Teaching Highlights

The teaching accomplishments I’m most proud of: 

  • In 2013, I won the Alumni Association Distinguished Teaching Award, a university-wide honor. Several of my current and former students and colleagues wrote letters of support for me to receive this recognition. I have also been nominated twice for the Thomas W. Briggs Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award.
  • I developed and proposed a graduate certificate in entrepreneurial journalism that was formally approved in spring 2013, putting my department on the cutting edge of the latest trends in journalism education; going forward I will coordinate and market this program and teach two of the core courses.  Given the unprecedented disruption media organizations today face thanks to new digital technologies and changing economic realities, our students must not only master the basics of writing and reporting but also be prepared to create the future of news. This 12-credit program will equip students not only to start their own media-related businesses but also to work as “intrapreneurs” within existing companies.  Our certificate program builds on a unique partnership with Start.Co, a local accelerator that helps to fuel entrepreneurship and nurture startups in Memphis. This is also an interdisciplinary effort that involves collaboration with our business school, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the Crews Venture Lab, and University College. I was asked to write about our program for PBS Media Shift.
#jpreneur class exercise
#jpreneur class exercise
  • I developed two new social media courses at the graduate and undergraduate levels that began as special topics and were later permanently added to our curriculum.  These courses emphasize both theory and practice, and constitute a heavy grading load as they are focused on having students constantly practice using these new tools.  They  include students with emphases in newspaper/magazine, broadcast, Internet, public relations, advertising, and even a few from other university colleges and departments; the undergraduate course is part of the business school’s social media minor. This hot topic is increasingly important in our field, and I’m proud to enable our department to join top journalism schools like Columbia University and the University of Missouri, among others, to be among the first to offering courses in this area.
  • In spring 2011, I created the International Collegiate Twitter Scavenger Hunt to introduce my students not only to the basics of using Twitter for reporting and promotion, but also to the community and collaboration social media makes possible. We’ve been doing this hunt with ever-growing participation once a year ever since. Local media like The Commercial Appeal took note and complemented the students’ work, and former students and alumni have also joined in and offered supportive comments to the class.  Students from more than 20 U.S. universities as well as five other countries  have participated, including  Egypt, England, Australia, Canada and Spain. We have been able to facilitate some meaningful global conversation among the students with this exercise, allowing students to see firsthand how powerful the networking and collaborative possibilities of social media can be. Converge, a national education magazine, took note of this assignment and wrote a piece about it. I was particularly thrilled with the addition of Egyptian students to the mix,  allowing my students to make connections in an area of the world where social media has been vital in launching a revolution and breaking news.  My students have also participated in similar Twitter scavenger hunts in partnership with our student-run hyperlocal neighborhood website MicroMemphis, as well as post-hunt Twitter chats about the experience with other universities nationally.
  • I completely overhauled the reporting course as part of our department’s curriculum upgrade, for the first time adding multimedia and social media components to the class, from video and photojournalism to blogging and Twitter. This required me to stretch my own knowledge and develop new skills in video shooting and editing, which was not part of my primarily print-based background.
  • I have been invited to participate on seven teaching panels to discuss my innovative methods at the Association of Education in Mass Communication and Journalism annual conferences, the largest academic gathering in our field.
  • I regularly update my knowledge and skills in the rapidly changing field of journalism so that I can keep my teaching current. The all-expenses paid fellowship I won to the Scripps Entrepreneurial Journalism Institute at Arizona State University  was instrumental in helping me develop the certificate and the entrepreneurial journalism course, as I was able to learn from a variety of successful CEOs, venture capitalists, and experienced educators. I also attended the Launch Memphis/Upstart Memphis 48-Hour Launch and Business Boost Camp on weekends in order to improve my ability to teach entrepreneurship. I honed my advanced reporting skills with an Investigative Reporters and Editors’ Watchdog Workshop in 2013 and won a scholarship to attend the prestigious Poynter Institute’s Developing a Mobile Strategy Seminar in 2012, learning about another hot area in journalism today.
