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ASU communication professor recognized for excellence in teaching


President's Professor Jess Alberts.

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May 14, 2020

Each year, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University recognizes exceptional teaching that inspires intellectual curiosity and academic excellence with the Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award. This year, the recipient of that award in the social sciences is Janet “Jess” Alberts, a President’s Professor in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication.  

Alberts teaches hundreds of students each semester in COM 100, Introduction to Human Communication, as well as courses on conflict and negotiation and has been a sought-after mentor for honors students, doctoral candidates and postdoctoral fellows. Her research focuses on conflict in personal and professional relationships where she explores ways to reduce workplace bullying and to improve legal negotiations and community mediation practices.

“In addition to classroom teaching excellence, Jess stands above all of us when it comes to another aspect of instruction, which is mentoring our graduate students,” said Benjamin Broome, professor and director of the Hugh Downs School Doctoral Program. “I’ve had the honor of serving as doctoral committee co-chair with Jess and as committee member several times, and she has mentored both me and the students with care, compassion, direction, expertise and motivation. This is such a well-deserved and well-earned award.“

Alberts consistently receives teaching reviews that are among the highest in the school. One former student said, "Dr. Alberts is by far the most impactful professor I have had at ASU. Every time I succeed, she is always the first faculty member I am excited to share my news with. With graduation coming, I know I am going to continue sharing with her because her teaching has gotten me to where I am today.”

Alberts has enjoyed a distinguished 30-year career at ASU and served as director of the Hugh Downs School from 1995 to 2004. In 2007 Alberts was named President’s Professor, an honor that recognizes those faculty who have made substantial contributions to undergraduate education. She was also named Professor of the Year at ASU in 2008.

Along with the creativity and enthusiasm she brings into the classroom, Alberts also created and is currently the director of the online MA in communication program, which has seen a dramatic increase in student enrollment since its inception in 2017.

“Zebulon Pearce would have admired Jess Alberts," said Linda C. Lederman, director and professor of the Hugh Downs School. “She is the kind of social scientist whose dedication to learning and discovery inspires the thirst to learn in her students."

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