Teaching Highlights

The teaching accomplishments I’m most proud of: 

    • I am the founding director of the nation’s first graduate degree in social journalism. I helped design and iterate the curriculum and syllabi, and I recruit and assist all of its faculty members. I moved to New York when the program was first officially approved by the state in October of 2014, and by January of 2015 we had already launched our first class. I teach two of the program’s courses, handle a considerable amount of the admissions and marketing, serve as the students’ primary academic advisor, work with our alumni, and manage a variety of collaborative projects and relationships between our students and major news organizations.
    • In 2017 I won the faculty achievement award at the CUNY J-School for my work in launching this new program.
    • Students at the CUNY-J school had the opportunity to participate in Electionland in 2016, a massive national collaborative reporting project involving 13 universities and 250 news organizations, including ProPublica, WNYC, Univision, Google News Lab, and many local outlets. I helped design and lead this project at CUNY-J, which taught students social newsgathering and verification skills and allowed them to work closely with leading data and election journalists. Electionland, which tracked voting problems and experiences in real time, won an Online News Association Award. A new project is in the works for the 2018 Midterms.
    • Social journalism students have also participated in a number of other investigations and projects as part of their coursework. They helped with crowdsourcing for a multiple-award winning project on maternal mortality, which has thus-far racked up a Polk, a Peabody, a Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, and was a Pulitzer finalist. They also participated in the ProPublica-led project Documenting Hate as well as its investigation into how landlords sidestep tenant protections in New York City. They did design thinking exercises and presented their results to The Guardian, NJ.com, and WBEZ. They’ve led design workshops at the College Media Association conference. They’ve served as early adopters and testers of tools like Hearken and Groundsource. They helped design social strategies for four nonprofit organizations.
    • I was one of the 2017 “Great Ideas for Teaching” finalists alongside my colleague Jeremy Caplan for our updated Scavenger Hunt Challenge that introduces students to new apps and social media tools.
    • 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 at the University of Memphis that was formally approved in spring 2013, putting my department on the cutting edge of the latest trends in journalism education.   This 12-credit program was designed to equip students not only to start their own media-related businesses but also to work as “intrapreneurs” within existing companies. It included a unique partnership with Start.Co, a local accelerator that helps to fuel entrepreneurship and nurture startups in Memphis. This was also an interdisciplinary effort that involved collaboration with our business school, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the Crews Venture Lab, and University College. I was asked to write about it for PBS Media Shift.

#jpreneur class exercise
#jpreneur class exercise
      • I developed and taught two new social media courses at the graduate and undergraduate levels at the University of Memphis that began as special topics and were later permanently added to the 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 included 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.
      • 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.  Local media in Memphis like The Commercial Appeal took note and complemented the students’ work, and former students and alumni  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.  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  also participated in similar Twitter scavenger hunts in partnership with a 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 the University of Memphis’ curriculum upgrade, for the first time adding multimedia and social media components to the class, from video and photojournalism to blogging and Twitter.
      • I have been invited to participate on many teaching panels at the Association of Education in Mass Communication and Journalism annual conferences, the largest academic gathering in our field.
      • 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 also attended 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.
      • Three of my students’ final reporting project was published on the front page of the Commercial Appeal, and several student 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 was featured twice on the front page of the Daily Helmsman, the University of Memphis campus paper, for creating unique class projects or courses that are of interest to the 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 and/or Medium page, a Facebook group, and class Twitter list/course hashtag for almost every class I teach. I post to each regularly and respond to student questions and comments.  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 at the University of Memphis, students in my entrepreneurial journalism course did a final investor pitch at our local accelerator. I invited the public as well as experienced entrepreneurs to give feedback to our students, and we generally celebrated afterwards with a networking event at a local restaurant.  This class also had their work published nationally by Nibletz, the blog for “startups everywhere else.” Students also regularly participated in and wrote about entrepreneurial events in Memphis, 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: Tony Haile, founder/CEO of Chartbeat; Jennifer Brandel, CEO and founder of Hearken; Rebecca Harris, founder and CEO of Purple; Jeremy Hay, co-founder of Spaceship Media; Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia; Brian Hamman, Executive Director of Technology for News Products at the New York Times, Steve Pacheco, advertising director for Fed Ex; Allison Jacob, publisher of CorkIt and Pink Bride magazines; Tonya Dyson, marketing coordinator at Memphis in May;  Joelle Pittman, then of Memphis Yelp;  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 well-known singer/songwriter from Memphis;  Tresa Undem, co-founder and CEO of polling firm PerryUndem.