A professor in the College of Communications and Information is combining her passion for sports, history and social issues into her work inside and outside the classroom.
Amber Roessner got her official start in her career after she left the Early Childhood Education Education program at the University of Georgia to study sports journalism.
“I realized along the way that teaching young children wasn’t right for me and that instead I wanted to pursue my other passion in journalism,” Roessner said. “I felt like it was the right decision for me.”
During her undergraduate years, Roessner wrote for the Red and Black newspaper at UGA, soon getting internships with the Georgia Bulldog Magazine and American Junior Golf Association.
However, Roessner quickly realized that the field of sports journalism wouldn’t fit with her personal life.
“What I realized was the lived reality as a full-time sports reporter did not mesh well being a newly married individual,” Roessner said.
Roessner then transitioned into lifestyle magazines, where working with college interns inspired her to go back into education, but this time involving journalism and college students.
“At that point, I realized maybe there’s something there. Maybe there’s a path where I get to harness my love for journalism and teaching,” Roessner said.
“The inkling that i had to teach journalism was real.”
Roessner has taught several courses within the School of Journalism and Electronic Media, including core classes like Principles and History of Journalism and Media and Multimedia Reporting and electives like Media History, Literary Journalism, Advanced Sport Reporting, In-Depth Reporting and Historical Methods.
Alongside teaching, Roessner also conducts research in the history of mass communication, specifically how its intersection with American culture, its practice in sports and politics and social issues regarding race, class and gender.
“I really think our past determines our present course in the sense that it exerts pressure on our present course and even on our future prospects,” Roessner said. “That’s kind of a key philosophy of mine.”
In 2013, Roessner merged her two worlds of teaching and research together by having her history of mass communication students participate in the Id(e)a Initiative.
The initiative, a website preserving the history of civil rights journalist and activist Ida B. Wells, aims to transform teaching of media and journalism history by giving students a look into how “social justice crusaders” like Wells have “tapped into communication practices to engage in their work.”
The History Division of the Association for Education and in Journalism and Mass Communication awarded Roessner a Transformative Teaching of Media and Journalism History award in March, recognizing her excellence in journalism history education.
While media history has stayed at the forefront of her work, Roessner also continues to hail her sports journalism background using trend and enterprise reporting to look into the influence of the field on American culture.
“I definitely covered hard news sports events like the Georgia and Tennessee football game, but I was very much more pulled towards that stories that told us more about culture,” Roessner said.
“In the classroom, I think that when I teach advanced sports reporting I encourage students to think about trend and enterprise reporting in sports that move our students past covering gamers or advanced story gamers.”
In 2014, Roessner published her first book “Inventing Baseball Heroes: Ty Cobb, Christy Matthewson and the Sporting Press,” looking into the “negotiation that takes place between sports journalists and emerging public relations practitioners in the early 20th century” and the impact of the advertising industry on sports journalism at the time.
Along with continuing her work on the Ida Initiative, Roessner is continuing her work in journalism history with a project focusing on Jimmy Carter’s rise in the 1976 campaign and the negotiation of image craft that happens at the intersection of media industries” to go with her earlier published work about the former president in 2017.
When she is not in the classroom or doing research, Roessner keeps involved with campus life advising organizations like the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Association of Black Journalists.
“Journalists serve such an important role in our society. I think that it’s important at any moment to have amazing top-notch journalistic education, but I think at this particular moment it’s more important than ever,” Roessner said. “It’s a moment of crisis in journalism. I’ve just really enjoyed helping students think about different modes and models of journalism.
The most important facet for me is those relationships you build with students and helping them to see what the best path for them is in their life journey.”
For graduate teaching assistant in journalism and electronic media Shiela Hawkins, who has worked with Hawkins on research projects and co-chaired Hawkins’s Master’s thesis, working with Roessner on research projects has been inspiring.
“(Roessner) has this remarkable way of mentoring students that allows us to feel safe asking questions,” Hawkins said. “Her level of commitment to her research and her students are characteristics I hope to one day emulate when I become a professor myself.”
Roessner’s most recent inspiration for her work is her young son.
“I’ve had him as my realization of the importance of this work in journalism for the future of our country and world. We live in an age of fake news, an age where the understanding of fake news changed overnight and took on an adversarial context.
“I hope my work with students and my scholarship makes a strategic intervention that really does change our world, that really does create a more just world.”
Correction: This article was updated on May 27 to include a quote from Shiela Hawkins.