Faculty, staff honored at ElonComm awards ceremony

During its annual awards celebration, hosted April 20 in Turner Theatre, the School of Communications acknowledged the outstanding contributions of several faculty and staff members, and bid farewell to Glenn Scott and Jeff James.

As part of its end-of-the-year awards ceremony, the School of Communications celebrated several faculty and staff for their outstanding contributions during the past academic year. This year’s event, held April 20 in Turner Theatre, was highlighted by the inaugural presentation of the school’s Excellence in Diversity Award, as well as heartfelt farewells shared with retiring colleagues Glenn Scott and Jeff James.

Kenn Gaither, interim dean of the School of Communications, presented the following awards at the conclusion of the 90-minute ceremony. “Today, we recognize our faculty and staff members who are all outstanding. But each year there are those who rise a bit above,” Gaither said in his introduction.

Photos are available on the school’s Flickr page.

Excellence in Leadership Award
Kelly Furnas

The award recognizes a member of the School of Communications who richly contributes to the betterment and reputation of the school and the discipline.

Furnas smiles while Gaither offers remarks during the awards ceremony.

In his introduction, Gaither commended Furnas’ work in scholastic journalism that has elevated Elon and left an indelible mark on countless aspiring journalists.

“Kelly is a leader in and out of the classroom,” Gaither said. “He is a highly regarded and well-liked colleague, and in the classroom he has few peers.”

Students consistently rate Furnas on teaching evaluations among the highest in the school. And his impact is felt in numerous places, teaching Media Writing, Multimedia Journalism, Editing and Design, Web and Mobile Communications or one of his many other courses.

According to Gaither, colleagues rave about Furnas’ ability to help students “chart their own course but (he) helps them remain on track.” Another colleague called Furnas the “personification of what a leader should be.”

In recent years, Furnas has partnered with Instructor in Journalism Colin Donohue to successfully launch the school’s Emerging Journalists Program, an immersive experience for high school students interested in journalism. He also serves as an adviser for Elon’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and faculty mentor of Elon News Network. Under Kelly’s leadership and mentorship, ENN won 58 statewide, regional and national awards in 2022.

Additionally, Furnas’ list of service is significant. He is treasurer of the national Student Press Law Center and serves as global engagement director for the Journalism Education Association. He judges competitions and teaches and presents at conferences across the state and elsewhere. In fact, he is director of contests for JEA China.

“Kelly Furnas is the consummate professional and ultimate teacher-scholar-mentor,” Gaither said. “He leads with exemplary work ethic, raw talent, and an unwavering commitment to our students and his profession. Everything he touches and does is marked by quality.”

Excellence in Scholarship Award
Jenny Jiang

This award recognizes a faculty member whose scholarly and creative work is of high quality and brings distinction to Elon.

Jiang looks on as Gaither highlights her recent scholarship work.

Gaither marveled at Jiang’s strong record as a teacher, noting her creativity and accessibility, and added that she is a “prolific researcher.”

In 2022, she published three first-author, peer-reviewed articles in leading journals, had two presentations at the AEJMC annual conference, and won a top paper award. She also served as editor for the special issues of Frontiers in Research Metrics and Analytics, and Frontiers in Communication, while also serving as an associate editor for the Journal of Contemporary East Asia.

In collaboration with Associate Professor Brian Walsh, she received a grant from Elon for an open educational resource textbook titled, “Media Analytics with R.” The book introduces communication students to R, a free software package for statistical computing and graphics. The book is nearing completion.

“Her bleeding-edge work is firmly positioned in the seemingly boundless universe of communications in the digital age, and of note is her collaborative spirit,” Gaither said. “In addition to working with colleagues and other researchers across the globe to build disciplinary knowledge, she works with our students.”

Jiang collaborated with Ashleigh Afromsky ’22 and Professor Qian Xu to examine the job descriptions of nearly 35,000 positions related to media analytics following the COVID-19 pandemic. Their findings were published in the March edition of Journalism & Mass Communication Educator.

“Jenny Jiang’s work has impact and represents high quality by any measure,” Gaither said. “Her scholarly visibility and prominence advance Elon and our students in meaningful ways, and she is a most deserving winner of the 2023 Award for Excellence in Scholarship.”

Excellence in Teaching Award
David Bockino

The award recognizes a faculty member who is outstanding in the classroom, current in the discipline, a quality academic adviser, and committed to student learning at the highest level.

Gaither spoke at length highlighting Bockino’s many contributions as director of the Communications Fellows program.

In his introduction, Gaither commended Bockino’s contributions as both an associate professor in the Sport Management Department, as well as director of the Communications Fellows program, which has enjoyed continual growth and success.

“Looking at David Bockino through the lens, we see a gifted teacher who brings his professional experience into the classroom and continually challenges students in innovative ways,” the dean said.

Gaither said he admires Bockino’s “tireless work ethic,” noting that he planned four separate Communications Fellows trips during the 2021-22 academic year. This included two trips to Florida, as well as excursions to Atlanta and Washington, D.C. “Planning one experience – let alone several – is a tremendous undertaking,” Gaither said. “Yet, Dave did it with aplomb and wanted to ensure all our Fellows, including those affected by COVID, had an experience. This drive and motivation for our students is also embedded in his teaching.”

