Dr. Kimberly Lauffer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Journalism with more than 20 years of teaching experience at the secondary and post-secondary education level. Her research focuses on media coverage of end-of-life issues, framing of health, diverse individuals, juveniles and crime, and journalism pedagogy, and she has published many peer-reviewed articles in journals, as well as a peer-reviewed book chapter.
She worked as a reporter and as an editor before becoming a tenured associate professor, until an unexpected turn led to Lauffer’s passion toward web development and journalism graphics. In 2006, she was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor, which led to some time off from teaching and additional time to take classes to keep up with and improve her skills. Here, she discovered a love for coding websites and took a job where she used her expertise to edit content, improve existing websites, and use analytics and mapping to help websites better serve their users. One of Lauffer’s most gratifying experiences in her career happened one winter break when she used Twitter Bootstrap to code a responsive minisite for a new center a college was opening. The minisite was a big hit, leading to the trustees investing $150,000 in a complete, responsive web redesign. Although she still completes web projects on the side, Lauffer went back to her love for education to teach journalism, journalism graphics and web development to students.
At Ball State, Lauffer has taught many courses from newswriting, feature writing, literary journalism, media law and ethics, introduction to journalism (mass communication), introduction to visual communication, visual storytelling, data visualization, media criticism and photojournalism. Lauffer’s favorite part about teaching journalism graphics is when students have ‘aha moments,’ which can include when they use Creative Suite to accomplish a task they initially thought was overwhelming or when their hand-coded pages go to life online.
Lauffer believes there are a few qualities that make a student a good fit for journalism graphics, the first being a passion for creating things to share with others. “That doesn’t mean you have to be a whiz with software, but you do need to have a sense of the big picture and how that will help others understand a topic, whether you’re presenting it in a website, interactive data visualization, or photo gallery,” says Lauffer, who also stated that being detail oriented is crucial in any coding-related job. Lastly, Lauffer pushes that students should be willing to take risks and accept constructive criticism.
Lauffer encourages design students to take every class that interests them, and a few outside of their comfort zone. “We learn best when we challenge ourselves,” she states as she recommends students have a good base knowledge in another field —psychology, biology, political science, geography, big data, education—so they can use their design skills to communicate difficult topics in a way that helps the general public understand their relevance.