  • In 2012 I began working with local startup MyRepresentatives.com, a non-partisan site dedicated to making it easier for citizens to find information about their political representatives. This site aims to educate and help citizens give feedback and action, and is an opportunity for our students to get their political journalism work published. The site was founded  by former Orange Country Register reporter Kevin Mireles. My students have contributed materials as have others from colleagues’ courses.
  • Three of my students’ final reporting project was published on the front page of the Commercial Appeal, and several students videos were featured on the Commercial Appeal’s Memphis Edge sports blog. These prestigious professional clips will prove valuable for these students and I was incredibly proud of their work and happy to devote extra time to editing it and pitching it to my contacts there.
  • In fall of 2011 I participated in the United Press International University’s workshop program that allowed my students to get professional advice and guidance from mentor Terry FitzPatrick, a journalist whose work has appeared on the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, PBS’s McNeil/Lehrer News Hour, National Public Radio, and more.  Their work was then published on the UPIU’s website.
  • I’ve been featured twice on the front page of the Daily Helmsman, our campus paper, for creating unique class projects or courses that are of interest to our student body.
  • I’ve  been quoted about my teaching and/or my teaching ideas have been featured in PBS MediaShift, US News & World Report, eHow, Harvard’s Nieman Lab, Modern Journalist,  the Poynter Institute, and national education magazine Converge, among others.
  • I maintain a blog, a Facebook group, and class Twitter list/course hashtag for almost every class I teach. Students can use these resources to access the syllabus, assignments, reminders and updates, as well as interact with their classmates.  I post to each regularly and respond to student questions and comments. As you may know, Facebook groups are set up so that students do not have to be “friends” with the instructor or each other in order to participate, which makes them more viable for educational purposes.  At a time when our field is evolving so fast, I’m constantly coming across new articles and pieces of research to share with students well after the syllabus is made, and I use these electronic venues to post them and solicit student comments and ideas. Maintaining an active presence of these sites requires a considerable time commitment, but I consider it essential to doing my job well.
  • My teaching evaluations show consistently high ratings and positive comments from students. Among the many student comments I am proud of, two that stand out include: “One of the best teachers I’ve ever had and one of the most innovative people I’ve ever met. Truly a kind person who seems to really care about us,” and “this instructor and this class changed my life. I have grown as a journalist. This instructor is passionate about teaching and will go to any length to better her students. She is one of the best instructors at the U of M.”
  • Each semester, students in my entrepreneurial journalism course do a final investor pitch at our local accelerator. I invite the public as well as experienced entrepreneurs to give feedback to our students, and we generally celebrate afterwards with a networking event at a local restaurant.  This class has also had their work published nationally by Nibletz, the blog for “startups everywhere else.” Students also regularly participate in and write about entrepreneurial events in our community, including a national entrepreneurial conference hosted in Memphis in February 2013 that was heralded by Forbes as a “must-attend.”
Students pitch at Startco
Students pitch at Startco
  •  I regularly bring guest speakers to my classes so that my students can hear multiple perspectives, learn from media professionals, and practice their interviewing skills. These have included, among others: Steve Pacheco, advertising director for Fed Ex; Andre Fowlkes, co-president of Start.Co; Allison Jacob, publisher of CorkIt and Pink Bride magazines; Tonya Dyson, marketing coordinator at Memphis in May;  Glen Thomas, Sr. Manager, Strategic Communications & Community Outreach/PIO at Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority; John Avola of ALSAC/St. Jude; Mike Brown, Commercial Appeal photojournalist; Richard Morgan, then-Commercial Appeal reporter;  Joelle Pittman of Memphis Yelp;  Brit Fitzpatrick, CEO of MentorMe; Alex Doniach, then-Commercial Appeal county government reporter; Cindy Wolff, then-Commercial Appeal reporter; Holly Edgell, then of Patch.com; John Hubbell, regional Emmy-winning multimedia journalist; Kerry Crawford, formerly of the Commercial Appeal and popular local “I Love Memphis” blogger; Valerie June, a local singer featured on MTV’s $5 Cover;  Tresa Undem, then-vice president of the national polling firm Lake Research Partners.  I also brought my reporting class to the Commercial Appeal to see the newsroom and sit in on a news meeting.