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January 30, 2017

Ellen Seiter is Cinema and Media Studies’ Teacher of the Year

By Sabrina Malekzadah & Simran Bhari

One of the first things students do before registering for classes is look up a professor’s name online to find information about their teaching style. A Professor who can communicate information effectively, while also being nice to students will generally have good online rating. Usually these determinations come from other students and can be hit or miss. But Ellen Seiter, who teaches in the Division of Cinema and Media Studies has official recognition that when it comes to communicating information about the field, in a way that engages and connects young people to the material, she is one of the best. Seiter, who has been teaching at SCA since 2003 was recently awarded the 2016-2017 Pedagogy Award, from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies.

The award is given to outstanding professors who are exemplary in three categories: instruction; publication and development of educational materials; and service or value in the Cinema and Media Studies Pedagogy. Professor Seiter is awarded for her efficient efforts in engaging student interest everyday, authoring informational textbooks that are used in media studies classrooms, and leading a curriculum in cinema and media within and beyond the classroom.

Professor Seiter holds the Nenno Endowed Chair in Television Studies at SCA. She is an expert in a wide range of the field, from the interconnections between younger audiences and their relationship with television, to issues of gender, race, and class biases in television, to the vibrant world of anime. Seiter is also an expert in media copyright law, and how it is applied to a variety of topics. Within SCA, she teaches courses on television and new media history, theory, and criticism. Importantly, she teaches CTCS 191: Introduction to Television course at SCA, which dives into an exploration of technological, economic, aesthetic, ideological characteristics of the medium and is required for all Cinema and Media Studies undergraduates. The course, which discusses the historical evolution of television and video, is usually the first-time students look at television programs they casually watched for hours, with a more critical eye. “I love teaching 191 and watching as students who enter the class completely focused on film become really enthusiastic about the amazing developments in long form television over the last decade,” says Seiter. In her upper division course CTCS 403 American Television History, Seiter focuses on how new platforms such as streaming are “changing the industry and changing how we watch TV.” Professor Seiter has also taught undergraduate courses on teen films, anime and crime; and graduate theory courses on scholars such as Bourdieu, Bathes, Zizek, and Brecht.

Consideration for the pedagogy award covered the entirety of Seiter’s career from teaching at the University of California, San Diego, Indiana University, and the University of Oregon, to the work she has done in K-12 education regarding new media and media production. “It’s a very competitive honor and I am just enormously moved by this recognition of my work,” she says.

Besides teaching, Professor Seiter is also the author of several books including The Internet Playground: Children’s Entertainment, Access and Mis-Education; Remote Control: Television, Audiences, and Cultural Power; and Television and New Media Audiences.

Seiter comes from a long line of teachers—many of them women—and feels she is honoring them today by expanding her knowledge in the educational realm. She says one of the most beneficial things about teaching is imparting useful information to maturing young people, but also the open collaboration she develops with her students. “The most vital part of teaching is the process of establishing the relationship as one of mutual learning. Guiding students to the choice of a research topic, watching students discover their own capacity for reflection, as well as their strengths and weaknesses— are adventures I truly enjoy. The best mentoring happens when both of us are honest and open enough to shed unworkable projects, theses or expectations, and freely exchange ideas so that we can work flexibly to produce the best work possible.”