Center for Excellence Honoree: Rebecca AbbottRebecca Abbott, professor of communications, doesn't just teach her students the theoretical skills needed to succeed in today's rapidly changing media production industry; she arranges first-hand experience in real shoots to give them a leg up over the competition and prepare them for their careers.
Abbott, an Emmy award-winning editor and videographer, has been recognized for her efforts with the university's most prestigious academic honor, the Excellence in Teaching Award. She was honored at the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Service to Students Awards Ceremony on Oct. 14 in the Recreation Center on the Mount Carmel Campus.
"Becky is one of those professors you are lucky to have," said senior Caitlin Goldberg, who has taken several of Abbott's classes and is one of her advisees. "She's one of those people who mentors you and pushes you to be the best you could be. She wants you to be yourself and not give up on your dreams."
Goldberg said Abbott has become part of her life. "I feel like I could always go to her," Goldberg said. "She's very supportive of her students and their work."
Michele Moore, interim dean of the School of Communications, said Abbott continues to be actively engaged in the professional film industry. "Her students benefit from her drive both in the classroom and professionally," Moore said. "She engages her students in the classroom and really wants them to learn and grow."
However, Abbott's dedication to her students doesn't stop when class ends or when a shoot wraps. "She's very enthusiastic and highly supportive of her students," Moore said. "She's constantly moving and growing. We are so thrilled she was recognized for this much deserved honor."
Raymond Foery, professor of communications, has known Abbott since she was an undergraduate student in her late teens at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where he was teaching. "What makes her a great teacher is her genuine commitment to her students," Foery said. "It becomes infectious."
Foery still laughs when he recalls an assignment he gave Abbott years ago at Dartmouth.
"The assignment was to take your little Super 8 camera and do a self portrait," Foery said. "I asked if there were any questions. Of course, students asked: 'When is it due?' 'How long does it have to be?' 'What are you going to grade it on?' Then this young student named Becky raised her hand and said, 'Well, we are only 19-, 20-years-old, how are we supposed to make a self portrait if we don't know who we are?' And I thought that was such a profound question, a really good question for a student to ask. I really didn't have an answer to that. That was really the exercise."
Foery said he believes his student-turned-colleague is still questioning the world around her--and pushing her students to find new perspectives. "She's probably still asking that type of question: 'How does one do this if they don't know who they are, who they want to be and how they want to get here or there?' I think she relays that eternal sense of questioning to her students, which is very important," Foery said. "One of the things she really tries to do is help students figure out who they are."
Abbott said she is constantly evaluating how and what she is teaching. "It's wonderful when you can help your students to recognize how different approaches can enhance a scene," Abbott said. "It's that moment I actually feel a thrill and realize the impact of my work."
Abbott said she has always enjoyed teaching people and helping others, although she did not always know what she wanted to do with her life. Something clicked when she stepped out from behind the camera and walked into her first classroom as an instructor.
"Once I started teaching, I began to appreciate the excitement of sharing with someone else and the excitement of someone else wanting to take your ideas and use them. It's a fantastic feeling," Abbott said. "I always knew I wanted to do something that would help others feel good about their lives. It's very gratifying to have found something that I love so much."
In addition to Abbott, the following individuals were recognized at the awards dinner: Cherie Finoia, custodian; Jeffrey Meyer, professor of law; James Moniello, security officer; Tami Reilly, assistant athletic director for fitness and wellness; and Robert Smart, professor of English.