Faculty members earn Deans' Excellence awards

Four full-time faculty members, an adjunct faculty member and one graduate student 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.

Mary Beth Oliver, a professor in the Department of Film-Video and Media Studies and co-director of the Media Effects Laboratory, earned the Deans' Excellence Award for Teaching.

Oliver teaches media effects, communication research methods and data analysis. She specializes in media and psychology, focusing on both the psychological effects of media and on viewers' attraction to or enjoyment of media content.

Her research includes studies pertaining emotional and cognitive responses to media entertainment, media violence (including horror and suspense films), reality-based television programs, gender and media, and media portrayals of racial groups and the effects of such portrayals on viewers' racial attitudes.

Along with her research and 400-level teaching duties, she developed COMM 118 Introduction to Media Effects.

"Her 'reward' for doing such a splendid job of developing the course? She now has the privilege of teaching some 300 students each semester," Dean Doug Anderson said. "But, whether she's before an introductory class in a large setting or a seminar-size group in an upper level class, she's an extraordinary teacher who earns praise and respect from her students."

Patrick Parsons, the Don Davis Professor of Ethics, earned the Deans' Excellence Award for Research and Creative Activity.

In the past year, Parsons added more accomplishments to a career full of academic success. In the College of Communications, he coordinated the Don Davis Program in Ethical Leadership and spearheaded stand-alone lectures and special events as well as the integrated "ethics across the curriculum" approach that defines the program.

At the same time, the latest of Parsons' four books, "Blue Skies: A History of Cable Television," earned consistent praise from viewers and scholars. The 804-page book offers a detailed historical analysis of the development and history of cable television.

"He has assembled a strong record through the years--with a crowning achievement in 2008," Anderson said. "He earned a national reputation as the cable television historian. Simply put, 'Blue Skies' is one of the most important media history books to come along in many years."

Bu Zhong, an assistant professor in the Department of Journalism, earned the Deans' Excellence Award for Service.

Zhong oversaw, conceptually and logistically, a two-week trip to his native China that paved the way for faculty exchanges, internships, research collaborations and student programs with four universities and three separate Chinese news agencies. As a direct result of his contacts, the College will be sending six interns to China Daily in Beijing this summer, and similar opportunities might develop with Zinhua News Agency in the future.

He also coordinated the visit of six students, two faculty members and an administrator from Shanghai International Studies University last November. The contingent's five-day visit coincided with the presidential election, giving the visitors a first-hand look at both Election Day and an important moment in U.S. history.

Along with that, Zhong served on two University committees and as a colloqiuim member in the College of Communications.

"He spend literally hundreds of hours working unselfishly on behalf of the College--all the while serving as a dedicated and productive teach as an active scholar,” Anderson said. "He has used his expertise and contacts to up up expansive and exciting vistas for our program. He, single-handedly, has significantly expanded out international wingspan."

Matt McAllister, an associate professor in the Department of Film-Video and Media Studies, earned the Deans' Excellence Award for Integrated Scholarship.

Along with teaching 100-, 400- and 500-level courses--and earning sterling student evaluations across the board--McAllister consistently produces quality research and serves both the College of Communications and the University.

In the past year, he: authored five book chapters and encyclopedia entries; co-edited a book that will be published this year; completed his latest refereed journal article that will be published this year; and wrote a juried conference paper. He also served on committees such as promotion and tenure, curriculum and search within the College while also a member of the University Faculty Senate.

"He takes his service responsibilities seriously," Anderson said. "He carries them out because he knows they are needed, necessary and important--not simply to make the required notations on his vita."

Alumna Linda Feltman ('76 Adv), a senior business analyst with the Penn State Small Business Development Center, earned the Associate Faculty Award. Feldman, who teaches COMM 493 Entrepreneurship in the Information Age, earns consistently high praise from students--thanks to her expertise and her willingness to challenge students. At the start of each semester, she tells her students that in 15 weeks they will research and write a business plan to launch their own media business. With unending patience and support, she then helps them do just that.

Murali Balaji, a doctoral candidate and lecturer, earned the graduate teaching award. A journalist who worked for The Washington Post, St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press and Wilmington (Del.) News Journal, Balaji earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota and amassed more than a decade of professional journalism experience before coming to Penn State. He previously taught communications classes at Temple University, the University of Minnesota and Delaware State University.

An engaging teacher, Balaji has authored three books, most recently "Desi Rap: South Asian Americans in Hip Hop" (2008, Lexington Books). He also authored "House of Tinder" and "The Professor and The Pupil: The Politics of W.E.B. DuBois and Paul Robeson." His forthcoming publications include "Culturing Manhood and Masculinities," an anthology exploring the meaning and construct of masculinity around the world.

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Last Updated April 14, 2009