Mercer professor to recieve Jay R. Gould Award for Teaching Excellence in technical communication

Amanda Barrentine

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Mercer University Associate Professor of technical communication Dr. Pam Estes Brewer has recently been chosen for the Society for Technical Communication’s Jay R. Gould Award for Excellence in Teaching for 2014. When asked how she felt about receiving the award, she said, “I was dancing in the halls.”

The award honors the distinguished teaching career of Gould, who brought many students into the technical communication profession. The award is given to the teacher who proves that his or her excellence resides not only in the classroom, but also outside, even beyond the graduation of the student.

The award will be presented to Brewer at the annual Society for Technical Communication Summit, held in Phoenix, Ariz., from May 18-21.

Brewer is a recent addition to the School of Engineering, having joined the faculty last year. According to Dr. Helen Grady, chair of the Department of Technical Communication, “[Brewer’s] reputation for teaching excellence is well deserved.”

“This is a really significant award in our field—in technical communication—and teaching is at the heart of everything I do,” said Brewer. “I love to teach, and so an honor that says, ‘Hey you’re doing a great job at that’ means the world to me.”

When asked how she approaches teaching, Brewer said that she relies on a largely experiential style. She allows her students to perform the tasks of the classroom in “real and engaging contexts” and then reflect on and learn from those experiences. She has been a teacher for over two decades, and said that the switch from a college of arts and sciences to the engineering school has made her undergo a process of “bring[ing] together who I am as a teacher with who I am  within the school.”

Brewer is currently working on a book looking into the communication experiences of virtual teams. “Virtual teams,” Brewer said, “are teams, of course, so they have a lot in common with any other team.” They are teams who do most, if not all communication through the technological interface.

Technology, Brewer says, creates a screen. What Brewer is looking into are the research methods, tools and techniques that would help people be more effective in the international virtual teams.

One such method is metacommunication, or talking about communication expectations. Sometimes people, according to Brewer, don’t take the time to do that, and doing so online could be “a tremendously powerful tool.”

An example of this would be time turnaround. It would be wise to communicate if one person thought a good turnaround time was 24 hours, while another thought 48 hours was a good turnaround time.

When asked what she loved about teaching, Brewer said, “Almost always, the classroom is a pick-me-up for me. Going to the classroom, it’s a reminder of why I do what I do. It makes a difference, and I believe it does.”

 

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