New Kensington campus' Jennifer Wood named a 2014 Penn State Teaching Fellow

April 02, 2014

Jennifer Wood, associate professor of communication arts and sciences at Penn State New Kensington, received the Alumni/Student Award for Excellence in Teaching and has been named a 2014 Penn State Teaching Fellow.

The Penn State Alumni Association, in conjunction with undergraduate and graduate governing bodies, established the award in 1988. It honors distinguished teaching and provides encouragement and incentive for excellence in teaching. Recipients are expected to share their talents and expertise with others throughout the University system during the year following the award presentation. Lynette Kvasny, associate professor in the College of Information Sciences and Technology, and Laura Rotunno, associate professor of English at Penn State Altoona, joined Wood on March 24 at the ceremony for teaching fellows.

“Dr. Wood is truly a campus gem, as her colleagues and student nominators have attested to,” said Andrea Adolph, director of academic affairs. “She exemplifies the excellence of the educational experience at Penn State New Kensington.

Wood joined the campus faculty in 1999 and teaches courses in conflict resolution, rhetoric and effective speech. Regardless of the specific learning objectives for a particular course, Wood said she strives “to develop a classroom environment where students are able to find their voices, speak their minds and learn to listen closely and openly to each other … where students take ownership of their education and hold each other accountable for what happens in the classroom.”

For example, on the first day of her Effective Speech courses, she assigns students to work in groups to share their thoughts and concerns about the syllabus and then share the same with her. “They learn that they are not the only ones who have some anxiety about a speech course.” In her upper-level classes, she expects students to use their experiences as college students to work together developing policies they will abide by throughout the term.

“The investment that Dr. Wood shows in her students is second to none that I have seen,” one nominator said. Another wrote, “She wants every single student in her class to grasp the concepts she teaches, and she won’t move on until she’s sure that everyone understands what is being taught.”

An author of numerous publications for scholarly journals, Wood has taught several college communication courses at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution in Pittsburgh. She is a trained volunteer mediator for the Victim/Offender Dialogue Program for Crimes of Violence, has served as a mediator for the Pittsburgh Mediation Center’s Victim/Offender Mediation program and has volunteered as a medical advocate for Pittsburgh Action Against Rape. In addition, she is researching a project that examines restorative justice policies across the country.

Her research focuses on crime victim policy, the prison-industrial complex and restorative justice. Her work has been published in numerous scholarly journals, including Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, National Women’s Studies Association Journal and Western Journal of Communication.

Last year, Wood co-edited a book that was published by University of Illinois Press. “Working for Justice: A Handbook of Prison Education and Activism,” is a compilation of the latest scholarship on prison issues in the United States. It offers practical approaches to prison education and advocacy, and promotes education, activism and reform as a means to solving societal issues. Her co-editors were Stephen Hartnett, professor of communication at the University of Colorado Denver and Eleanor Novek, associate professor of journalism at Monmouth (New Jersey) University.

For more about Wood, visit

For more about the Penn State New Kensington Communications program, visit


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Last Updated January 09, 2015