The Board of Regents' Highest Honor
Two College of Communication professors recognized for outstanding teaching
In late August, The University of Texas System Board of Regents honored Journalism Professor Tracy Dahlby and Advertising and Public Relations Associate Professor Michael Mackert with Regents' Outstanding Teaching Awards. The Regents' highest honor, the system-wide faculty awards program is one of the largest and most competitive in the nation.
Since joining the School of Journalism in 2006, Dahlby – who holds the Frank A. Bennack, Jr. Chair in Journalism – has developed several courses.
In 2007, he created Reporting the World, a course that teaches students to think critically about how the news is created, analyze how ideologies, ownership and political power can shape it, and develop deep context on vital global issues.
In 2008, Dahlby created a Reporting China, a study abroad workshop that teaches students how to work a big, complex foreign beat. Students spend four weeks in China, reporting and producing stories for a dedicated news website, the most recent of which is China In Focus.
With the support of a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York's Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education, he created Reporting Texas – a digital media initiative that is now a capstone-style course in the School of Journalism's new digital-based curriculum. Reporting Texas shares content with local, state and national media.
"Teaching is so intrinsically rewarding that to be recognized in this way is something that's really doubly meaningful," Dahlby said. "It's a privilege to work in the UT community and learn from so many wonderful teaching colleagues."
Through his courses, Dahlby said he likes to remind students that education is a lifelong pursuit and journalism is one of the best vehicles for fostering continuous learning.
"It can introduce us to unforgettable people and mind-stretching ways of looking at and dealing with life," Dahlby said. "My goal is to help students develop the curiosity, methodology and confidence it takes to get out into the world and follow what really matters to them with gusto and at depth."
Dahlby spent 13 years living in Asia, where he served as Tokyo bureau chief for The Washington Post and Newsweek, and has covered events in Japan, China, Korea and Southeast Asia. In 1987, he became managing editor of Newsweek International in New York, where he helped direct and coordinate worldwide news coverage. As a regular contributor to National Geographic magazine between 1993 and 2002, Dahlby specialized in writing about Asia.
"Tracy Dahlby brings his years of experience as a field reporter to the classroom every single day," said Roderick Hart, dean of the College of Communication. "There is no wall between him and his students. He is a transparent about himself and his ideas. And his students notice."
Mackert teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations program. His current research focus is on health literacy, with a particular interest in the best ways to design health messages to reach low health-literate populations.
Mackert and his students have tested e-health interventions designed for low literate and low health literate audiences and addressed health literacy issues in direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising.
Other research interests include telemedicine implementations to provide healthcare services at a distance, the role of trust in communication and advertising and mass media/interpersonal impacts on healthy behaviors.
"It's a tremendous honor," Mackert said of receiving the award. "Teaching new classes and students every semester is one of the best parts of being a faculty member – every semester is a new adventure. It's exciting to be recognized in this way for something I work hard at every year."
Mackert has said he hopes to channel students' energy, teaching them to become strategic and critical thinkers.
"I challenge students to experiment with ideas, take risks and learn from their mistakes," Mackert said. "This often starts in the relative safety of the classroom but evolves to working with advertising agency partners on 'real world' problems. I want my students to know that I am there to support them through the learning process all semester, and it is a great reward to share in their success and pride when they finish by shining in front of professional clients."
"Mike Mackert has more energy than the Energizer Bunny," said Dean Hart. "He immerses himself in everything he does. At the end of his classes, Mike's students care about health communication as much as he does. His commitments are irresistible."
Laura Byerley, (512) 471-2182