TEACHING EXPERIENCE

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA

Graduate Teaching Assistant, Department of Communication

  • Interpersonal Communication

  • Communication, Culture, and Community

  • Women and Communication

  • Public Speaking 

THE UNIVERSITY OF TAMPA

Adjunct Faculty Member, Department of Communication

  • Media Aesthetics and Creativity

  • Mass Media and Society

  • Visual Literacy

EASTERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY

Teaching Assistant, Department of Communication Studies

  • Public Speaking

  • Interviewing

  • Small Group Communication

THE UNIVERSITY OF TOLEDO

Assistant Professor, Department of Communication

  • Interpersonal Communication

  • Social Media I

  • Communication Theory

  • Communication Principles and Practices

UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA AT KEARNEY

Assistant Professor, Department of Communication

  • Public Relations

  • Global Media Literacy (Online and Face to Face)

  • Media Research

  • Gender Communication

  • Dating in the Digital Age

  • Public Speaking

AUGUSTANA UNIVERSITY

Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Studies 

  • Critical Media Studies

  • Media and Society

  • Introduction to New Media

  • History of Electronic Media

  • Interpersonal Communication

  • Introduction to Communication

  • First Year Seminar: Dating in the Digital Age

  • Cultural Trauma, Communication, and the Camera in Eastern Europe (Study Abroad)

    TEACHING PHILOSOPHY

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Learning to Serve and Serving to Learn: An Interactive Philosophy of Teaching

I approach teaching from a pragmatic, egalitarian standpoint where my role is not to dictate, but to facilitate and activate. My classroom therefore is an open space that embraces varied learning styles and encourages students to meaningfully apply the knowledge they acquire. What I enjoy about this approach is that no two classes end up the same. Adapting to such diversity has taught me that reflexivity, versatility, open communication, and active learning are vital components to implement in the classroom.

My teaching is akin to a cooperative tennis match. I picture the tennis ball as knowledge, myself as a racquet and my students as the other racquet. As the provider of knowledge, I serve the ball. If the serve is out of bounds or does not make it over the net, my students cannot hit the ball back, which signifies that my knowledge is not being properly communicated. When this happens, I have to practice reflexivity by retracing my steps to figure out what went wrong. I then correct my mistake(s) before trying to serve the knowledge again. The tennis match metaphor is most applicable midway through each semester when I issue students an informal, anonymous learning assessment asking them to indicate what teaching methods I should stop, start, and continue. After carefully reviewing their comments, I make new and improved plans for the remainder of the course.

 

While reflexivity familiarizes me with my students’ learning needs, versatility allows me to meet these needs. My teaching methods frequently change because I recognize that each student learns differently and I believe it is important to cater to these differences. For example, I often switch between using PowerPoint, writing and/or drawing on a white board, and breaking students into groups so that they can teach portions of assigned course material. It is also not uncommon for me to incorporate social media, skits, journals, videos, games, music, and more into my lectures.  I have found that the more I can adapt to my students, the better they can learn. This does not mean that I do not stretch my students. I make them work hard but I meet them where they are at first so they are motivated to do so. I emphasize how students learn more than what they learn because appealing to their learning styles is what motivates them to learn in the first place.

Determining the most effective method to teach students requires a significant amount of open communication. In order to ensure that my students communicate with me and with one another, I incorporate the following activities: student-led discussions, group presentations, and communal debriefing sessions. For students who are not as vocal, I host one-on-one meetings. I also place a discussion forum on our learning management system and assign low stakes writing activities where students are encouraged to make suggestions, provide responses, ask questions, share personal and relative experiences, offer insights, pose challenges, contribute relevant material, and more. My primary goal is to create a warm and welcoming environment where everyone’s contributions are valued. This environment is vital because the more my students communicate, the more I can connect with them, understand how they learn, and adapt accordingly. Open communication, in other words, paves the way for successful learning.

 

Application is also vital for successful learning because students cannot fully learn until they apply the knowledge they acquire; this is why I emphasize active learning. The courses I teach are filled with hands-on activities that wed theory to practice. For example, after I teach students in various media courses about the participatory culture afforded by digital media—a culture in which individuals are no longer just consumers, but also producers of media—I have them participate in an activity using Pinterest, the popular pinboard-style social media platform where users collect and share images that help them to plan, organize, and explore various topics of interest. To conduct this activity, which was recently presented in the G.I.F.T.S. Division at the 2019 National Communication Association conference, students are first asked to choose and research a social issue that is of importance to them. Next, each student must become familiar with Pinterest by getting an account (if they do not already have one) and consulting a series of resources I provide. Using the information they have gathered about their chosen social issue, each student is then tasked with creating and presenting their own Pinterest board consisting of at least 20 different pins that collectively raise awareness about the issue. Through this activity, which can be viewed below, a connection between theory and practice is formed as students not only become familiar with participatory culture, they contribute to it and thus enhance their civic engagement. 

 

The connection between theory and practice is also evidenced in service-learning courses I have taught where students are required to apply and expand what they learn in the classroom by serving the community. The service they do, however, must appeal to their interests so that it can be relevant and meaningful—a choice inspired by critical communication pedagogy where students’ interests are fused into the learning process. Implementing a relevant service requirement tends to increase my students’ motivation to learn and make a difference beyond the classroom. Nothing pleases me more than seeing my students become agents of social change. A direct connection between my research and teaching is forged in these moments because students engage in the transformative work that my research seeks to inspire.

