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Bennion Center leader Kimberley Mangun wins national teaching award for using personal experiences, photos and artifacts that brings history to life for her students.

By Jennifer Jones, communications specialist for the Bennion Community Service Center

Kimberley Mangun remembers the moment with clarity. It was 2013, and she was on a private tour of the home in Montgomery, Alabama, where Martin Luther King Jr. lived. Standing in his kitchen, she listened to the docent recount King’s anguish over the violence associated with the bus boycott in that city.

“I’ve never had a feeling like that before or since,” she recalls. “I felt literally emotionally overwhelmed, being in his small home and thinking about the epiphany he had in his kitchen late one night. So many people in history who did incredible things, despite all odds, were the age of our college students.”

kim-mangunMangun uses this experience, and other research travels, as part of her communication curriculum. She is an associate professor in the Department of Communication and associate director of community-engaged learning at the Lowell Bennion Community Service Center. She teaches intermediate reporting; classes on communication history; alternative media and diversity.

“I’m able to relate my experiences to my students,” she said. “I’m able to share photos that I’ve taken. I let them handle artifacts I have collected. It takes a broad and nebulous subject like history and brings it home in very concrete ways.”

Mangun is passionate about teaching and bringing historical relevance to her subjects. That’s part of the reason she was honored this month in Atlanta with the Eugene Asher Distinguished Teaching Award. Given by the American Historical Association, the award recognizes inspiring teachers whose techniques and mastery of subject matter make a lasting impression on history students. Mangun was selected from more than 1,000 entries. She is the first communication historian to ever win the Asher prize.

This is Mangun’s second national award this academic year. In October, the American Journalism Historians Association selected her research for the J. William Snorgrass Memorial Award for Outstanding Paper on a Minorities Topic. Her paper focused on black newspaper editor Emory O. Jackson and the Birmingham (AL) World.

Mangun says all students, regardless of their discipline, need to understand the history of that discipline.

“Would you want your doctor to pull out a bottle of leeches?” she asks. “We have to understand the history of our field in order to move forward.”

“I love creating opportunities for students to do research on subjects they’re interested in and helping them share that information with popular and scholarly audiences. The journalism and communication history classes I teach have a community-engaged learning component that makes the learning more exciting and relevant for students.”

Judges for the Asher teaching prize noted, “We commend Dr. Mangun for her innovative techniques, especially in teaching history within the parameters of mass communication to both graduates and undergraduates. We are also impressed with her commitment to the promotion of local history and to the awareness of the roles of minorities within that history. Her ability to be a highly productive scholar and to be actively engaged in her community simply adds to a record of overall general excellence.”