By Jordan Beach
During a trying time, Reinhardt’s Communication and Media Studies adjunct professor, Julia Silka, rose to the occasion to offer the best possible learning experience for her students and for the entire department.
As a result, Silka earned the 2019-2020 Adjunct Innovative Teaching Award from the Center of Innovative Teaching and Engaged Learning for her efforts in transitioning students online during the Spring 2020 semester. This is the first time the Center has given this award.
“It’s always nice to be recognized. Truth be told, I got a little teary when I found out about being selected for the award,” said Silka. “To be honored for ‘innovation’ in particular makes me very proud. The fastest way to the height of success is to be innovative. Just look at the top Fortune 500 companies, like Apple, Google, Tesla and so on. What’s common is that they are wildly creative companies that are focused on innovation. So, I’m not just being recognized, I’m being recognized for something that is vitally important to an organization’s success. All that preparation, effort and caring paid off. It gives me a renewed energy to keep going – to keep growing.”
Dr. Pam Wilson, program and internship coordinator for the Communication and Media Studies program, felt impressed by the smooth transition Silka experienced when the COVID-19 pandemic required a switch to online distance learning.
“Julia Silka has been a tremendous asset to our Communication and Media Studies program and its students,” said Wilson. “She has been an inspirational role model as we made the sudden transition to all-remote teaching this spring. She made the switch without a hitch, mastered the technology with no groans, and has kept her courses running smoothly.”
Silka tapped into resources provided by CITEL to move her courses online.
“CITEL provided impromptu customized training to instructors to offer solutions for whatever our course needs - insanely responsive, supportive, helpful. The transition for my five classes went off without a hitch. We moved online as a community,” said Silka.
The content of Silka’s class remained the same online as in the classroom and she offered ways for students to improve their experience with virtual classes. As she learned and adapted from her own experiences, Silka shared what she learned with the Communication and Media Studies department.
“Julia sent out an email to other Communication and Media Studies adjuncts with examples of what she was doing, which have been very helpful to all of us, and she has made herself available to help those who found the technology challenging. She generously shared her teaching materials with fellow instructors,” said Wilson.
Silka began working for Reinhardt University in Fall 2017 after gaining decades of experience at advertising agencies in New York, yet her family history stretches further. Both Silka’s mother and brother graduated from Reinhardt in the 1990s and she felt the growth of the university, which she believes to be a result of creativity and innovation, would suit her well. Her favorite part of teaching at Reinhardt is working with the students and the symbiotic relationships that develop as a result.
“My role is to impart my knowledge, experience and wisdom to my students for their academic growth. But if I am to continue to be relevant in my field, then I need to grow too. I have to stay fresh and plugged in. That’s why I make my student interactions two-way. I watch them. I really listen to them. I ask them as many questions as they ask me. We get more out the process this way. We get to know each other better and trust ourselves inside of our tight community. It’s a safe learning environment for everyone.”