UNC’s Hill wins Dave Adams Educator Award

By Karen Flowers

Monica Hill, director of the North Carolina Scholastic Media Association (NCSMA), will receive the Scholastic Journalism Division’s David Adams Journalism Educator of the Year Award during the SJD’s business meeting at the AEJMC convention in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 9.

Monica Hilla

Monica Hilla

Hill is a national leader in journalism education. She has contributed as either chair, board member, committee member or judge to the work of every national scholastic journalism organization.

“Colleagues from across the country seek Monica’s input and engagement for the unique attributes she brings to their organizations: level-headedness, an unflagging work ethic, Southern-style diplomacy, and an intimate knowledge of the issues facing journalism students and advisers,” said Peter Bobkowski, assistant professor at the University of Kansas William Allen White School of Journalism who worked as Hill’s graduate assistant at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2006.  “Monica may not say much during board and committee meetings but when she does speak, people listen.”

Bobkowski said Hill’s national contributions are secondary to the service she provides journalism students and advisers in North Carolina.

“Each fall, for instance, Monica crisscrosses her deceptively long state — from Murphy to Manteo, as the saying goes — to attend a network of six regional workshops,” Bobkowski said. “The volume of organizational detail that comes across her desk prior to these events is staggering. She simultaneously juggles six local organizers, scores of professionals who volunteer workshop sessions, arrangements for venues, parking, and catering, and hundreds of participant nametags.”

North Carolina boasts one of the more robust scholastic journalism programs in the country. Although the fall workshop season may be particularly intense, Hill steers a constant stream of activities throughout the year: individual and school contests, critiques, conferences, adviser classes, board meetings, and summer programs.

Bobkowski said Hill manages all these activities with “professionalism, composure and charm.”

Beth Fitts, director of the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association, has worked with Hill in Alabama and in North Carolina.

“Monica has led the way to ensure that advisers and students have a sound knowledge of the curriculum and content that will be needed in the classroom and in the publication room,” Fitts said. “Her diligence to stay up on new trends, to get instructors who are on the cutting edge, and to facilitate workshops and conventions that will make those under her care the best they can be is a skill unparalleled anywhere in scholastic journalism.”

In addition to praising Hill for her organizational and leadership skills, Fitts said Hill’s nurturing demeanor and friendliness impressed her.

“I first got to know Monica when she was director of the scholastic press association at the University of Alabama. As an instructor, I was impressed with Monica’s organization, her calm handling of every issue, and the friendliness to all attending.  Since I did not know anyone there, she made a special effort to connect me with others and to be sure I had someone to eat with, someone to visit with, and someone to help me with any problems.  I came back to Alabama many times after that.  Quite frankly, I came back often because of Monica.  Nowhere could you find a better organization to work with than ASPA. It was hand-sculpted by Monica Hill to be one of the top associations in the nation.”

Taking time for her advisers is another of Hill’s characteristics.  Training them to take the leadership roles happens at Hill’s workshops and summer camp — but also on the phone, by email, and often over a glass of tea.  She takes the time to know her advisers and offers them anything that will help make their days easier and their classes better.

“I have never met an adviser who was not devoted to her,” Fitts said. “That says a lot in scholastic journalism. She also helps others in their scholastic press organizations.  I cannot tell you how many times her advice has saved me endless hours of grief, and I am only one of the people she has helped.”

Helen Velk, journalism instructor at Ravenscroft School and president of NCSMAA, said as a new adviser eight years ago, she turned to Hill and NCSMA for support and guidance, and Hill was always “there for me with a smile and an answer.”

Velk echoed Fitts remarks about Hill caring for advisers: “Monica continuously recruits new board members and supports all of us in such an understanding fashion. She had a wonderful idea of inviting guest speakers to the board meetings so the advisers can learn new things while serving on the board — quite a nice bonus to a volunteer position and something that reinforces quality journalism instruction when the advisers head back to the classroom.”

Hill constantly seeks to raise the bar in scholastic journalism.  She knows how to adapt her program to all scholastic levels, to diverse groups, and to a variety of publications/productions. Her fine-tuning of each program or camp, her selection of instructors, and the topics she assigns are all designed to give the students cutting-edge knowledge in new trends, foundational basics, and interpersonal skills that will take them to the highest level and encourage them, perhaps, to make journalism a career.

Fitts and others praised Hill as a person of integrity: 

“Every decision she makes is thought out and sifted through the sieve of excellence.  She handles people, finances, and instruction with a spirit of competence, ethics, and caring.”