 

Students who take my courses are able to increase their communication skills, strengthen their personal and professional relationships, discover and embrace their unique learning styles, and enhance their level of civic engagement. Despite my successes, I realize that teaching is a continual learning process. I will always have room to grow in this profession and intend to work diligently so I can serve my students in the most effective manner possible. My ultimate hope is that one day my students will be able to look back and remember the knowledge we created together and how it helped to make a positive difference in their learning, in their lives, and in the world.

PINTEREST WITH PURPOSE: USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO CREATE SOCIAL CHANGE

This activity, which was presented in the G.I.F.T.S. Division at the 2019 National Communication Association convention, is centered on Pinterest, the popular pinboard-style social media platform where users collect and share images that help them to plan, organize, and explore various topics of interest. To conduct this activity, students create a board on Pinterest that raises awareness about a social issue of their choice through a combination of at least 20 pictures, infographics, GIFS, memes, and/or videos. The purpose of this activity is twofold. First, it enables students to better understand how new media has cultivated the participatory culture in which we live where individuals are no longer consumers but also producers of media. Second, and more importantly, this activity enables students to contribute to our participatory culture and thus enhance their level of civic engagement.

“WOW! YOUR PICTURE LOOKS SO DIFFERENT COMPARED TO MINE”: USING INSTAGRAM TO ILLUSTRATE THE SUBJECTIVITY OF IMAGE PRODUCTION

Image reproduction and alteration have become virtually limitless with the ubiquity of digital editing software. Despite this, “the myth of photographic truth,” where photos are perceived to be an unmediated copy of the world, continues to prevail (Sturken & Cartwright, 2009). In order to debunk this myth and demonstrate the subjectivity of image production, this activity—presented in the G.I.F.T.S. Division at the 2014 National Communication Association convention—incorporates Instagram, the popular social networking application where users take pictures and videos, edit them however they choose, and share their results with friends, followers, and/or fans on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and more.

TEACHING ACTIVITIES

RECENT COURSE EVALUATIONS

My pragmatic, egalitarian approach to teaching—explained in my teaching philosophy above—has consistently resulted in excellent teaching evaluations. For example, during the Spring of 2018, I taught two courses at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, both of which were well-received: Global Media Literacy (click here to view the syllabus) and Media Research (click here to view the syllabus). I had previously taught Global Media Literacy, an introductory Media Studies course, but Media Research was a new special topics course, which required extra care and attention. I developed this course to provide students with a theoretical and practical foundation for conducting research centered on media. Every person enrolled was required to write a full-length research paper centered on a mediated phenomenon of their choice. Two of the students had their completed papers accepted to the Central States Communication Association’s 2019 Undergraduate Honors Conference, which speaks to the success of the course.

 

All in all, both courses that I taught in Spring of 2018 were successful as indicated in my quantitative evaluations below. To briefly summarize, all but one question on the evaluations had a mean response of 4.5 or above on a scale of 1-5. Such results indicate that students generally strongly agree that I stimulate thinking and that I am enthusiastic about subject material, well prepared for class, responsive to student questions, knowledgeable about the subject matter, etc. In Global Media Literacy, my overall mean rating was a 4.6 and in Media Research, my overall mean rating was a 4.9. The qualitative responses, which I am happy to provide if asked, were equally encouraging and in line with qualitative feedback I often receive. These consistently positive evaluations are evidence of my effectiveness as a teacher.

STUDENT RESEARCH

I do the work I do today because of the research I did as an undergraduate student at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, which sparked my interest in pursuing an academic career. Because of this research, I was able to attend and present a paper at my first academic conference—the 2007 Southern States Communication Association convention—and I never looked back. My experience at this conference, and with undergraduate research, both confirmed my interest in as well as adequately prepared me for graduate school.  Because of this positive, formative experience, I have since been dedicated to bolstering undergraduate research throughout my academic career. To do so, I have taught research-oriented courses where students are required to complete full-length research projects and I have also welcomed independent study courses for students who are interested in research and/or pursuing graduate school. My efforts have been fruitful thus far as several of my students have had their work accepted to the Central States Communication Association’s Undergraduate Honors Conference (see below). Their experiences at this conference, much like my experience at my first conference as an undergraduate student, have confirmed their interest in and prepared them for graduate school and similarly demanding careers. Because of this, I am committed to continuing my work in supporting undergraduate research with hopes that the success students acquire will enable them to obtain their desired career as well as contribute to ongoing recruitment and retention efforts for the department of which I am a part and for the discipline of Communication at large.

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CSCA 2017 CONVENTION
MINNEAPOLIS, MN

Paper Presentation:

“The Power of Anonymity: A Multi-Method Approach to Understanding the Use of Yik Yak Among Traditional College Students” 

Authors: Tasha Dunn (Center), Cassi Lamb (Left), Grace Fjellanger (Right)

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CSCA 2017 CONVENTION

MINNEAPOLIS, MN

Poster Presentation

"A Quiver Full of Neoliberalism: Large Reality Television Families and Their Quest for Self-Sufficiency"

Author: Cortney Mabry

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CSCA 2019 CONVENTION

OMAHA, NE

Paper Presentation:

Babies Raising Babies: The Relationship Between Lived Experiences and Reality Television Representation of Teen Mothers

Author: Amelia K. Cooper (Right)

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CSCA 2019 CONVENTION
OMAHA, NE

Paper Presentation: 

Negotiations of Fake News: The Media Community’s Burden of Information Literacy

Author: Haley Pierce (Center)