Topic: College of Communication Information and Media

June 13, 2016

Megan McNames

Photo by Don Rogers

Megan McNames, an instructor of journalism, teaches her public relations design class. She has revamped the course’s approach to focus more on teaching students how to address their clients’ overall needs.

As a journalism instructor, Megan McNames knows the days of communication positions being filled with order takers are long over. Instead, public relations needs professionals who can quickly solve their clients’ problems.

That’s the reason she redesigned the PR publication design course to help students prepare to work in a digital world where seemingly anything can become a crisis.

McNames’ class no longer focuses solely on creating publications. Instead, students also think strategically and ask themselves what their clients ultimately hope to accomplish.

Taylor Mullins, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, said McNames made a real difference in his life.

“I’ve encountered many different teaching styles, but Megan definitely has a hands-on approach that works,” said Mullins. “While many of her classes are online, Megan goes above and beyond to make sure she stays connected with her students at all times. If I ever have a question or need guidance with an assignment, Megan is always there with answers or support.”

Meeting new demands

McNames decided the course needed to be updated. Students liked the class’ transformation so much that they nominated her for Ball State’s 2015 Excellence in Teaching Award. She was one of two winners.

“If I ever have a question or need guidance with an assignment, Megan is always there with answers or support.”

— Taylor Mullins
journalism student

“We had to reimagine the class because it came from the 1970s, when making a newsletter literally meant printing columns of type, cutting them out and pasting them to create a newsletter,” she said. “Students learned how to do that because someday they might need to as professionals. But students learned nothing more than that.

“It’s really important that students not just learn how to make a newsletter or website look nice. They have to approach the process from a holistic standpoint. They have to consider the needs and preferences of the audience and the role of that particular publication in the larger experience of the brand.”

She realized she needed to revamp things after reading a journal article that urged faculty to rethink teaching methods.

“The professor can no longer be the sole judge of a student’s work,” she said. “My job is to open the door and let students take control. Instead of telling them what to do and how to do it, I let them explore because that is what they’ll do when they graduate.

“When they get out into the world and get jobs, they’re going to have to do things they’ve never done before. These new pros are going to have to figure out how to quickly do it the correct way without their supervisor standing over them.”

Before joining the Ball State faculty, McNames was assistant director of the Ball State Journalism Workshops for high school students and their advisers. She also worked as a designer at the Ball State’s Center for Media Design and a freelance reporter for CiN Weekly and Metromix in Cincinnati and M Magazine in Muncie.

‘She was born to teach’

Fellow journalism instructor Brian Hayes said McNames is a natural at teaching.

“I’m not entirely sure if Megan knew this growing up, but she was born to teach,” Hayes said. “Megan has an uncanny ability to research, plan, organize and deliver information in an articulate and compelling way.

“What I like most about Megan’s teaching style is her thoroughness. She puts herself in her students’ shoes and develops lesson plans that are relatable and engaging. Students appreciate her openness and honesty, and they value her knowledge and expertise — which is why you oftentimes see students staying after class or scheduling appointments to meet with her one-on-one.

“Even when she’s providing critical feedback on why something doesn’t work or how it can be improved, students walk away inspired to do better. There aren’t too many people in this world who have that ability.”