Hardin earns Atherton Award for excellence in teaching

March 19, 2009

Marie Hardin has been named one of four Penn State faculty members to receive the 2009 George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Hardin, an associate professor in the Department of Journalism, is the only faculty member in the College of Communications ever to earn the prestigious University-wide award, which first was presented in 1988. The forerunner of the Atherton Award, the AMOCO, initially was presented in 1978. H. Eugene Goodwin, professor emeritus and former director of the School of Journalism, received that award in 1980.

“This is a huge — and well-deserved — honor for Marie,” Dean Doug Anderson said. “She has built an impressive and nationally respected publication record; she performs what I consider to be unparalleled service to the university, discipline and profession; and she possesses an exceptional work ethic.

“But teaching is what Marie truly excels in—and it enjoys the position of primacy in her impressive record as an integrated scholar.”

The Atherton Award, named for Penn State’s seventh president who served from 1882 until 1907, honors excellence in teaching at the undergraduate level.

Hardin, one of the country’s leading sports-media scholars, has taught six different courses since she joined the faculty in 2003: a graduate seminar in feminism and media studies; a 400-level course in news editing; a 400-level course in sports, media and society; a 200-level course in news writing and reporting; a first-year seminar; and a 100-level online one-credit course that she developed on the basics of grammar, punctuation, usage and spelling, which now enrolls some 850 students each year.

“Whether teaching large online sections, small technique courses, mid-size conceptual courses or graduate seminars, Marie shines as an instructor whose pedagogical toolbox is packed with multiple effective devices,” Anderson said.

Hardin wears several hats. She directs the College’s Dow Jones Newspaper Fund Center for Editing Excellence and serves as director of the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund Copy Editing Residency, a two-week training session held annually at Penn State for DJNF interns to prepare them for their summer assignments at papers across the country.

“I’ve been privileged to work with many college professors over the years,” Rich Holden, executive director of the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund, said. “None is more talented or inspiring than Marie.  Each summer she trains a dozen students from colleges around the country at our Center for Editing Excellence. The students are unanimous in their praises of Marie, both as a professor and as a person. I share those sentiments fully.”

Hardin serves also as faculty adviser to the Penn State campus chapter of the American Copy Editors Society and as associate head of the Department of Journalism.

“Marie is very deserving of this honor,” Ford Risley, head of the Department of Journalism, said.  “She works tirelessly to make her classes an engaging environment for learning.”

Hardin also is associate director for research of the College’s John Curley Center for Sports Journalism.

“Marie is a 24/7 human robot with incredible energy that she channels into enthusiastic teaching, coordinating visits by journalism professionals and making sure the academic program runs efficiently,” John Curley, professor of journalism and distinguished professional in residence, said. “There is no one more deserving of this honor.” 

Hardin said that she relies on four core beliefs “to form the cornerstones of my teaching philosophy and practice”: effective teachers provide a creative environment framed by consistent, effective routines and rules; effective teachers provide an active learning environment; effective teachers use cognitive dissonance to facilitate learning; and effective teachers make students accountable for learning and provide opportunities for students to “create” knowledge.

“The burden of the learning process should be on the students, not on the professor,” Hardin said. “This burden, however, requires teachers to possess an exemplary knowledge of the course subject, a willingness to think and plan creative approaches to the material, and enough flexibility and teaching expertise to adjust their courses when needed.

“We must be willing to cede a certain amount of control over the learning experience, allowing students to explore in ways that are meaningful to them and to contribute new perspectives.”

Anne Hoag, associate dean for undergraduate education and outreach, praised Hardin’s contributions to the instructional mission of the College.

“It’s extraordinary how Professor Hardin’s students consistently, semester after semester in the course evaluations, comment on her enthusiasm for teaching and their genuine surprise at realizing they have met her high expectations,” Hoag said.

David Anderson, a senior journalism major, first encountered Hardin when enrolled in the first-year seminar that she taught.

“Early on, I noticed that Dr. Hardin has the uncanny ability to communicate with her students without sounding as if she is talking down to them,” Anderson said. “She facilitates thoughtful discussion and enlightened debate, allowing her students to control the airwaves and come to their own conclusions.”

Anderson also cited the course in news writing and reporting that he took from Hardin.

“Her on-deadline assignments taught us the value of a keen eye, time management and exceptional writing skills,” he said. “That class was an 8 a.m.er—and I never missed it.”

Alexandra Petri, a senior journalism major, said that Hardin’s “door is always open, and she always has time for her students. I make weekly visits by her office. She is the first person I turn to for any problem I am faced with or any decision I have to make.

“Professor Hardin has taught me to trust myself, and I greatly appreciate all that she has done for me.”

Dean Anderson noted: “The supporting letters in the nomination package from her students capture the essence of this truly gifted instructor.”

The other Penn State faculty members honored with the 2009 Atherton Award are Themis Matsoukas, professor of chemical engineering in the College of Engineering; Robert A. Novack, associate professor of supply chain management in the Smeal College of Business; and Evelyn B. Pulhar-Adams, professor of philosophy at Penn State Fayette.

Overall, the University honored 32 outstanding employees who reach across campuses, colleges and administrative units and exemplify best practices and achievements among Penn Staters, reflecting the University's mission of teaching, research and service.

  • Marie Hardin

    IMAGE: John Beale

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 18, 2010