Five faculty at the College of Communication and Information have earned promotions this year, each of which brings a unique perspective and valuable expertise to their classrooms and field. Here’s a little bit about them:
School of Journalism and Electronic Media Distinguished Lecturer Melanie Faizer
Faizer has been teaching courses in reporting, editing, and media entrepreneurship at CCI since 2012. One of her goals as a teacher is to stay on top of emerging trends and new technologies in her field, and she’s always restructuring her courses to reflect that and to keep it interesting for herself and students.
“In particular with the entrepreneurship course, it’s a constant effort to build an ecosystem—that course can’t exist in a vacuum—so it’s important to spend the time to network and build the bridges here in our community that help enrich those courses,” she said.
She’ll also be mixing it up this year with her first time teaching a master’s program course which she hopes will produce exciting and valuable community reporting. While she’s a teacher first, Faizer maintains her love of investigating and writing.
“I also feel an imperative to keep a hand in the industry, since that’s really my role here, as a clinician. So my plan is to continue freelancing and contributing where the opportunities arise,” she said. “I still love to interview people and uncover stories, and I’m hoping to help students make a local impact by reporting on communities and social justice issues that are often overlooked.”
Faizer was the recipient of the CCI Lecturer Award in 2021 and 2014. In 2021, she won the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s Champions of Editing teaching award. Her 2019 news reporting course, focused on the issue of evictions and housing affordability, won the Tennessee Associated Press award for best college website. She was a fellow at the Scripps Howard Entrepreneurial Journalism Institute at Arizona State University’s Cronkite Journalism School in 2015. Faizer has published in outlets including the Columbia Journalism Review, MediaShift, Tennessee Lookout, and Southerly, and she has worked as a freelance editor for HGTV.com.
Before teaching, she worked as a multimedia editor, manager, and television producer at Bloomberg News in Princeton, New Jersey, New York City, and London. Faizer also worked as director of information services and education at Opera America, a national nonprofit.
“Both Amber and Melanie more than deserve their recent promotions. Melanie, who was promoted to Distinguished Lecturer, is a dedicated instructor who puts great effort to stay on top of recent industry developments in the fields of journalism and electronic media. She learns new approaches to the journalistic storytelling craft and imparts her knowledge to her students. Amber, who was promoted to full professor, has consistently demonstrated excellence in all three of the areas of research, teaching, and service. She is known nationally and internationally for her scholarship and students rave about her teaching skills. I feel very fortunate to have them both in our school and college.” – JEM Professor and Director Catherine Luther
JEM Professor Amber Roessner
Roessner not only has exhibited excellence in teaching during her time at JEM, but she’s also stepped into multiple service and leadership roles at a school, college, and university level. Most recently, she became president-elect of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville Faculty Senate, and she is also JEM’s director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
“I am dedicated to advancing efforts to promote a welcoming and inclusive culture for all students, staff, faculty, and administrators, and in my role in Faculty Senate leadership, I am determined to advocate for more responsive communication and stronger shared governance at the University of Tennessee,” she said.
Roessner’s area of research and teaching centers media history and its relationship to cultural phenomena and practices, including the operation of politics, the negotiation of public images and collective memories, and the construction of race, gender, and class. As a newly minted professor, she said she looks forward to sharing her expertise in her areas of studies with students.
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to continue working with such talented and passionate students, staff, faculty and administrators on Rocky Top,” she said.
Roessner’s first book, Inventing Baseball Heroes: Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson and the Sporting Press in America, was published by LSU Press in June 2014. Since 2014, she has published two books, including Jimmy Carter and the Birth of the Marathon Media Campaign (LSU Press, 2020), and co-edited Political Pioneer of the Press: Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Her Transnational Crusade for Social Justice (Lexington Books, 2018).
Her earlier journal-length cultural histories appeared in Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly and Journalism History, among others, contributing to her receiving the distinction of American Journalism’s Inaugural Rising Scholar in 2014. More recently, she has served as a Faculty Fellow for the University of Tennessee’s Division for Diversity & Engagement, where she studied and offered recommendations for mitigating invisible and emotional labor.
School of Communication Studies Distinguished Lecturer Sarah Lamb
Before she began teaching at Comm Studies, Lamb worked for eight years at the UT Office of Public Relations (now known as the Office of Communications and Marketing) and for three years in corporate management. She has turned her practitioner experience into knowledge she shares with her students in her public speaking courses.
“To me, teaching matches my approach to life, which is to love, laugh and make lasting impressions. My teaching beliefs are centered in creating a classroom atmosphere that is conducive to learning by breaking down barriers, by being approachable and by being passionate. I look forward to keeping this style of living and sharing it with our college each day!” Lamb said.
