Merges, Award Winner in Teaching

Categories: General News

Kelly Merges received the 2024 College of Humanities & Earth and Social Sciences Award for Outstanding Teaching by a part-time faculty member. Kelly is a 2020 alumni of the M.Ed. Educational Leadership – Higher Education program. Criteria for the award include a consistent record of (1) strong/distinguished teaching, (2) evidence of impact on student learning outcomes such as through innovative teaching techniques, student engagement, and creating a supportive learning environment, and (3) faculty support of the teaching mission of the unit through curricular development, mentoring, teaching-related service, student-supervision, etc. Kelly has a faculty appointment in the Department of Communication Studies and has taught an introductory graphic design course since Fall 2022.

How does it feel to be recognized with the award?

It’s an amazing feeling to be recognized by your colleagues and students for something that you truly enjoy. To be recognized for having an impact in such a short time teaching reinforces the fact that I was meant to be there. I am grateful to the Communication Studies department for giving me the opportunity to share my knowledge with students.

What has been the impact of the M.Ed. program in your career?

Dr. Ryan A. Miller, Associate Professor, inspired me during grad school. I distinctly remember a conversation when I told him I would start teaching. Dr. Miller told me I’d do a fantastic job, and he had no doubts about my skills. He believed in me, and that helped me to believe in myself. I teach my classes in the same manner as Dr. Miller by breaking course content up with in-class activities, a visually appealing slideshow, and lots of interaction and discussion. I have achieved great success in modeling my teaching style after Dr. Miller!

What recommendations do you have for someone considering collegiate teaching?

If an opportunity arises, take it. You can share your knowledge, learn new skills and make connections across campus. My colleagues in the Communication Studies Department have become my friends, and we collaborate on other projects to provide the best service to our students.

In my course, students leave in hand with an online portfolio to promote themselves and their skill sets. They can use this portfolio for the job search or any other endeavors. It is my goal to have them leave with something that they can use to showcase the work done in their classes throughout their college career.

What have you learned as an educational leader?

I meet students where they are. I provide the support they need, monitor their progress and tailor my instruction to help them through challenges. It’s rewarding to see that when I pull back the support and give them more independence, they soar. If you support them and challenge them to try new and different things, they gain confidence. We all want to have students who graduate with confidence and the ability to learn new things.

In addition to teaching, Kelly serves as the Director of Student Niner Media Advising & Support. She and her team provide advising and guidance to more than 225 students involved in five student media organizations. She’s been with the department for 20 years. Congratulations to Kelly!