3-Minute Thesis competition because I thought she could win!” Cooley said. “Not only did she do a very well-thought-through, and meaningful, research study, ... she is also a great speaker and presenter. She is such a wonderful representative of SMSC, [so] I wanted to make sure that she had an opportunity to shine in front of others.”

That talent Cooley recognized in Ratigan was present even before college. “Someone told me in a Chipotle my junior year of high school that I’d be good at PR,” Ratigan recalled, so she decided to look into it as a career. Now, however, she recognizes there’s much more that goes into it than raw talent. 

“People will point out characteristics and skills that I have, like communication, and I'll say, 'That's exactly what I studied for four years!” Ratigan said. “I'm good at it because I worked really hard at getting good at those specific things. … Everyone needs writing and communication skills, but in strat comm you get to focus on them.”

Ratigan has already put her skills to work in the corporate world, taking on a full-time position last spring at Hyperion Telecommunications when her BNSF Railway internship fell through due to COVID. She was recently promoted from copy writer to marketing manager-communications specialist.

“It worked out great, and I love my team, but it has been a heavy load,” Ratigan said. “Being a full-time student and working full time is no joke! … But the ability to interact with people every day is huge for me. If I wasn't talking with people, building relationships and brainstorming creatively, I think I would go crazy. That's what I'm motivated and energized by.”

As Ratigan leaves OSU — a school she fell in love with the moment she stepped on campus — she leaves a legacy for incoming Cowboys. 

“Success compounds itself and Hannah is a fantastic example of methodically doing all of the little things right in order to have demonstrable success at the end of her undergraduate degree,” Cooley said. “She was also a leader in the classroom, willing to speak up and answer questions, able to lead in group exercises, and setting an example for the other students to emulate.”

MEDIA CONTACT: Elizabeth Gosney | College of Arts and Sciences | 405-744-7497 |

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