In addition to teaching, Lamb has taken on various roles in service work during her time at CCI. Her service work includes serving two terms as a Faculty Senator, committee membership on the General Education Committee, and chairing the Applied Oral Communication Committee. In the past she has coordinated the school’s semi-annual McClung Speaking Contest.
She’s also a Volunteer through and through, and calls CCI her home college, as she has earned both her bachelor’s and master’s in communication from UT.
Outside of the classroom, Lamb enjoys spending time with family, swimming, traveling, listening to music and attending concerts. Her most recent unique experience is getting married twice, to the same husband, during the pandemic (July 2020 and July 2022). She is a believer in silver linings and feels blessed to have had two honeymoons and two wedding anniversaries!
“Sarah’s promotion is well deserved and I am honored to have her on faculty at CMST. I look forward to seeing her continue to bring her contagious energy and expertise to the classroom. ” – CMST Professor and Director Jon Hess
School of Information Sciences Professor Vandana Singh
Singh has established herself well both in the classroom as well as in her area of research, both of which are tied together by the common thread of social justice.
“My research projects aim to remove barriers for women, the rural population, and marginalized people in multiple settings. I develop solutions and institute technological interventions for the empowerment of underserved populations. My teaching portfolio is foundational in leveling the playing field for students with no Information Technology (IT) background by teaching them IT courses and providing a pipeline to technology careers for non-technical students,” she said.
She recently stepped into the role of CCI’s director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and she began teaching an inaugural course that emerged from winning the Google Award for Inclusion Research for a project she completed with University of Alabama Professor Jeffery Carver, “Educating Students to be Better Citizens of Tech Communities: DEI Focus.” The course, DEI for Technology/Information Professionals, will teach students entering technology sectors how to advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion and navigate those issues as professionals in the field.
“My teaching portfolio is foundational in leveling the playing field for students with no Information Technology (IT) background by teaching them IT courses and providing a pipeline to technology careers for non-technical students,” she said. “I am excited to encourage and support DEI initiatives for students, staff, and faculty at CCI through courses, initiatives and implementing action plans.”
Besides this new undergraduate course, Singh also teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in web design, usability testing, and information technology foundations. Her research focuses on the use of technology in various settings and includes gender and information technology; open source software; diversity, equity, and inclusion; online learning; rural libraries and technology; STEM education. Her research is funded by federal agencies such as National Science Foundation (NSF), IMLS, and the United States Geological Society (USGS). Her research is published in top information science journals, national and international conferences, and books. Currently, Singh serves as an executive committee member for the Association for Computing Machinery-Women and the programming chair for the National Center for Women & Information Technology Academic Alliance.
“Vandana Singh has been a leader in her research on women in open source software as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion in the technology sector. Her perspective is much needed in the world of information sciences, and we are proud to promote her to a full professor. We are especially privileged to have her on our faculty with her new appointment as CCI’s first Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”– SIS Professor and Director Abebe Rorissa
SIS Clinical Professor Cindy Welch
When Welch joined SIS in 2008, she brought with her a wealth of experience in library youth services after working a decade in public libraries in Chicago and in North Carolina, and a stint as Deputy Executive Director for the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) at the American Library Association (ALA).
She teaches courses in youth library services and also oversees the school library program—of which she can boast an almost 100-percent success rate in her students passing the Librarian Specialty Exam they’re required to take.
“In the coming years I hope to continue to nurture and grow the school library program, and to mentor the next generation of innovative youth librarians working in school and public libraries,” she said.
An accomplished storyteller herself, storytelling is also one of her favorite classes to teach and the course attracts students beyond SIS and CCI.
She is committed to service and volunteers to lead committees and groups at all levels. In 2021, she received collegewide recognition for her service and won the inaugural CCI Non Tenure-track Service/Outreach Award. She was chosen in 2019 by the University of Tennessee’s Teaching & Learning Innovation to be a Teaching Innovator for 2019. She is passionate about teaching this next generation of youth services librarians to continue the work they do to open up worlds to children, and people, of all ages.
“Every year new students enter our classes, and watching them discover abilities they didn’t know they had, helping them cultivate new knowledge and confidence, and then seeing their success in the real world keeps me going. We are experiencing particularly challenging times, literally and figuratively, and equipping students with understanding and the ability to truly support all of their communities is especially important right now,” she said.
“Cindy Welch has been a vital part of SIS over the years as she has worked hard to ensure our School Library Media Licensure program remains a top program nationally and continues to educate the next generation of school librarians throughout Tennessee. Her promotion to Clinical Professor is well-deserved and we are honored to have her as part of our faculty.”– SIS Professor and Director Abebe Rorissa