Honoree

Michael R. Evans

AWARDS

Frederic Bachman Lieber Memorial Award (2006)
Indiana University Bloomington
School of Journalism
Fulbright Award (1998)
Fulbright IIE
Location: Canada
Indiana University Bloomington

BIOGRAPHY

When students write articles for Michael Evans' journalism classes, they're doing more than homework — they're starting their careers.

"Because learning is art, and because my students pursue this art in social, political, and economic contexts, I encourage all my students to write for publication," says Evans, who teaches his classes how to successfully pitch their articles to national magazines and newspapers. Evans developed a Freelance Writing Workshop three years ago in which he helps students generate story ideas, target magazines, develop winning proposals, and write articles.

Evans himself is an accomplished freelance writer who has been published in Parade, Family Circle, Sports Illustrated for Kids, and Seventeen, among other magazines. He previously acted as managing editor of Western Massachusetts Magazine; regional editor of Daily Hampshire Gazette in Massachusetts; publications editor for Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts; and was founder, writer, and editor of a syndicated newspaper column called Finders.

Underlying every course he teaches is Evans' philosophy that students are motivated by the reward of gaining knowledge and new skills. "The feedback I attach to a student's paper matters far more than the grade itself. I want students to think about the process, the substance, the art of their work — and understand that good grades are earned through expression and defense of points of view."

His passion for helping students hone their skills keeps Evans in constant motion, whether he's drafting new courses or improving on existing ones. In the his master's-level Ethnographic Reporting and Writing course, Evans asks students to explore a specific community and choose an article topic only after getting to know the culture and people of the community in depth. He also created a course called Ethnic Minority Media, which explores the ways minority media outlets practice journalism within mainstream culture, as well as a course that guides students through the creation of a magazine from scratch.

Currently, he is reshaping the journalism school's Introduction to Reporting, Writing, and Editing course, moving away from a "discuss it, then test it" model toward a system in which students write for each class, share their writing, and gather feedback.

"Michael is an innovative teacher," says Bonnie Brownlee, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the School of Journalism. "He is someone who really cares about engaging his students and helping them prepare for a future in the media."

In 2003, Evans worked with deans in the School of Journalism and Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology to create a joint master's degree that could prepare students for jobs with cultural organizations that require media skills, archival or historical work, or positions with some aspect of human education. He has chaired national panels on cultural sensitivity in the classroom and ethnography, and wrote a widely used magazine-editing textbook titled The Layers of Magazine Editing.

His awards include the Esther L. Kinsley Award for single most outstanding master's thesis at Indiana University (1997-98); a Fulbright Fellowship to study in eastern Canadian Arctic (1998-99); the Trustees Teaching Award; four IU Teaching Excellence Recognition Awards, three from the School of Journalism and one from the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology; and the School of Journalism's Gretchen Kemp award for teaching excellence.

Even more impressive than his own accomplishments is the way Evans connects with students. "He excels because of his belief in students' aspirations for learning," says Trevor Brown, professor emeritus and former dean of the School of Journalism. "While some colleagues may be discouraged by what they perceive as students' apathy and indifference, Evans is defiantly optimistic about the potential of each of his students. He is marvelously creative in engaging their interest and inspiring them to learn."

Evans' end-of-semester course evaluations always include the question "What would you most like to tell the department in order to help improve this course?" The most common answer among Michael Evans' students: "Nothing."