Jessica Reeher, chair of the communication studies department, recently earned the 2019 SUNY Oswego President’s Award for Teaching Excellence. Her nomination earned support from current and former students remarking on the lasting impact she has had on them as a teacher, advisor and role model.

A faculty member since 2003, Reeher will receive her award at a ceremony during the Fall 2019 Academic Affairs Retreat.

Reeher has taught many courses in the communication and social interaction major, including those she developed from scratch; guided thousands of students in 10 years as her department's advisement coordinator; served as a mentor for new faculty; and is a past recipient of the President's Award for Excellence in Student Advisement.

"I genuinely believe that Professor Reeher's impact, both in and out of the classroom, informed not only my abilities to perform at a graduate level, but my desire to do so, as well," wrote Rachael Bishop, a 2018 recipient of the Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence and now a graduate student and teacher in communication arts and sciences at Penn State. "I find myself revisiting some of the material that she first exposed me to in her course, as I lesson plan and share my knowledge with my own students."

Passion, enthusiasm

Several students remarked on the space Reeher creates for discussion of at-times difficult topics in her classroom. One of those students, Alexis Bruening, took an upper-level course Reeher developed, "Diversity and Identity in Communication," as a sophomore last spring.

"This class … served as much more than a college class for me, personally," Bruening wrote in her letter of recommendation for Reeher's award. "The content, teaching students to become more aware, socially conscious, inclusive and, more importantly, focusing on the betterment of the student individually in order to help those in the communities they serve."

Senior broadcasting and mass communication major Asha Bey, who took Reeher's "Message Criticism" upper-level class, said Reeher "exemplified passion, intellectualism and enthusiasm for her career and students."

"We maintained a relationship so strong towards the end of the semester (it) convinced me to change her to my official academic advisor," Bey wrote. "Thanks to Professor Reeher's impeccable advisement and support, I landed my first broadcasting internship, where I received three credits."

Reeher challenges students and inspires rigorous effort, said Marissa Ohl, a senior communication and social interaction major, who wrote about her growth as a student -- "my writing has improved tremendously" -- in the four courses she has taken with Reeher.

"Professor Reeher will only give you the grade you deserve; she truly pushes me to think outside of the box and put a lot of thought into my work," Ohl wrote. "If I don't receive a good grade from Professor Reeher, it's because I did not deserve a good grade. With that being said, Professor Reeher is always available to meet with her students and discuss a grade and offer opportunities to raise those grades …"

Applied learning

Theresa Personna, a candidate for graduation in May, said Reeher has impressed her since her freshman year course in "Foundations of Communication" -- a class in which Personna is now Reeher's teaching assistant. "She applied all our teachings back to our everyday lives, and showed that what we are learning matters," wrote Personna. "Reeher made me feel validated that picking a communication-based major was the right one."

She also noted: "I can say now, in my final semester of my undergraduate college career, that Jessica Reeher has made me a better person. Her classes and mentoring have made me feel comfortable in myself and my drive, and I would love for anyone to feel the same positive influence."

Communication studies faculty member Jenny Rosenberg nominated Reeher for the award, and credits her "mentorship abilities that foster pedagogical excellence in others."

"On more than one occasion, I directly benefited from Prof. Reeher's knowledge, kindness and generosity, as she willingly shared her expertise and resources when I was a brand new faculty member at SUNY Oswego four years ago (and continues to do so today)," wrote Rosenberg.

Reeher also received strong support from two former communication studies department chairs, Mary Toale, now executive assistant to college President Deborah F. Stanley, and Jennifer Knapp, associate dean of the School of Communication, Media and the Arts.

Knapp noted that Reeher was chosen to develop a course -- titled "Winter Is Coming, Bringing Even Stranger Things: Narrative in Popular Television" -- for college Provost Scott Furlong's Signature Course initiative. "Her course … is a great example of her ability to teach a foundational rhetorical paradigm (narrative) through popular culture. Her students never consume pop culture offerings the same way after her courses, and they keep going back for more," Knapp wrote.

Reeher's honor is among the campus-based president's and provost's awards that recognize a range of outstanding faculty and staff. Stories on all of the honorees will appear in the coming weeks.

Jessica Reeher honored for outstanding teaching

Jessica Reeher receives congratulations from President Deborah F. Stanley.