Pop Culture Enthusiast Wins Palleschi Hart Teaching Fellowship
Remember hanging out as a teenager, watching so many reruns of your favorite sit-coms that you could repeat the lines verbatim? Growing up in Northborough, MA, current PhD candidate Andrea Bergstrom ’05 MA (communication) did just that. “Who knew,” she jokes, “that all those episodes of “Beverly Hills 90210” would actually become relevant to my career! This hobby has been transformed into the focus of my doctorate with the encouragement of mentors, Phyllis Zrzavy, during my undergraduate years at Franklin Pierce College, and Erica Scharrer, my advisor here at UMass Amherst.”
Bergstrom’s academic interests have unfolded and progressed over time. “I never had one decisive moment when I knew exactly what I wanted to do,” she explains. “As a kid, though, I was interested in popular culture and the mass media, and by the time I was in high school I had begun to consider ways in which people are influenced by the media and how the media is intertwined with our everyday lives.”
Attending Franklin Pierce, Bergstrom majored in mass communication and her interest in the social impact of the mass media expanded. Faculty there encouraged her to attend graduate school. “UMass Amherst’s Department of Communication is highly regarded, and I was thrilled to be accepted,” Bergstrom says. “During my master’s program, I established supportive academic relationships and my research interests developed even more, so I decided to continue in the PhD program.”
Bergstrom finished her coursework last fall, and this past spring she completed the comprehensive examinations. Typically, she taught two courses each semester as the instructor of record while being a full-time student. Needless to say, Bergstrom’s days were filled with course readings, writing, and preparation for teaching courses like Writing as Communication, Public Speaking, Social Impact of Mass Media, and Junior Year Writing in Interdisciplinary Studies both in the classroom and online at UMass Amherst. In addition, she is an adjunct faculty member at Holyoke Community College.
Says Erica Scharrer, “Andrea Bergstrom is an outstanding teacher who cares deeply about her students, challenging them to produce their best possible work. Her preparation and organization are excellent, infused with wonderful enthusiasm for the subject matter and a large dose of good humor. Andrea is also a fantastically successful budding scholar whose original research has already been published in respected academic journals.”
Bergstrom’s efforts in the classroom have been recognized this year with the Palleschi Hart Teaching Fellowship that honors excellent teaching at the graduate level in communication. The award was funded in 2002 by communication alumni, Patricia D. Palleschi ’74 MA, ’77 PhD and her husband Garrett Hart ’75 MA, ’79 PhD, both of whom are devoted to developing successful learning environments. In the fall semester the Palleschi Hart Fellow assists in running the Instructional Development Workshop series the department offers each year for new TAs. In the spring, the Fellow teaches a 400-level senior seminar in his or her specialty area.
“I am honored to receive the Palleschi Hart Fellowship,” notes Bergstrom. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to focus on my teaching and my research. Having just defended my comprehensive exams, I am just beginning the process of dissertation writing. My research interests are primarily focused within the tradition of Media Effects, particularly on children, as well as Media Literacy.”
Bergstrom’s dissertation will fall within this research tradition, although she hasn’t finalized the exact angle at this point. Her plan is to complete her degree by 2009, at which point she will be on the market for a tenure-track position in communication. In the meantime, she expects to fine-tune her pedagogy and strike a balance between her academic and personal interests. Recently engaged, Bergstrom lives in Marlborough, coming to campus 2-3 days a week and otherwise working from home, traveling when time permits, and spending time with friends and family. “Some weeks are more hectic than others—especially toward the end of each semester,” Bergstrom says, “but I do my best to prioritize.”
September 25, 2007