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Teaching Highlights

The teaching accomplishments I’m most proud of: 

I am the founding director of the nation’s first and only graduate degree in engagement journalism. I helped design and iterate the curriculum and syllabi, and I recruit and work 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 one of the program’s courses, help students with their final practicum projects, 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 news organizations.

In 2017 I won the faculty achievement award at the Newmark J-School at CUNY for my work in launching this new program.

Students at the Newmark 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. We also did a smaller iteration of the project for the 2018 Midterms and partnered with FirstDraft to track and counter misinformation in 2020.

Engagement journalism students have also participated in a number of other investigations and projects as part of their coursework. They assisted with THE CITY’s Open Newsroom project, learning facilitation and community listening skills by attending meetings with community members in Brooklyn and Queens as they helped shape the nonprofit’s news agenda.  They also worked on THE CITY’s Missing Them project that honored New Yorkers who died of COVID-19 by telling a story about their life; some of their work was featured as part of a free, public exhibit. They helped with crowdsourcing for a multiple-award winning project on maternal mortality, which 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,, The Prison Journalism Project, The Mott Haven Herald/Hunts Point Express, 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, Groundsource, and Stylebot. They helped design social strategies for 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.

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.

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 was 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. 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 won a scholarship to attend the prestigious Poynter Institute’s Developing a Mobile Strategy Seminar in 2012. More recently, I updated my skills through a Understanding Identity, Power and Oppression (2021) Workshop, Education for Racial Equity (2019) Workshop, and First Draft Social Newsgathering and Verification Training (2016).

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.

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.”

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 many, many others: Tony Haile, founder/CEO of Chartbeat; Jennifer Brandel, CEO and founder of Hearken;  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;  Tresa Undem, co-founder and CEO of polling firm PerryUndem.