MU English and film studies teacher receives final Kemper Fellowship award

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 | 9:58 p.m. CDT; updated 12:26 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 11, 2012

COLUMBIA — MU Assistant Professor Joanna Hearne was teaching a graduate seminar of three students Tuesday morning, when suddenly there were more than 10 people in the room. 

A group including Chancellor Brady Deaton and Hearne's husband had shown up to surprise Hearne with a Kemper Fellowship.


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"It was very moving," she said. "I burst into tears."

Hearne is the fifth and final recipient of the 2012 William T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence.

Each year the award and a $10,000 check is presented to five MU educators.  The family of William T. Kemper, a 1926 MU graduate and Kansas City civic leader, established the fellowships in 1991 with a $500,000 gift.

Hearne said she was sick over the weekend and was not sure she would be able to teach her classes this week. But she was prescribed antibiotics and was well enough to teach Tuesday morning. 

"I'm certainly glad that I was able to come to class today," Hearne said.

Hearne primarily teaches film studies courses for the English department and the new bachelor's program in film studies. She has been teaching in the MU department of English since 2004.

"What I like to do is get students involved in the community," she said. "Film is a bridge."

Hearne said that as a society surrounded by screens, media literacy is crucial. She said she tries to get her students to study rigorously in the classroom, but also to get them learning out of the classroom. 

During a class on animation, Hearne's students worked with elementary school students in the gifted education program at Field School to make a 3 minute stop animation film called "Ghost Trap."

In some of her classes her students have toured the Ragtag projector room and volunteered at True/False Film Fest for credit. She also tries to bring directors into her classrooms.

"Immersion in the professional film world is important," she said.

But in addition to immersion, Hearne also values discussion and critical thinking. She said one of her favorite things about teaching is the discussions, when the students are engaged and the material becomes their own.

"When that happens, it's magic," she said.

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

The other recipients of the 2012 award are Stephen Ball, Paul Crabb, Carol Deakyne and Ines Segert.

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