Meet Mary Spillman, an Associate Professor for the School of Journalism and Strategic Communication. She is also the Coordinator of the News concentration and Chair of the Assessment Committee. Her work has been published in the Newspaper Research Journal, Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, Visual Communication Quarterly, and Journal of Media Education. In this faculty spotlight, Spillman shares her success and the success of her students.


Could you share the personal journey that led you to become a faculty member?

As a young college graduate, I never imagined that my professional journalism career would take me where it did. From broadcast news reporting to public radio as News and Program Director, to work as a writer and broadcast editor for the Associated Press, and to a position of Managing Editor of a news website when web news was in its infancy, I’ve kept myself busy. But interwoven among these wonderful opportunities was teaching at four central Indiana universities, including Ball State. The combined professional and academic experiences led me to make a full transition to academia. Ultimately, I achieved tenure in the School of Journalism and Strategic Communication at Ball State.

What is your teaching philosophy?

My goal is to create lifelong learners who think analytically, love storytelling, and can apply these skills across many delivery platforms. Above all, I strive to mentor students through their professional journeys. Learning takes place in many formats – from the traditional classroom to project-based immersive experiences working with community partners, but the overarching purpose remains the same: student success.

How do you get students excited about learning?

Professors generate excitement about their subject matter by being enthusiastic about the course material, making certain topics current, and meeting the students where they are in the learning process. First-year students may simply need encouragement and reassurance that they can succeed. Then, Fourth-year students may need to be challenged to work to their full potential. Making personal connections and remaining flexible is key.

Any personal stories you’d like to share from your classes?

It’s no secret that I love journalism. Therefore, I share that love with students by occasionally weaving my own reporting experiences into lectures. One of the best parts of reporting is the variety. For example, one day you may be in a news conference with a future U.S. president, and another day you are writing a feature on a professional knitting champion and covering a local government meeting. Or, in times of national tragedy, you are localizing stories such as the Gulf War or Sept. 11. Meanwhile, you also may be working on a long-term investigation into literacy in K-12 schools. It has been my privilege to tell all these stories and I hope my experiences inspire young journalists to make a difference through their work and to love the profession as much as I do.

Could you give us the top three projects you have worked on?

Group photo of the international students from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines who came to Ball State with the SUSI program to learn multimedia journalism. The photo was taken in 2012 at Second Harvest Food Bank in Muncie where the group also volunteered once a week. Mary is on the left in the Ball Bearings T-shirt.

I was a principal investigator on grants from the U.S. State Department totaling nearly $750,000 that brought international students to Ball State. They came from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines to learn multimedia journalism. The SUSI programs took place on campus during the summers of 2011, 2012, and 2013. They even included trips around the Midwest and to New York and Washington, D.C. It was truly rewarding to work with faculty colleagues and these wonderful students. We made connections that lasted far beyond the students’ stay in the U.S.

I have worked on several well-received projects in research. Yet, the development of the Convergence Continuum with two former Ball State colleagues is a highlight. The widely cited model helped professionals and academics understand newsroom collaboration and cross-media partnerships between newspapers and television stations.

In addition, I was also the Director of the Emerging Media Journalism Certificate. This was a national online learning project developed in connection with The New York Times. The curriculum was based on the joint News program between the Department of Journalism and the Department of Media.

What has been the proudest moment in your career so far?

I am most thankful that I have been able to work in a variety of journalism and delivery systems. From radio, television, wire service, web, to new platforms like social media.

Have you won any awards for your work?

Mary with Professors Adam Kuban (Journalism) and Suzy Smith (Media) after receiving the 2015 1st Place Research Paper in the Curriculum, Assessment & Administration Division at BEA in Las Vegas in April 2015.

At the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), along with co-authors, I have won 1st Place Research Paper in the News Division in 2020, 2013, 2009, and 2005, and in the Curriculum, Assessment & Administration Division in 2015.

At the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), my colleagues and I have earned the Top Faculty Paper in the Newspaper Division in 2007 and in the Visual Communication Division in 2012. Also, at AEJMC, I was a National Finalist for the 2011 Scripps Howard Foundation Journalism & Mass Communication Teacher of the Year Award.
From the College of Communication Information and Media (CCIM), I have received the 2021 Extraordinary Service Award, the 2010 Dean’s Faculty Award, and the 2008 Core Competency Award — Outstanding Teaching.

Can you share one thing that people don’t typically know about you?

I love musical theater and am an avid reader. I have seen many musicals and plays on Broadway in New York and often finish lengthy novels within a day or two of purchasing.

What are you most proud of as a faculty member of Ball State?

Honestly, I don’t know if I can point to just one experience or event during my time at Ball State. I am grateful for supportive colleagues and outstanding students with whom I have had the opportunity to interact.

Are you involved in any student organizations at Ball State?

I am not currently involved with any student organizations, but in the past was the advisor to Ball Bearings, Kappa Tau Alpha (KTA), and Alpha Epsilon Rho (AERHO).

What do you think is most important about Ball State?

Ball State’s caring faculty make a real difference. Ball State is a welcoming, student-centered environment where students can reach their full potential through an innovative curriculum and high-impact projects.

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