Awards recognize teaching excellence in communications

Four full-time faculty members, an adjunct faculty member and two graduate students with teaching responsibilities were honored with annual Deans' Excellence Awards in the College of Communications.

The awards recognize those who make the University ideals of teaching, research and service a reality.

Chris Ritchie, a senior lecturer in the Department of Journalism, earned the Deans' Excellence Award for Teaching.

Ritchie teaches a minimum of three courses every semester and serves as an instructor during the Dow Jones News Fund's summer boot camp at Penn State. He also serves as course coordinator for COMM 260 News Writing and Reporting, which has more than 15 sections each semester with more than two thirds of those taught by adjunct faculty members.

As course coordinator, Ritchie helps ensure consistency across the sections -- which account for nearly eight percent of all communications course sections -- by providing information, resources and support for the instructors. He organizes regular meetings for the instructors to address concerns and share teaching tools.

Ritchie joined the College of Communications in 2001, following 20 years at newspapers throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic.

"He consistently earns outstanding student evaluations, and he capably balances a heavy workload," said Dean Doug Anderson of the College of Communications. "He handles his own work and helps others do theirs, all to benefit students. He is the ultimate team player."

Denise Bortree, an assistant professor in the Department of Advertising/Public Relations, earned the Deans' Excellence Award for Research and Creative Activity.

In the past year, she had four peer-reviewed articles published, including a sole-authored lead article in the Journal of Public Relations Research, the premiere public relations journal. She had five articles accepted for publication in peer-reviewed articles with two more under review and seven more in progress. She also has a forthcoming book chapter and presented five papers at national or international conferences.

Her work went beyond presenting and publishing. She was named to the board of the Journal of Public Relations Research and served as a reviewer for that journal while providing reviews for three other journals.

She also served as a co-editor of a special issue of a public relations peer-reviewed journal that focused on relationship building for non-profit organizations. She works extensively on relationship building for non-profit organizations (primarily the communication between the organizations and volunteers) and on environmental communication.

"She had an extraordinarily productive year," Anderson said. "And her record is one of quality and quantity."

Michel Haigh, an assistant professor in the Department of Advertising/Public Relations, earned the Deans' Excellence Award for Service.

During a year when she handled her usual teaching load and continued to conduct timely research, she also spent literally hundreds of hours working unselfishly -- at the University level, and at the college and departmental levels. Her extensive service included representing Penn State at the 2009 Higher Education Network for Community Engagement as well as service on the curriculum committee in the College of Communications.

She served as a Faculty Senator and as a course coordinator in her department. She also volunteered for career services events that benefit current students, attended evening lectures conducted on campus and assisted with "Spend a Summer Day" sessions for prospective students and families.

"Obviously, her service record extends well beyond 'just showing up,'" Anderson said. "She doesn't run -- or hide -- from service and outreach. She embraces it."

John Beale, a senior lecturer in the Department of Journalism, earned the Deans' Excellence Award for Integrated Scholarship.

He teachers upper-division and lower-division courses each semester while regularly extending his instruction well beyond classroom walls. He works evenings and weekends, often side-by-side with students as they practice what he preaches about photojournalism.

At the same time, he remains active at a high level himself -- completing assignments for outlets such as the Associated Press, USA Today, Pittsburgh Quarterly Magazine and many others -- and spends hundreds of hours each year preparing students for major national contests.

Beale also coordinates the Nikon Locker Program, which makes professional-grade photo equipment available to students, coordinates student photography projects for use on Penn State Live and works as an organizational driving force for annual Keystone Multimedia Workshops, which benefit professional news photographers in the state.

"He's one of the hardest working and most dedicated members of our faculty," Anderson said.

Alumnus Martin Camden, who earned his bachelor’s degree in film-video at Penn State in 2000, was honored with the Associate Faculty Award. Camden, a longtime adjunct instructor, has taught courses such as beginning film production, beginning screenwriting, and introduction to audio and video production. Camden has earned consistent praise from students for his educational approach and teaching methods.

He received the 2004 Liz Ralston Award from cinema and photography faculty at Southern Illinois University and the 2000 Samuel Abrams Endowment Award from the film-video faculty at Penn State. His filmography includes numerous short films, including "Homesick," which was screened at Big Muddy International Film Festival in 2006 and "Cal-de-sac," which was screened at the Athens International Film Festival in 2003.

Doctoral candidates Mike Horning and Kathleen Keuhn earned the graduate teaching awards.

Before coming to Penn State for his doctoral degree, Horning taught English and journalism in private and public high schools in Virginia and New York. He also worked as a reporter for a local newspaper and as a web/graphics designer. He earned his master's degree in communication and media technology at Rochester Institute of Technology and his bachelor's degree in English education from Liberty University. His research interests focus on using computer-mediated communication to enhance the political processes as well as issues relevant to communication law and policy.

Keuhn worked worked in non-profit and commercial radio and taught video production before coming to Penn State. She earned her master's degree in media arts from the University of Arizona and her bachelor's degree in journalism and history from Rutgers University. Her research interests include political economy of communication, media literacy/education and radio in local markets.

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Last Updated April 14, 2010