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Faculty Awards 2024

Galbut Outstanding Faculty Award

Presented to a faculty member who has been outstanding in teaching and in efforts to engage students both inside and outside the classroom; selected from outstanding faculty members nominated by School of Communication students; established by the Galbut family

Catherine Carrigan

Catherine Carrigan is an assistant professor of instruction and an academic advisor in the Departments of Radio/Television/Film and Theatre. In both capacities, she routinely helps turn the academic and career tides for students, providing guidance, inspiration, and a safe space to vent feelings and fears. “Catherine is the primary reason I will be able to graduate next quarter,” her student nominator said. “Her ability to continually bring out the best in students is astonishing.” Carrigan makes the effort to really know her students and can convey to them their strengths and assets, and she is able to relate to their experiences, cutting down on their feelings of isolation. Her reputation spans SoC and extends well outside of it: “A friend from Weinberg mentioned that she was sad not to be a (communication student) simply because she could not have a class with Catherine or have her as an adviser.” Her knowledge of both filmmaking and advising has helped scores of students bounce back after stumbles and pursue goals and dreams they didn’t even know they possessed. “I have the ability to achieve my future as a filmmaker all due to Catherine,” said the student. “She is the backbone to RTVF, and it is such an honor that we get to have her in our department.”

Lynn Kelso

Lynn Kelso is an assistant professor of instruction in the Department of Theatre and the artistic director of Imagine U, the series of family theatre performances offered through the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts. Kelso’s tireless efforts and endless inspiration led to a landmark partnership with Evanston-Skokie School District 65, which is bringing every third grader in the public schools to a Northwestern show to experience the wonder of live theatre—the first such experience for many of them. Always curious, ever kind, and continually on the move, Kelso has elevated and engaged the crucial next generation of theatre goers and artists—both through students here at Northwestern as well as all the children and caregivers in the community who benefit from her leadership. “During my time working with Lynn, I felt supported and challenged to be creative and thoughtful at every turn,” her student nominator said. “She continues to be one of my biggest supporters and is always happy to meet to discuss my future plans as well as academic and personal goals. She is delightful, considerate, intuitive, and incredibly hard-working. She embodies what the School of Communication strives toward.”

Clarence Simon Awards for Outstanding Teaching and Mentoring

Annually recognizes outstanding School of Communication teachers and mentors—one in each of the school’s three divisions (division I, theatre and performance studies; division II, radio/ television/film and communication studies; and division III, communication sciences and disorders)— based on nominations by students and faculty; honors Clarence Simon, who served the school as an outstanding teacher and administrator for many years

(Division I)

Elizabeth Son

Elizabeth Son is an associate professor in the Department of Theatre whose scholarship explores and advocates for women in performing arts and activism, specifically as it addresses gender-based issues. Described as indispensable, dedicated, and a champion for diverse voices, Son can, as a student said, “convey complex concepts with clarity and enthusiasm (that) allows students to learn and engage with the material in deeper, more significant ways.” Son creates safe, supportive, but still rigorous spaces that encourage students to “take risks and make mistakes,” said the nominator. She grasps the “multidimensional nature of education and strives to cultivate well-rounded individuals who are not only knowledgeable and experienced but also compassionate and socially responsible members of society.” Nurturing, empowering, empathetic, and committed, “Son truly represents the School of Communication’s ideals of professionalism, art, and scholarship in her practice of teaching…Her unwavering commitment to excellence inspires students to strive for greatness in their own endeavors, instilling in them a sense of purpose and pride in their work.”

(Division II)

Courtney Scherr

Courtney Scherr is an associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies whose research focuses on theory-guided design and evaluation of messages containing scientific information about risk to patients. Though the topic and methodologies can be complex, Scherr approaches her research and students with openness and a great passion for discovery. One student nominator calls her a valued and inspiring teacher and research mentor. “Dr. Scherr has challenged me by putting me on various projects and encouraging new skills like quantitative coding,” said the nominator. “She took the time to be patient when I began in the lab, as I was new to Northwestern and research in general.” Scherr puts great effort into supporting students’ educational goals and interests and ensures that the topics and teaching styles she uses are engaging and meaningful. “I truly enjoyed each assignment for her class, as they challenged me and allowed me to be creative,” said the student. “I am grateful to Dr. Scherr as she has encouraged me and taught me so much within the past few years at Northwestern.”

(Division III)

Mercedes Spencer

Mercedes Spencer is an assistant professor in the Roxelyn and Richard Pepper Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders who researches cognitive behavioral correlates of reading development and application of this knowledge to identifying reading difficulties in children. Welcoming, warm, and possessing a deft ability to make statistics approachable and understandable, Spencer instills confidence and passion in her students and encourages them to use their personal experiences to engage with the classroom teachings. “Thanks to her,” said her nominator, “I considered a career in research as an aspiring speech-language pathologist—two worlds I didn’t realize could co-exist.” The ease with which students can inquire and engage in scholarly conversation with Spencer attests to her knowledge and character. Her nominator concludes: “I can confidently say that Professor Spencer’s approachable teaching style and supportive mentorship have shaped my academic interest in statistics and confidence in the research world as an undergraduate in communication sciences and disorders.”


Past Year Recipients