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Denise Shively

Otterbein's Master Teacher of the Year Enjoys Learning Alongside Her Students


Otterbein Master Teacher of the Year Denise Shively is firmly convinced her students aren’t the only ones learning in the public relations classes she leads at the university.

“I view myself as a mentor, a facilitator and a person learning along with my students,” she says. “I cannot stand in front of a class and contend I know everything. What’s exciting to me is the opportunity to engage with students so I can guide them and set up challenges in which we all are learning together.”

A great example of that, she says, was the recent two-week trip to Malawi in southeast Africa taken by Shively, Professor of Religion and Philosophy Glenna Jackson and a group of Otterbein students. They delivered money, medical supplies and school materials to villages in Malawi as part of the university’s Senior Year Experience and Integrative Studies programs.

“It was a truly amazing and powerful experience,” Shively says of her first trip to Africa. “Otterbein is really supportive of any of us who want to try innovative experiential education.”

Shively received the university’s Master Teacher award in May in recognition of her excellence in the classroom and commitment to her students. In addition to being a senior instructor in the Communication Department, she has served as chair of the university’s Integrative Studies program since 2012.

With its emphasis on liberal-arts learning and preparing students for the challenges and complexities of today’s world, the Integrative Studies program has been hailed by higher-education experts as a model that others should emulate. It is a prime example of how Otterbein offers students the smartest way to learn.

“We talk about developing the whole person in the context of what they do with their life after college,” Shively says. “Their majors help them develop a depth of knowledge, but that has to be applied in all that goes on in the world. Integrative Studies is a place where students are exposed to different ideas from what they learn in their majors. It is an essential component of what we do at Otterbein.”

Shively joined the Otterbein faculty in 1992 after serving as executive director of the Westerville Area Chamber of Commerce for six years and in several public-relations positions in the health-care industry prior to that. At Otterbein, she has been part of the university’s innovate efforts to blend the liberal arts and professional studies. She sees the benefits of such approach in classes she teaches on various aspects of public relations principles, case studies, research, planning, strategies and campaigns.

“In our department,” Shively says, “we emphasize a balance between academic preparation and pre-professional preparation. In public relations, you need a solid academic foundation but also practical applications of what we do. It’s been a good fit for me.”