As a teacher, Bockino has been lauded for his versatility. In the past year alone, he has taught in the Communications Core, Media Analytics program, and Sport Management Department. During Winter Term, he also led 19 students to Argentina and Uruguay for his Through the Lens of ESPN course.

According to Gaither, colleagues celebrate Bockino’s ability to teach introductory courses and upper-level courses effectively, challenging students with rigorous coursework, all while showing empathy for them when they need his help.

Excellence in Diversity Award
Karen Lindsey

The award recognizes a faculty member who provides exceptional leadership in diversity, equity and inclusion and enhances DEI initiatives across the school through action-oriented outcomes.

Since joining the School of Communications in fall 2021, Lindsey has been a visible and active member of the campus community.

In his remarks, Gaither commended the school for its DEI work, but charged that “we must continue to do more.” With that in mind, he applauded Lindsey’s continued commitment to DEI work, noting that she frequently attends seminars on challenging and important topics such as race and racial equity and gender pronouns. She is a member of the university’s Advancing Equity Requirement, or AER, committee and was a co-architect of the school’s new COM 2000 Inclusive Communications course, where she focused on the course title, content and student learning outcomes.

Lindsey has been active on campus and is a highly sought after speaker for insights into leadership, public relations, corporate communications and DEI. She was a keynote speaker for the Isabella Cannon Leadership Fellows Forum, a featured speaker at the Elon 2022 Black Solidarity Forum, and at regional and national Public Relations Society of American functions.

Along with Professor Lee Bush, Lindsey recently secured a contract with the Routledge–Taylor & Francis Group for a book tentatively titled, “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Strategic Communications: Becoming Culturally Proficient Communicators.”

Lindsey is also a Leadership Education Scholar at Elon and renowned as a dynamic teacher. “Her classrooms are known for spirited discussions, where high academic standards meet high student engagement,” Gaither said.

Outstanding Staff Member Award
Happy Kerns

The award recognizes a staff member of the School of Communications who contributes to the betterment and reputation of the school and its initiatives.

Kerns has been a valuable member of the School of Communications for more than a decade.

Following the dean’s introduction of Happy Kerns, the Turner Theatre audience erupted in applause celebrating her immeasurable contributions to the school, faculty, staff and students.

Gaither called Kerns “simply indispensable to the School of Communications,” acknowledging that “she exemplifies what the spirit of our school is and ought to be.”

From handling payments to managing finances to organizing school events and activities, Kerns oversees numerous projects, tasks and responsibilities.

“You will not find a better colleague,” Gaither said. “You will not find a more respected professional at Elon. You will not find a better person to work with than Happy Kerns. She is a rock of stability and truly lives up to her nickname.”

Special Recognitions

At the conclusion of the awards ceremony, Gaither celebrated the upcoming retirements of Jeff James and Glenn Scott, two long-time fixtures of the School of Communications.

Dean’s Award for Exemplary Service
Jeff James

While James, the university’s chief engineer, is housed in Teaching and Learning Technologies, he lives in the School of Communications.

Always working behind the scenes, James has played a vital role in dozens of major events and countless classes. In addition to his duties with TLT, James supported for Athletics and maintained the video production facilities in the School of Communications.

In his 22 years at Elon, James has helped guide the tremendous growth in the School of Communications, overseeing changes in the school’s television studios and control rooms. He was recognized as Staff Member of the Year in 2017 and played a critical, behind-the-scenes role in the studios going to HD in 2011.

In addition, James served on the School of Communications’ Technology Committee for many years and has played a key role in the planning, renovation, and implementation of the control rooms and studios when McEwen was renovated and Schar Hall was built. He helped to develop the plans for the renovated television studios, including the addition of a second control room.

“Jeff’s tireless work on the back end made the front end look good,” Gaither said. “Whether conducting research, exploring new equipment and technical options, identifying needs, working with vendors, training student engineers and others on these new facilities, and ensuring that the new facilities were operational, James was instrumental in making Elon, well, Elon.”

Additionally, he has supervised numerous student staff who have “entered the industry armed with practical skills, technological acumen, the problem-solving mindset and Elon values Jeff espouses,” Gaither added.

Retirement Recognition
Glenn Scott

In his farewell to Scott, Gaither congratulated the professor for 19 years of exemplary service and for setting the “gold standard” for a teacher-scholar-mentor.

Gaither offered a heartfelt congratulations to Scott at the close of the awards ceremony, noting their two-plus decades of studying and working together.

At Elon, Scott used his two decades of experience as a reporter, editor and columnist to educate and instruct students in immeasurable ways. He served as faculty adviser to The Pendulum, spent two years as faculty-in-residence in Elon’s Global Neighborhood, coordinated the school’s involvement with the Pulitzer Center Campus Consortium, and taught courses ranging from Reporting for the Public Good to Sports Information to the Great Ideas senior seminar.

“I could spend another 30 minutes listing all the contributions Glenn has made to the school, our students, and the university,” Gaither said.

The dean added, “What I’ll miss most about Glenn is not his stellar professionalism or extraordinary talent. It’s his character. He is a throwback, not as a journalist but as a person. His integrity and comportment elevate those around him. He has served as a backbone for the school through his leadership, visibility and selfless commitment to our students.”