Students in Communication professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson’s popular Introduction to Political Communication class often appreciate her organized teaching style, with clear takeaways that allow them to leave with a solid understanding of each day’s topic.
But as much this self-declared “failed perfectionist” aims to achieve the flawless lecture, her drive for constant improvement is reserved mainly for the classroom.
“I’m not a great house keeper,” admitted Jamieson, the Annenberg Public Policy Center director. “My house is clean enough. My bookshelves aren’t perfectly organized … I hate doing dishes, there are dishes sometimes in the sink.”
One of Penn’s most eminent professors, Jamieson was honored with three National Communication Association book awards in addition to an American Red Cross lifetime achievement award last week.
But it’s not this laundry list of achievements that keeps her going. Although these recognitions are clear signs that her peers respect her work as a scholar, Jamieson emphasized that being a professor comes first.
“It’s a cliché,” she acknowledged, “but the true most important moments in life are found in the classroom, in my students.”
She values the teaching awards she has received the most, because they come from students.
“They’re anonymous — you can’t politic for those awards,” she said.
Politics aside, students, colleagues and administrators alike are quick to praise her.
“Jamieson has been one of Penn’s most influential and important citizens for 20 years,” Provost Vincent Price wrote in an e-mail.
Annenberg School of Communication Dean Michael Delli Carpini agreed that “in addition to being an outstanding administrative leader, [Jamieson] is a public intellectual and academic scholar of world renown,” he wrote in an e-mail.
Jamieson is less than eager to take sole credit for her accolades, insisting her most recent awards were for books she could not have written alone.
“It’s always nice to be honored,” she said, “but what’s being honored is relationship, as much as work produced by relationship.”
This collaboration, she said, is what professors love about teaching — it forces them to do their best work.
“It’s the best profession in the world,” she said.
And her students agree she’s particularly skilled.
“You leave each class with prime dinner-table conversation,” said College senior Julia Holup. “You always end up having something interesting to say.”
Jamieson is adamant about preserving Walter Annenberg’s vision for the Center to “use communication to translate into action something that could make the world better.”
She explained that her favorite photo is of Annenberg sitting at his desk, laughing as he talks to Jamieson on the phone.
“I know I’m in that picture, he knows I’m in that picture, but nobody else knows,” she said.
And Jamieson now calls that desk her own, a gift from Lee Annenberg after her husband’s death.
“Sitting at his desk, with his credenza behind me, with his picture behind me, I’m very happy,” she said.
Other personal touches in her sprawling office include “Buster,” the stuffed toy husky she bought for Annenberg when he was hospitalized with pneumonia because of his love for dogs.
Despite her soft side — talking about her grandchildren quickly brings a smile to her face — Jamieson takes her job seriously.
According to head teaching assistant Jeff Gottfried, students enjoy the challenge.
College sophomore Henry Litman observed “she is very charming in class, but you get the impression that she is a very serious person, that she expects a lot.”
And, he added, she “spares no expense in making sure what she comes out with is the best possible answer.”Comments powered by Disqus
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