IST professor to receive award for contributions to online master’s program

Jennifer Cifelli
November 11, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the professional science masters degree (PSM) learning community, Gerald Santoro, senior lecturer at Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) and assistant professor of communication arts and sciences in the College of the Liberal Arts, has been awarded the President’s Award for Excellence from the National Professional Science Master’s Association (NPSMA).

Santoro will be presented with the award at the NPSMA annual conference, “Expanding Paths to Professional 21st Century STEM Careers,” in Atlanta on Nov. 14.

The NPSMA is a professional membership association created to further collaborative efforts of MPS program faculty, administrators, students, industry representatives and alumni, and aims to support MPS degree initiatives globally and connect various constituents of MPS education for collective interaction.

The President’s Award is a fitting accolade for Santoro, a committed instructor, according to Amy Stever, director of Online Education for IST and one of two colleagues who nominated Santoro for the award.

“Gerry makes that most important critical connection with his students and helps people feel welcome and valued,” Stever said. “Adult distance learners must have faculty willing to use different technologies and flexibility in their schedules in order to feel connected, which he does very well.”

Santoro, who has been involved with online education since the first distance education conference in 1985, said that online courses are the perfect vehicle for MPS students.

“Learning how to efficiently manage task-oriented groups online offers tremendous experience for professional work situations,” Santoro said.

In addition to strategizing effective ways to deliver online coursework, he added, building relationships with his students is imperative.

“Outside of coursework, the most important thing I bring to online learning is immediacy,” Santoro said. “If I can touch an emotional vein in the student, that often opens them up to the rest of the message.”

Penn State supports distance learning with MPS coursework through the World Campus, offering three online MPS degree programs within IST, where Santoro currently teaches, in addition to teaching resident courses at the University Park campus. Degrees include MPS in homeland security, with an option in information security and forensics; MPS in information sciences, with an option in cybersecurity and information assurance; and MPS in enterprise architecture.

Effectively bridging the gap between distance learning for MPS and creating a sense of intimacy for students spanning the globe is what Santoro does best, and is one reason why Michael McNeese, senior associate dean of IST, also nominated him for the President’s Award.

“Our students love him because he has a knack for transforming knowledge into activities that are inherently intriguing and fun,” McNeese said in his nomination letter to NPSMA. "He has impacted many students with his ability to translate abstract and complex topics into useful IST knowledge and skills that can be applied in the real world and leveraged when students graduate."

Both Stever and McNeese agree that one of Santoro's greatest assets is his ability to stay current with all manner of social media, Web computing and classroom learning technology.

"He practices what he preaches in the classroom and in his life," Stever said.

If additional proof is needed as to Santoro's commitment to his students, she said, it's that he'll be teaching from Atlanta, at the NPSMA conference where he'll receive the President's Award.

"He won't miss a beat. ... He'll be teaching his classes the entire time he's attending the conference," Stever said. "That's how much he values his students."

 

  • Santoro receives national award for contributions to online master's program

    Gerald Santoro, senior lecturer at Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) and assistant professor of communication arts and sciences in the College of the Liberal Arts, has been awarded the President’s Award for Excellence from the National Professional Science Master’s Association (NPSMA).

    IMAGE: Emilee Spokus
Last Updated January 09, 2015