Inspiring Ideas: College of Communication and Information

Innovative teaching. Encouraging demeanor. A passion for the subject. Contagious enthusiasm. All of these traits help inspire students to great ideas. Here are two faculty members from the College of Communication and Information whose teaching, research, and community service are both inspired and inspiring.

Dwight Teeter Jr.

Dwight TeeterWhen Dwight Teeter was a cub reporter in Waterloo, Iowa, back in the late 1950s, he was threatened with a libel suit.

His newspaper arranged for him to talk to a lawyer, but the lawyer admitted he didn’t know much about libel law. He asked Teeter, who hadn’t been out of college long at that point, if he knew of a good textbook they could consult.

“I realized that I hadn’t had a good book on communication law during my undergraduate days at Berkeley. So I thought, Maybe I’ll write one,” he said.

A couple of newspaper jobs and a PR job later, Teeter found himself at the University of Wisconsin, working on his doctorate. It was there that his mentor, the late Professor Harold L. Nelson, asked him to co-author a book called Law of Mass Communications.  That book is now its thirteenth edition.

“Dwight is an outstanding teacher and a highly published, internationally known expert in the area of mass communication law and history,” said Mike Wirth, dean of the College of Communication and Information.

Teeter came to UT in 1991 as dean of the college. He served in that position until 2002 and then returned to the faculty to teach mass communication law and history.

Although journalism students often think communications law is a tough subject, Teeter said he stresses that it’s built on simple rules, like “don’t invade privacy” and “don’t steal copyrighted material.”

Teeter said his Wisconsin mentor, Nelson, was his greatest inspiration.

“In the summer of 1954, Harold Nelson had been hired to teach journalism and advise the student paper at a Texas university,” Teeter recalled. “This was soon after the US Supreme Court had ruled in Brown v. Board of Education, desegregating public schools. A student reporter learned about a box of folders in Admissions marked ‘Negro: Do Not Admit.’ The student asked, ‘Should we publish this story?’  Nelson said yes, knowing that it might land him in hot water with the administration.”

Teeter said Nelson lost his job in Texas but was soon hired by the University of California at Berkeley—where he and Teeter first met—and later by the University of Wisconsin, where they met up again.

“It just goes to show,” Teeter said.  “If you do what is right, things usually work out.”

Peiling Wang

Peiling Wang loves a good challenge. That explains her penchant for ice skating, skiing, and surfing.

She recalls being one of the two novices in an in-line skating class. The instructor proceeded as if everyone knew what they were doing. Wang fell multiple times and had to seek medical care.

Wang said the experience taught her a lot about learning—and teaching.

An information science professor who primarily teaches graduate classes, Wang said her students arrive with varying backgrounds. Some are new to the field; some have extensive work experience.

“I believe in a learner-centered approach, so I see my role as creating a supportive environment for my students to learn and personalize professional growth,” she said.

Wirth said Wang “has distinguished herself as an outstanding teacher and first-rate scholar. She is an internationally known expert in web information retrieval, data mining,  knowledge discovery, and human-computer interaction.”

Wang has devoted herself to developing the School of Information’s new ePortfolio requirement for graduate students. An alternative to a thesis or exam, it requires students to set goals, collect evidence of learning, and reflect on learning outcomes and professional growth—and then document their learning and competencies in a web e-Portfolio.

Wang also worked with the Provost’s office to analyze academic data to develop utrack, a monitoring system that will help students stay on track to graduation.

Wang surfingWang said her gusto for life and learning—and getting back up after being down—was born out of a difficult youth in China. Because of the Cultural Revolution, her formal education was interrupted when she was a sixth grader and she was sent to a collective farm to work for eight years. She later went to a university and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, a field that was chosen for her. After earning a master’s degree in information science—the field she loves—she came to America in the late 1980s to pursue her doctorate at the University of Maryland.

“Despite all the difficulties, I have never been happier than I am now,” Wang said in a speech she was asked to give at her commencement ceremony in Maryland. “I cannot find the words to express my appreciation to this great country, where I have the opportunity to hope and to strive for the best I can be…. In my homeland, there is a saying. Translated into English, it means ‘One should never forget her teachers.’”

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, ablakely@utk.edu)

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