Professor and Online Learning Faculty Fellow Jonathan Peters receives Richard B. Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

Jonathan Peters, associate professor of journalism and Online Learning Faculty Fellow, is one of three University of Georgia faculty members named a recipient of the Richard B. Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. 

The award recognizes outstanding instruction by faculty members early in their academic careers. Peters teaches communication law courses to undergraduate and graduate students and has a courtesy appointment with the School of Law.

The Russell Foundation established the Russell Awards during the 1991-1992 academic year to honor the late U.S. Sen. Richard B. Russell. The awards include a $10,000 cash award.

“Recipients of the Russell Awards exemplify the commitment to innovative and engaging instruction that makes the University of Georgia one of America’s leading public universities,” said S. Jack Hu, the university’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “I congratulate this year’s honorees and appreciate their dedication to our students.”

In addition to Peters, two other UGA faculty members are being recognized with the Russell Award: Jennifer Birch, associate professor of anthropology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and Emily Sahakian, associate professor of theatre and film studies, and of Romance languages in the Franklin College.

As an instructional designer with the Office of Online learning, Amy Ingalls collaborated with Petes as he tackled the challenge of delivering the online version of Communication Law during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ingalls said a vital factor to the success of any online course is instructors presence and Peters presence is strong. Peters is consistent in his communication with his students and provides quick and thorough feedback on assignments, Ingalls said. 

“Jon genuinely cares that his students learn and incorporates this into every aspect of his online class,” Ingalls said. “Active learning opportunities and authentic assessments are central tenets in his course, evidenced by assignments such as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) letter request or the Court Access activity, which uses current cases for students to analyze as if they are the judges.”

Aside from teaching, Peters is a co-author of “The Law of Public Communication,” a widely adopted textbook, and is a press freedom correspondent for the Columbia Journalism Review. Peters is a frequent commentator on First Amendment issues for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, NPR, CNN, NBC News and CBS News. As Peters excels in his professional career, he also pushes his students to strive for success, Ingalls said. His depth of the content subject makes him an excellent online discussion facilitator as well. 

Grady College recognized Peters in 2019 as its Journalism Teacher of the Year, and in 2017 he was selected as an Online Learning Fellow, allowing him to adapt his communication law course to be taught online for the first time. Outside the university, he recently served as the elected teaching chair of the Law and Policy Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Presenting an interactive online course on legal content is a unique challenge that Peters managed skillfully. 

To quote one of his students, "I came into this class weary of communications law thinking it would be tedious and uninspiring. You've completely changed my view on the law and made this course exciting, interesting and most importantly relevant to our daily lives. These are the beneficial lessons we need to know as we make our way from Grady into the professional world. I want to give my appreciation to you and hope you have a wonderful rest of your summer before the fall semester begins! If I need any legal advice in the future, I will always remember to come to you."