Meet the newest member of the CCIM team, Dr. Weiwu Zhang! Dr. Zhang is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Student Relations.
Could you share the personal journey that led you to higher education?
I enjoy doing research, creating new knowledge, and teaching to pass knowledge on to my students. I taught English for a few years after I received my BA in English at Nanjing Normal University. In the Mid-1990s, I came to Cleveland State University, to work on my MA in Communication. I went on to pursue my Ph.D. in Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. My first academic job was at Austin Peay State University. Then I moved to Texas Tech and worked there for 15 years.
In late June 2022, I joined Ball State as the new Associate Dean for CCIM. I believe one key to happiness is finding something you truly enjoy doing and convincing others to pay you to do it. Being a professor of mass communication has enabled me to do that. Being an academic leader provides me with the opportunity to make a broader impact on the communication education and profession.
What is your teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy revolves around three core principles. First, teaching is about engaging students and fostering a conducive environment in which they learn. Second, learning must be challenging but enjoyable simultaneously. Third, the primary objective of my teaching is to stimulate students’ intellectual curiosity in addition to teaching them the requisite knowledge and skill. Ultimately, I consider my role as a teacher in producing scholars and professionals who are successful in their chosen profession and contribute to society.
How do you get students excited about your classes?
We cannot expect students to become enthusiastic about course materials unless we demonstrate that we, as faculty, are engaged in teaching the material. I achieve my teaching goals by demonstrating that I am an intellectually curious scholar and have done that by incorporating my applied and theoretical research work into course material.
I frequently use relevant jokes to get my message across and lighten things up. For example, when discussing media relations in Principles of Public Relations class, I used the following joke to explain the essence of media relations: “Never get in a pissing contest with someone who buys ink by the barrel and who buys paper by the ton.” I often use analogies to explain complex and abstract terms. For example, to explain testing the null hypothesis and significance testing in my Mass Communication Research Methods class, I encouraged students to understand them as analogous to the way a defendant is treated in a criminal justice system. That is, groups of people are assumed to be innocent of any difference or any relationship unless a difference or relationship can be shown beyond a reasonable doubt.
What has been the proudest moment in your career so far?
My proudest moment is the two doctoral students I mentored and advised at Texas Tech: one is now a productive scholar at DePaul University; another one initially got a job at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, then went back to Texas Tech and recently tenured and promoted to associate professor and became interim Associate Dean for Research.
Have you won any awards for your work?
I won several awards while I was at Texas Tech University. For example, Outstanding Researcher from the College of Media and Communication for the Barnie E. Rushing Jr. Faculty Distinguished Research Award in 2015; The Bill and Avis Ross Mass Communication Faculty Achievement Award from the College of Media and Communication; Texas Tech Alumni Association New Faculty Award. The Bill and Avis Ross Mass Communication Faculty Achievement Award means the most to me as it is the highest faculty award in the College of Media and Communication.
What do you think is most important about Ball State?
Its collegial and positive work environment, abundant student engagement opportunities, both informative and hands-on curriculum, and dedicated faculty and staff.