Hill is an innovative collaborator, taking advantage of unique opportunities to expand the educational options for journalism students in North Carolina and across the country. She has partnered with individuals inside the UNC-CH J-school and across North Carolina to launch three new initiatives: (1) the Chuck Stone Program for Diversity in Education and Media, established in 2007, brings together rising high school seniors for an intensive, all expenses-paid, one-week multimedia- training program;  (2) the North Carolina College Media Association, also formed in 2007, sponsors an annual conference and a slate of contests for college journalists and advisers in the state;  and (3) the Carolina Sports Journalism Camp, which debuted in 2012, provides aspiring high school sports journalists with week-long college-level training in sports writing and media production.


Bobkowski said while Hill serves as the organizational nerve center for these initiatives, she seems happy to take little credit for the late nights and weekends each of these initiatives require of her.

Brenda Gorsuch, newspaper and yearbook adviser at West Henderson High School, has worked with Hill since Hill came to the University of North Carolina to direct NCSMA.          “In my role as the director of the newspaper division for our summer institute, I have observed Monica’s organizational and leadership skills. Her efforts have resulted in summer programs that equip students and advisers to produce outstanding student publications and broadcasts. Thanks to her efforts, the broadcast division of our summer institute has developed into one of the best in the nation. Our yearbook and newspaper divisions were strong when Monica came to North Carolina, but she has worked tirelessly to make them even stronger.”

Bobkowski also wrote about Hill’s dedication to include students and advisers from all areas of the state and at all levels of the socioeconomic strata.

“One of the many things I admire about Monica is her sensitivity to the barriers that can prevent students — especially those from more remote, less socioeconomically advantaged schools — from accessing NCSMA programs, “ Bobkowski said. “During the recent and ongoing state and university budget cuts, she has been fiercely protective of the relatively low entry fees for regional workshops, individual contest entries, and the summer institute. Perhaps because of her roots in east-central Alabama, Monica has a special affinity for students and advisers who can’t benefit from the concentrated resources that are available in large urban centers or affluent school districts.”

Last November Hill helped Frank LeMonte from the Student Press Law Center plan a two-day conference, Hazelwood: A 25-year Retrospect of Student First Amendment Rights, in conjunction with the UNC-CH J-School and Law School. Over the past five years, she has worked on the board of directors of the National Scholastic Press Association to better position the organization to provide support to publication staffs across the nation, and the Columbia Scholastic Press Association recently honored her with is Gold Key award for outstanding service to scholastic journalism.

Napoleon B. Byars, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UNC-CH, praised Hill’s work with professionals in mass communications that although not specifically scholastic, become scholastic supporters.           He said Hill coordinated outside journalism competitions sponsored by the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, the Society of American Travel Writers, and the N.C. Tourism Travel Writing Contest.

Hill has a commitment to helping recruit students of diversity to pursue careers in journalism and mass communication. Each year she helps the Carolina Association of Black Journalists students plan and promote their minority workshop for high school students. Additionally, the success of the Chuck Stone Program for Diversity and Education in Media is due in large part to her hard work and dedication.

Byars said Hill arranges opportunities for faculty engagement at the high school journalism level and works tirelessly to provide continuing education opportunities for teachers.

“Monica does these things selflessly,” Byars said, “and out of respect for the critical role of journalism in the support of democracy. She wants us (journalism educators) to be full participants in passing the torch of responsible journalism to future generations.  I particularly appreciate Monica’s ability to provide open and candid counsel that is offered in the spirit of helping us all do the best job for students and other stakeholders in the community of journalism and mass communication.”

As John Hudnall, former director of the Kansas Scholastic Press Association, said, Hill is a known force within the Scholastic Journalism Division of AEJMC.

“A class act, from all perspectives, Monica Hill stands tall as a leader within our division,” Hudnall said. “She has an impressive understanding of research capabilities as well as effective and modern classroom techniques. She has a keen sense of humor and a natural sense of loyalty. “

Hill’s achievements represent the finest in the ideals of leadership and scholarship. She is an excellent adviser, administrator, and teacher, and she is totally committed to education and public service.
Professor Queenie A. Byars in the UNC-CH School of Journalism and director of the Chuck Stone Program, said, “Hill is a true role model and goodwill ambassador for AEJMC and embodies the spirit of the Journalism Educator-of-the Year Award.”

The David Adams Journalism Educator of the Year Award is given annually during AEJMC’s summer convention to recognize a deserving division member for his/her outstanding performance in the college/university classroom and in scholastic journalism workshops and conferences.

(Karen Flowers teaches journalism at University of South Carolina. She is director of the South Carolina Scholastic Press Association and the Southern Interscholastic Press Association.)

Tags: , ,

One Response to “UNC’s Hill wins Dave Adams Educator Award”

  1. NSPA Board Member Wins Dave Adams Educator Award | NSPA News & Notes Says:

    […] For more on Hill’s impressive contributions, visit the First Amendment Blog by clicking here. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: