UNC Hussman honors faculty, staff commitment to innovation and excellence with annual awards

The UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media recognized faculty and staff for a commitment to excellence and contributions to the school community. The 2020 faculty and staff excellence awards were presented Wednesday, May 6, 2020, in a virtual school-wide meeting of faculty and staff.

“Every year, we take time at the end of the spring semester to recognize faculty and staff leaders who have made an exceptional impact over the academic year,” said Dean Susan King. “While this year ended in a way no one expected, our faculty and staff reached for new innovations and better ways to serve students and the school community as they do each year. The opportunity to pause for a moment to recognize and reward their commitment is one of my favorite moments of the year.”

The winners are:

Edward Vick Prize for Innovation in Teaching

Recipient: Chad Heartwood

Recognizes creativity and innovation in teaching that meaningfully enhances student learning experiences.

A filmmaker, journalist and educator, Associate Professor Chad Heartwood teaches courses in photojournalism, documentary storytelling and entrepreneurship at UNC Hussman.

“Chad’s mentorship and thoughtful guidance is unparalleled. His creative teaching style is a rare combination of tough and nurturing. I can think of no one more deserving of the Edward Vick Prize for Innovation in Teaching than Chad Heartwood,” said Heartwood’s former student Carolyn Van Houten `14, now a staff photojournalist at The Washington Post, in her letter supporting Heartwood’s nomination.

David Brinkley Teaching Excellence Award

Recipient: Paul Cuadros

Recognizes excellence in teaching and a commitment to helping students inside and outside the classroom.

Cuadros is an award-winning investigative reporter and author whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Time magazine, Salon.com, The Chicago Reporter and other national and local publications. He joined UNC Hussman in 2007 and teaches several reporting courses.

“It’s difficult to separate Paul’s in-class teaching excellence from his mentorship of students outside of class,” Associate Professor Ryan Thornburg said in his nomination letter. “Paul’s excellence in the classroom has been the driving force behind a resurgence in writing and reporting that we’ve seen at UNC Hussman.”

Richard Cole Service Award

Recipients: Joe Cabosky (junior faculty)

Laura Ruel (senior faculty)

Recognizes one junior and one senior faculty member who each strive to create a collaborative culture within the school. The award honors Dean Emeritus Richard Cole, whose service and commitment has made the school what it is today.

Assistant Professor Joe Cabosky’s work and research focuses on diversifying and disrupting strategic communication, public relations and advertising. He teaches public relations courses at UNC Hussman. “Joe is always ready to jump in to help better serve our students and to improve the school,” said King. “He consistently goes above and beyond.”

Associate Professor Laura Ruel focuses on design, user experience and interactive media for the school. Her research interests include examining user behavior and cognitive processes in the age of interactive media. In addition, she conducts practical usability and eyetracking research studies for the news media. “Laura is an exceptional leader in our journalism program who often works behind the scenes,” said King. “She has been instrumental this year in recruiting top new faculty members to the school.”

Val Lauder Award for Teaching

Recipient: Chris Kirkman 

Recognizes an adjunct, instructor or other non-full-time faculty member for excellence in teaching.

Lecturer Chris Kirkman worked in newspapers for many years as a lead graphic artist and reporter — with four years at The Washington Post as daily art director. He has served as an adjunct professor of graphic design and multimedia at UNC Hussman for the past 11 years.

“Chris is one of our longest-serving and most versatile adjuncts. His professional background is impressive, and our students get a lot from his classes. His love of the school and his ability to teach his craft made him the obvious choice for the Val Lauder award this year,” said Stembler Distinguished Professor and Senior Associate Dean Charlie Tuggle, who was on the committee that helped select Kirkman for the award.

Staff Excellence Awards

Recipients: Angelena King

Ann Schmitt

Special Funding Manager Angelena King started working at UNC Hussman in 2012 as an accounting technician, having previously served in the office at the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality as an accounting technician.

“She is always willing to assist, jump in and roll up her sleeves to get the job done. She is a pleasure to be around, and both her dedication and work ethic set a strong example for other members of the school,” said one of King’s nominators.

Ann Schmitt, graduate program coordinator, joined the Hussman graduate studies team as its program coordinator in September 2018. She supports graduate students and staff with a variety of day-to-day needs and serves as a liaison between the programs and the University’s Graduate School. Prior to UNC, Ann worked at the Graduate College at Bowling Green State University, and she enjoys supporting graduate students in their studies and research.

“She’s a fount of knowledge for the students about all kinds of university processes and procedures, and she never appears to be inconvenienced by those asking for advice or assistance,” said a Schmitt nominator.

2020 Pivot Award

Recipients: The UNC Hussman IT team (Gary KirkMichael SharpeJohn Turner)

Park Librarian Stephanie Brown

Executive Assistant Rachel Pittman

Human Resources Consultant Dina Sikora

This is a special award given this year for staff leadership in the school’s response to the need to quickly pivot to remote teaching and learning.

“This semester presented challenges that we could not have anticipated, and our entire school community rose to the challenge with commitment and compassion,” said King. “There were several on our staff that took lead roles early on to overcome obstacles in order to enable and empower the school to move to remote instruction. Our entire IT team, with Stephanie as a strong partner, created an environment where the school had the support and the training and the confidence to push through. Rachel was there at the center orchestrating the details and keeping or staff and faculty connected and organized. And Dina navigated the complex changes in HR and kept us all updated and reassured — and able to focus on our work and serving students.”