Ole Miss professor among best in nation
By Edwin Smith
University of Mississippi
The day Debora Rae Wenger received her doctorate from Kingston University, Tuesday, Jan. 17, was already meaningful, but it became even more memorable when the University of Mississippi professor learned that she is among 10 journalism educators being recognized by NewsPro magazine.
“Frankly, I was humbled when I got the news,” said Wenger, associate professor and head of journalism undergraduate studies in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. “There are some truly outstanding educators on the NewsPro list, and I’m honored to have my name printed on the same page with them.”
Each honoree is profiled in the publication’s January issue.
To recognize some of the nation’s best journalism educators, NewsPro asked readers and other media professionals to nominate an outstanding academician. The list of honorees includes professors, department chairs and directors of media centers from such universities as Fordham, Purdue, Missouri, Boston, Ball State, Columbia, Syracuse, Rhode Island and Florida.
Wenger’s achievement bodes well for both the university and its journalism school, UM administrators said.
“What an incredible honor and recognition for Dr. Wenger and her work here at the University of Mississippi,” Chancellor Jeffery S. Vitter said. “Her expertise and teaching excellence greatly contributes to the university’s academic success as well as the prominence of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. We are so proud to have someone of her talent and caliber guiding our students to new heights.”
Journalism Dean Will Norton shared Vitter’s sentiment.
“The Meek School is fortunate to have her in its leadership team,” he said. “Dr. Wenger was a traditional journalist who keeps up with developments in new media and has a network of outstanding educators and journalism educators with whom she works closely.”
A 17-year broadcast news veteran, Wenger was cited for bringing her “well-rounded, real world experience working in large market, network-affiliated newsrooms” to the classroom. Her passion for strong writing and creative storytelling was lauded as a newsworthy asset that “sets her apart from most college professors.”
“My goal is to have all students leave every class a little better informed than they were before they walked in the door,” Wenger said. “Whether it’s learning a new app, a new video editing technique, a new way of thinking about storytelling or simply discovering that there are other perspectives out there to consider, I want students to feel that time in my classes is well-spent.”
The NewsPro honor is not the first for Wenger. In 2000, she led a team of journalists at WFLA-TV in Tampa, Florida, in winning the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism. Throughout the presidential, state and local election seasons, the station had committed to providing its audience with coverage that was as thorough and informative as possible.
“Receiving national recognition for the work we did made me proud of my station, my colleagues and my profession,” Wenger said. “The NewsPro Award is one that has my name on it, but like the Cronkite Award, it was a team effort.
“So many people have helped me grow as a teacher over the years: colleagues who shared strategies, mentors who helped keep me on track and, most of all, those students who did well and whose successes made me want to keep on getting better at teaching.”
Before joining the UM faculty in 2009, Wenger was assistant news director at WFLA-TV. She is co-author of the broadcast, online and multimedia journalism curricula for the Society of Professional Journalists’ Newsroom Training Program, and conducts multimedia training in newsrooms nationwide.
Wenger is also co-author of the journalism textbook, “Advancing the Story: Broadcast Journalism in a Multimedia World” (Sage, 2014), “Managing Today’s News Media: Audience First” (Sage, 2015) and produces a multimedia blog: advancingthestory.com
A native of North Dakota who moved around quite a bit over the years, Wenger considers herself a Midwesterner who very much enjoys the South. She graduated from Moorhead State University and earned her master’s degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Her committee memberships at Ole Miss have included the Undergraduate Council, Meek School Curriculum Committee, Faculty Senate, Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Women, Council of Academic Administrators, Course Scheduling, Dual- and Second-Degree Policy, Task Force for Engagement, Academic Conduct, School Graduation, and Tenure and Promotion.
“Teaching is most fulfilling when I see how much a student has improved from the start of the semester to the end, or when I get a call from a former student who has embarked on a career and still considers me a resource years after he or she has left my classroom,” she said. “It’s wonderful when you feel like you have helped someone achieve a goal or fulfill a dream.”
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