Dr. Kalen Churcher
Challenging, interactive, intriguing.
These are three words Communications Professor Dr. Kalen Churcher uses to describe her classes. Even though Churcher’s classes are indeed challenging, driving students to strive for their best; interactive in which her classes are fun and stimulate a lot of participation; and intriguing—her classes are interesting and keep students wanting to take more, lots more.
She teaches everything from media literacy, media writing, media culture, stereotyping in the media and politics in the media to media theory, mass communications law, senior seminar, honors thesis and independent studies.
You counted correctly. Churcher has taught taught more than 10 classes over the four years she’s been at NU. As interesting as each of the classes are, there are by no stretch of the imagination easy. In fact, many students associate Churcher with “tough love” — She is a knowledge, helpful and very kind professor, but she pushes students to challenge themselves to the best of their ability.
“I really want my students to succeed, and sometimes that means challenging them to do things they don’t think they’re capable of. Students too often underestimate themselves. We all do that from time to time, and we all need that extra push, too.”
Before becoming a Purple Eagle, Churcher was a professor at Penn State and worked for a newspaper company in Wilkes Barre, PA, where she was a journalist for the court system. Even more interestingly, she had the opportunity to work as a journalist for a prison.
“I was a journalist at a newspaper in Wilkes Barre for about seven years, and for about three of the years I covered crimes in court,” said Churcher. “I covered trails, hearings or any sort of crimes that happened in the area.” However, when doing her ph.D., she did her dissertation on journalism in prisons. She spent two months studying inmate produced media at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, a maximum security men’s prison.
“I was not scared,” she said. “I interviewed about 25-30 prisoners. They either wrote for their magazine, or they were DJs on the radio station. They have a magazine in the prison and they have a cable television station. I studied how the inmates used administration used media to control prisoners and the prison population. It was an amazing experience.”
From journalism in court crimes to covering stories in prison to teaching at Niagara, it is safe to say Churcher has just about done it all. The Ithaca native was impressed by all NU had to offer.
“I really liked the idea there was a social justice department here,” said Churcher. “You get this whole idea about cultural studies, where you get classes like media culture and stereotyping. That’s unique for ungrad programs. It was a great opportunity for me to be able to combine journalism with studying and analyzing and critiquing the media.”
The great opportunities continue to arise. Thanks to her hard work at dedication, she also runs the CMS Review, the communication department’s newsletter; NU Beginnings, an introductory course for freshman; and has written numerous publications. All in all, she is a rising star.
Humorous, compassionate, smart. These are three words Churcher’s might use to describe her, and a few of the many reasons she was nominated as one of the most intriguing professors on campus.