UA teacher honored

By Heather Beyer, Editor-in-Chief

Dr. Heather Walter of the School of Communication was recognized as Ohio Communication Association’s Distinguished Teacher Award recipient for 2013 on Friday. Walter was awarded at the annual conference that was held over the weekend in Marietta.

Present at the award ceremony were Walter’s family, colleagues and graduate students.DSC_0007-r

Rebecca Faessel, a first-year graduate student, was in attendance at the conference to present her paper.

“Seeing my professor receive such a distinguished award was incredible,” Faessel said. “It made me feel lucky, proud, and excited to have the opportunity to be her student and to have the experience of learning from her.”

Faessel said that moment reconfirmed the fact that being a student in School of Communication was the best opportunity she could have hoped for.

In a letter nominating Walter for the award, School Director Dr. Elizabeth Graham and Dr. Tang Tang, assistant professor and graduate coordinator in the School of Communcation, expressed why Walter was deserving of
the honor.


“Although Dr. Walter is well-liked by her students, she holds them to high standards,” said Tang and Graham in the letter. “While many instructors are capable of garnering
high evaluations for their teaching, it is difficult to accomplish this feat and simultaneously be recognized as a rigorous instructor with high standards and a robust grade distribution.”


Graham and Tang said “what separates Walter is that she is willing to spend the necessary time with students so that they can develop the expertise to reach these high standards.”

In an email interview following the conference, Tang described Walter as a willing mentor.

“I personally know of more than a few students who would be less educated, effective and happy without Dr. Walter’s assistance and good counsel,” Tang said. “She can handle difficult situations, and help students in finding their career niche.”

Tang said that Walter is a “role model, particularly for female students.”


Walter has been a professor at UA since 1999 when she began teaching as an assistant professor and later became an associate professor in 2005.

“Over time I’ve grown as much from my students as they have from contact with me,” Walter said. “The study of how people communicate and interact is still exciting to me and I love to see the eyes of my students as they are ignited with the interest in
this topic.”

However, the greatest award that she took away from the conference “was seeing the accomplishments of her students,” Walter said.

“To be at a conference like OCA and to have alumni that are emerging experts in the field, to know that are respected for their contributions and that they were impacted by my words and classroom, those are the most rewarding moments of my job,” Walter said.

It should be noted that Walter was not the only representative from the university who received recognition for their work. Graduate students Scott Chappuis and Sarah Conner won the Top Graduate Student Paper at the conference over the weekend.

In a paper entitled, “Digitally Impaired Driving: Understanding the Predictors of Mobile-Multitasking While Driving,” Chappuis and Connor conducted a study that examined some of the predictors behind mobile multitasking (texting, talking on the phone, and mobile app use) while driving.

When asked what thoughts ran through his mind the moment he learned and his peer won Top Graduate Student Paper, Chappuis said he was shocked.

“I was excited to work with Sarah and this study was something that we were both passionate about,” Chappuis said. “We put in a lot of work into this study and we were both excited with the product that resulted. I knew that we had a strong paper; however, I never would have imagined that we would receive recognition like this.”

Conner was unable to attend the conference and learned the good news after receiving a phone call from Chappuis.

“When I contacted her on Friday evening, she was ecstatic,” Chappuis said. “We simply did this study because we had a passion for it. We never dreamed that we would receive this honor.”

Chappuis said that he and Conner thought that this work had some very important results and industry implications.

“This recognition also showed me that the OCA appreciated the time, effort, and passion that both Sarah and I poured into this study,” Chappuis said. “Regardless of who wins awards at conferences, I love it when I see a conference that places such emphasis on student scholarship. I think that opportunities like this enable students to strive to become better scholars in their fields.”

Tang said she was very proud of Chappuis and Conner. The paper was their final project for her class in Quantitative Methods in Communication.

“Quantitative Methods is a very difficult class,” Tang said. “Students, including Scott and Sarah, worked extremely hard in the class. I am happy to see them develop interest in communication research, and conduct studies that will impact our field/society.”

Graham said in an email interview following the conference that she was “pleased and proud of [Dr. Walter] and she is an asset to the school and university. I am glad she is on our faculty. Our grad students (Sarah and Scott) are talented and on their way to establishing themselves has scholars, and I look forward to watching them grow and develop as professionals in the field of communication.”