Advertising Professor

Advertising professor honored by her ‘clients’

Outstanding Educator Award

By Charlyne Berens
J Alumni News editor

Kelly Jo Hinrichs thinks the credit for the teaching award she received in March should go to her students.

“There is very little outstanding about what I do,” she said. “What’s outstanding is what the students do.”

Hinrichs, a member of the advertising faculty, received one of two Outstanding Educator Awards from the Associated Students of the University of Nebraska on March 29.

Beth Lee, a broadcasting major from North Platte and the college’s representative on ASUN, explained that students who voted in the ASUN election in early March could also nominate two professors for teaching awards. Students were invited to nominate a teacher in a large class (more than 60 students) and a small class who have had a major impact on their lives and education.

The top six vote-getters were interviewed by ASUN student representatives, who made the final selections on the basis of the interviews.

“The amazing thing about Kelly Jo,” Lee said, “is that she thinks it’s what the kids do, not what she does” that makes her an effective teacher.

Hinrichs said the interview forced her to articulate a teaching philosophy that is just “part of who I am and what I believe in.” Her teaching philosophy is rooted in the basic tenets of customer service, she said. She treats her students with respect and expects them to treat her — and each other — the same way.

In addition, Hinrichs said, she and her students discuss both her own and their expectations for the class. “We measure success by how well we meet those expectations, not just by what I can teach them,” she says. The best days are when the students participate in class or make presentations “and you see their passion coming through.”

Hinrichs said she knows students are learning when they can “carry on a conversation (about an advertising-related issue), and they use terms you know they learned from class readings and discussions — and when they ask questions I can’t answer.” When students don’t seem to be learning, Hinrichs said, she often talks to them one-on-one. Sometimes she provides extra materials on which they can practice and learn. “You can’t be on the swim team just by going to meets,” she said.

But if students truly seem to be in the wrong place, “I can sometimes guide them in During spring semester, Hinrichs taught promotional writing and an advertising campaigns class as well as a voluntary one-hour class to help students with resumes, interviewing and business etiquette. In past semesters, she has taught copywriting, advertising strategy and mass communication and society.

Hinrichs graduated from the journalism college with an advertising major in 1986. She worked for Swanson Russell Associates, an ad agency in Lincoln, until 1992, when she was hired as the marketing director for Cliffs Notes.

She joined the advertising faculty in 1998 after a serendipitous conversation with Dean Will Norton at a neighborhood picnic she attended with her husband, Mark, and their daughters, Emma and Lilly. Hinrichs told Norton she would be interested in teaching and, not long after that, “I was fortunate that the college had an opening,” Hinrichs said.

During her two years of teaching, Hinrichs has had a positive influence on the college, her colleagues said.

“Kelly Jo’s enthusiasm in the classroom is contagious,” said Nancy Mitchell, chairwoman of the advertising department. “Students appreciate her positive approach, and she is a good advocate for students.”

But Hinrichs said she was amazed that she received the ASUN award. “I truly didn’t expect to be selected. … It’s overwhelming to be told by your customers that you’re doing something right.”