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MU Professor Awarded 2012 Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence

April 10th, 2012

Story Contact: Nathan Hurst, 573-882-6217,

By Jerett Rion

COLUMBIA, Mo. – University of Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton and Commerce Bank Chairman Jim Schatz of Commerce Bank today awarded one of the 2012 William T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence to Joanna Hearne, an assistant professor in the department of English in the MU College of Arts and Science.

Deaton, Schatz and a group of professors, administrators and staff surprised Hearne by honoring her with the Fellowship, which includes a $10,000 check. Kemper Fellowships are awarded to five outstanding teachers at the University of Missouri each year.

The William T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence were established in 1991 with a $500,000 gift. Kemper, a 1926 MU graduate, was a well-known civic leader in Kansas City until his death in 1989. His 52-year career in banking included top positions at banks in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. Commerce Bank manages the trust fund.

Joanna Hearne

Joanna Hearne, an assistant professor in the Department of English in the College of Arts and Science, has been teaching undergraduate level courses in both English and film studies since 2004. Students and fellow professors praise Hearne, saying she is a passionate educator with a contagious excitement for her field.

Hearne considers her ultimate goal as an educator is to give students critical tools they can carry into future classes and into a lifelong participation with the world of thinking, reading, writing, viewing, and creating. Her ability to change her students’ perspectives of film through interactive conversations sets her apart. She asks questions to push past initial reactions, helping her students to develop critical thinking skills.

“Dr. Hearne possesses the rare ability to facilitate classroom discussion with unparalleled grace, managing to involve even the most unwilling class members,” Justin Shanitkvich, a former student, said. “Her enthusiasm is infectious and is supplemented by her superior comprehension of a wide beadth of topics.”

Hearne believes that the topics in her classes are important not only for a well-rounded education, but in order to be a well-rounded citizen of the community. She takes advantage of opportunities within the Columbia community, such as the True/False Film Festival, Ragtag Cinema, and Citizen Jane Film Festival, by bringing film artists and experts into her classroom and encouraging students to attend panels and discussions. Hearne has earned high praise from her colleagues.

“In every way, I have found her to be a model teacher and mentor,” said Nancy West, a professor in the Department of English and director of the MU Honors College. “Her energy is boundless and she has done so much for the film studies program at MU.”

“Those of us who work with her and learn from her should consider ourselves lucky,” Elizabeth Chang, an associate professor of English and a 2011 William T. Kemper Fellow, said of Hearne. “I can’t think of anyone who more deserves MU’s highest teaching recognition.”

Hearne received a bachelor’s degree in English with high honors at Oberlin College, a master’s degree in American studies and folklore at Utah State University and a doctoral degree in English at the University of Arizona.