Kelly Norris Martin
Provost’s Award winner encourages her students to ‘build experiences’
A. Sue Weisler
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Usually there are “word” people and there are “number” people. Kelly Norris Martin, assistant professor of communication in the College of Liberal Arts, gets revved up about both.
“I didn’t plan on becoming a college professor even though I come from a family of teachers,” she says. “But I was taught by professors who got me really excited about blending rhetoric with data and qualitative research. I loved being able to ask my own questions, gather my own data and think about how what we’ve found or made can make us better communicators.”
One good turn deserves another and now Martin spends her time helping her students get jazzed about research. As a result, Martin has been awarded the 2013 Richard and Virginia Eisenhart Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, which is given to faculty who have taught three years or less and who foster excellence in teaching and leadership in the campus community.
A Cleveland native, Martin came to RIT in 2011 after earning her doctoral degree in communication, rhetoric and design from North Carolina State University. Her colorful résumé lists her prior work experiences as research assistant, reporter for a small newspaper on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and an emergency management employee who once helped evacuate prisoners during a hurricane.
“You never know where your path will lead you,’” Martin says. “I always encourage my students to take advantage of every opportunity and build experiences.”
It wasn’t until she realized the strong connection between teaching and scholarship that she made her choice to become a college professor and inspire others to be creative in their endeavors. In fact, she believes that everyone has an unmet need to create—whether it’s cupcakes or a research project on blending online and face-to-face instruction, which she implements in her Digital Design in Communication course.
Martin—who enjoys her role as class “cheerleader”—teaches visual communication, digital design, copywriting and visualization, public speaking and qualitative research methods, and encourages students to make note of their surroundings and observe details, and hopes they transfer this curiosity and wonder to their lives outside of the classroom. Her methods include teaching her students how to think critically and explaining how practical research impacts the world around them.
Recently, her students have been engaged in sustainability projects, creating signage meant to affect energy usage in residence halls, working with the ROC Easy Ride program to help increase awareness and ridership, and devising internal marketing campaigns for the College of Liberal Arts.
And Martin’s students aren’t the only ones who understand the relevance of her teaching methodology. Grant Cos, associate professor of communication, has been Martin’s mentor for two years.
“I’ve never met anyone as great a teacher, thoughtful a researcher and as genuine as Kelly,” Cos says. “She possesses the virtue of humility and she is one of the best people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with.”
In addition to her zest for research, Martin enjoys playing piano and violin and spending time with her husband and two children.
“If students are stepping up to the challenges, I try to push them one step further,”she says. “When they eventually push themselves to go above and beyond, that’s when I get really excited.”