Missouri School of Journalism’s Amy Simons wins Provost’s Award for University Citizenship

Amy Simons

By Austin Fitzgerald

COLUMBIA, Mo. (Mar. 20, 2024) — Professor Amy Simons at the Missouri School of Journalism has earned the Provost’s Faculty Mentoring Award, one of the university-wide Provost’s Awards for University Citizenship. The award comes with a $1,000 prize and recognizes Simons’ mentorship of faculty colleagues.

Amy Simons
Amy Simons

“Amy has provided generous and inspiring mentorship in all forms and has had a profound impact on many colleagues’ professional development,” said David Kurpius, dean of the School. “She has already established herself as a nationally acclaimed teacher, and as a faculty member, her support of her colleagues is also exemplary. She is most deserving of this prestigious award.”

In nearly 14 years at the School, Simons has developed a national reputation for excellence in teaching, both for online and in-person courses. She has won several local, national and international awards for her innovative and interactive approaches, including the Mizzou Online Excellence in Teaching Award, the MU Connect Champion Award, and regional and national awards for Excellence in Education from the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).

As the course coordinator for J1400: Applied Projects for Journalism and Strategic Communication, she shares with students the experience she gathered over 15 years in journalism as an editor, producer and reporter. Her combined experience in journalism and education lends itself to trainings she has conducted for public school districts, the Agriculture Communicators Network, Missouri Online and other organizations, in which she instructs communicators on how to incorporate AI and other digital tools into their work.

It’s no surprise, then, that she is being honored for mentorship — a task that she regards as an essential part of teaching.

“Mentorship is one of the natural, organic parts of being a teacher and colleague at a university,” Simons said. “It’s informal teaching — helping someone inch closer to a goal they might have and talking through the problem. Helping people see where they have room to grow and thinking through a path forward to make that happen.”

Mentorship is one of the natural, organic parts of being a teacher and colleague at a university. It’s informal teaching — helping someone inch closer to a goal they might have and talking through the problem.

Amy Simons

In particular, the Provost’s Award recognizes Simons’ mentorship of faculty at the university, and there is no shortage of faculty who can attest to the value of that mentorship firsthand. Many expressed their support in nomination letters on Simons’ behalf:

“From guidance on teaching online during the pandemic to support through reappointment and promotion to a laugh to break up our stressful days, Amy is there through it all,” wrote Assistant Professor Kathryn Lucchesi.

Vera Elwood, the Journalism Library’s head librarian, added that Simons’ support goes deeper than kind gestures.

“Amy not only listens, but she also goes out of her way to find a big picture answer,” Elwood wrote. “She earned the nickname ‘Solutions Simons’ because she always finds solutions while thinking through the overall impacts and values of the university. …Amy treats every issue with equal importance and is ready to offer a listening ear and sage advice.”

Katy Mersmann
Katy Mersmann, an alumna of the Missouri School of Journalism, is a social media specialist at NASA.

Of course, Simons’ mentorship is not confined to her junior colleagues. Katy Mersmann, BJ ’15, MA ’16, a social media specialist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, benefited from Simons’ support — first as an undergraduate, and then as a graduate teaching assistant.

“Amy is quick to show students how to interact with peers by treating them as peers,” said Mersmann, who was profiled in 2022 when Goddard released the first spectacular images from the James Webb Space Telescope. “Her belief in students is so firm, so unshakeable, that it can sort of trick you into believing in yourself.”

When Mersmann moved on to the work force, Simons was still available to help her think through new situations, such as how to transition from a fellowship position at NASA to a full-time job.

“Having been in the industry, Amy can offer insight that I can’t get anywhere else,” Mersmann added. “She was always an advocate for me and other students at the School, and even now she is there to back me up and give me her thoughts.”

Simons said students like Mersmann and accomplished colleagues throughout the university provide her with a mutually beneficial, cross-generational exchange of knowledge that helps expose her to different perspectives. With or without an award, she finds the process rewarding.

“Mentorship is not something that is just top down,” Simons said. “It’s an up, down and sideways sort of thing. I’m looking to them to learn something different from what they are getting from me.”

Updated: March 20, 2024

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