Students vote instructor ‘Professor of the Year’

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Mark Hammontree

Twenty years after Chris Roberts graduated from The University of Alabama with a degree in journalism, he returned to his alma mater to teach in the familiar lecture halls and classrooms of Reese Phifer Hall. Now, Roberts’s dedication to his field and his students has paid off.

“The first class I taught here was the first class I took here, and it was the same room,” Roberts, an assistant professor in the department of journalism, said. “It’s weird, but the idea of coming back is very nice. And it worked.”

Last semester, the College of Communication and Information Sciences Ambassadors let students vote for Professor of the Year.

“Dr. Roberts won by a landslide,” Hannah Fowler, president of the C&IS Ambassadors, said.

Roberts finished his undergraduate degree at the University in 1987 and remained in Tuscaloosa until he earned his master’s degree in 1990. After working as a reporter and editor at The Birmingham News and The State, a newspaper in Columbia, S.C., Roberts joined the faculty at the University of South Carolina in 2006 where he received his Ph.D.

“I was at South Carolina as a professor from ’06 to ’08 when ‘momma called,’ so I’ve been back here since ’08,” Roberts said.

Roberts has specialized in teaching and researching media ethics and co-wrote the textbook, “Doing Ethics in Media: Theories and Practical Applications,” which is used in his ethics courses. The co-author of the book, Jay Black, was the department head of UA when Roberts was a journalism student, and the proceeds of the book go to the University’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

The course that Roberts says he is best known for is his introduction to mass communications course, which looks at the laws, regulations and ethics of mass media and how it influences people.

“It’s an overview class, but it became a social-behavioral offering along with psychology and sociology and all those other things. So, we’re beginning to pick up interest from people who were not communication majors or minors,” Roberts said. “It’s a great class because we all know mass media. Ever since your momma put you in front of a TV when you were nine months old because she was sick of you crying, we’ve been living mass media. The goal here is to try to do the class in a more comprehensive way and to understand why things are the way they are and how you can control your mass media usage instead of letting it use you.”

Roberts said the mass communications class is probably what resulted in him being voted Professor of the Year.

“I’m grateful to the students because it was a student-voted award,” Roberts said.

Fowler said Roberts will be the inaugural recipient of what she hopes will grow into a popular and sustained honor. Students were able to cast votes at the tables the ambassador team mans every Tuesday.

“The ambassadors have ‘Tuesday Tables’ every Tuesday, and we had ballots for students to fill out where they could just write down their favorite professor of the semester and then the class,” Fowler said.

Roberts will receive a certificate for his honor, but Fowler said the ambassadors hope to institute a prize of some sort in the future.

“We want to eventually have something where a student will be your assistant for the day or half a day or something like that. We’re still working out the kinks,” Fowler said. “We just first wanted to see if students would vote – how many votes we could get. We want to make it grow.”