Melanie Faizer, senior lecturer for the School of Journalism and Electronic Media, said teaching is not her first career but it is the one that suits her the most. So it is fitting that, after a decade of lecturing for JEM, she was recently given the Alumni Outstanding Teacher Award by the University of Tennessee Alumni Association. She is among a handful recipients across the University of Tennessee System who received such an award, which is given based on nominations from faculty and staff, alumni, and students.
“It’s really nice to get an award like this, at this time, because I think there’s nobody who wouldn’t agree that the last couple of years have been more challenging—and not just because of the pandemic–but there are bigger scale challenges in our industry, particularly in media,” Faizer said. “We’re sort of having to step up and adjust and adapt because the field is changing so quickly. I think we’ve had to show as a faculty and department a lot of flexibility, and that does make [the award] that much more meaningful.”
One way Faizer has kept up with the fast-changing field of media is by completing a fellowship at the Scripps Howard Journalism Entrepreneurship Institute at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication so she could create a new class, Entrepreneurship in Journalism & Media. This class is intended to help graduates navigate a world where many have to create content and promote it outside of traditional news and legacy media organizations. She also teaches Intro to Journalism & Creative Media, Multimedia Reporting, Media Editing, and Multimedia Writing.
JEM Professor and Director Catherine Luther said there are many reasons Faizer is deserving of this award, including impressive student evaluation scores and comments and Faizer’s dedication to professional development to keep her on the forefront of changes in the field.
“I was thrilled to learn that Melanie won the Alumni Outstanding Teacher award. She is very much deserving of this recognition. Melanie is an excellent instructor,” Luther said.
In addition to this award, Luther noted that in 2021 Faizer received the College of Communication and Information Lecturer Award, and the Champions of Editing Award from a division of the Association of Journalism and Mass Communication. She also oversaw and mentored students for the student-run digital news site TNJN.com, which won awards from both the Tennessee Press Association and the Southeast Journalism Association.
Faizer’s previous careers included working as a journalist for Bloomberg News and then as director of learning and information services at a non-profit, and she enjoys bringing a practitioner’s perspective into teaching. She also encourages students to look at how they can work to change detrimental practices and systems that impede good journalism and ethics.
The acknowledgment by the association was truly a morale booster, Faizer said. She also appreciated that the ceremony brought together so many instructors from throughout the UT System and across disciplines.
“It’s nice that the association makes an effort to bring us together that way. It is great to be reminded that alumni are actually benefiting from what we do here and that they remember us when they’re out working and beyond their time at the university,” she said.