Props for profs fly under students’ radar

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • September 25, 2014

At issue: Professors recognized for an array of achievements.

Our take: Let’s not waste this opportunity.

Emerson students are busy—walking through the Boston campus, it’s hard to not find a student juggling a to-do list of footage to edit, interviews to schedule, screenplays to finish, and internship applications to submit. But this dedication to passion projects means courses frequently take a back seat. And too often, students miss out on important chances to build relationships with Emerson’s bevy of notable professors with significant accomplishments.

It’s a shame that we pass up these opportunities to connect with award-winning professors and experienced industry professionals, because they’re right at our fingertips. Benoit Denizet-Lewis, a writing, literature, and publishing professor, just finished production on James Franco’s highly-anticipated film Michael, which is based on Denizet-Lewis’ New York Times Magazine piece “My Ex-Gay Friend.” In the same department, Megan Marshall won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for the biography Margaret Fuller: A New American Life.

The communication studies department has also had recent standout professorial achievements. Richard West was the 2013 recipient of the college’s Norman and Irma Mann Stearns Distinguished Faculty Award, which presents a $3,000 stipend to a faculty member in recognition of a creative or academic accomplishment. And this year, he was awarded the National Communication Association's Bernard J. Brommel Award for Outstanding Scholarship or Distinguished Service in Family Communication. J. E. “Ted” Hollingworth, the longest-serving professor currently at Emerson, was celebrated last year for his 50 years at the college. The accomplishments and connections of these professors extends beyond the Emerson community: West has worked with communication experts around the country for his research, and Hollingworth also teaches a course at Harvard.

Emerson faculty members are not only recognized for their awards; they also have done things that are just plain fascinating. Visual and media arts professor Paul Turano is the creator of an interactive, multiplatform project called Wander, Wonder, Wilderness. Not only is it an engaging documentary about Turano’s relationship with nature, it will soon have a companion app that will allow users to provide their own introspections on various green spaces around Boston. From the journalism department, professor Catherine D’Ignazio helped run a hackathon at Massachusetts Institute of Technology that aimed to develop a more efficient and comfortable breast pump.

Our college boasts an impressive roster of professors with impressive credentials worth more than luring prospective students to enrolling at our school. Instead of treating our classes and their professors as annoyances that take away from extracurricular projects and goals we might rather be doing, we should embrace what's been right in front of us all along.