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Last modified: Friday, April 13, 2012

James D. Kelly

The Herman Frederic Lieber Memorial Award

Associate Professor of Journalism
School of Journalism
Indiana University Bloomington
Appointed to IU faculty, 2007
B.S.J., West Virginia University, 1980
M.A., Indiana University, 1988
Ph.D., Indiana University, 1990

James Kelly

James D. Kelly

Print-Quality Photo

For more than a quarter century, two professors left an indelible mark on the teaching of photojournalism at Indiana University: Pulitzer Prize finalist Will Counts and John Alhauser. Among their many students who went on to taste professional success was James D. Kelly.

While many of Kelly's peers have become acclaimed photojournalists, working worldwide for major news organizations, the Uniontown, Pa., native chose to follow in the footsteps of his mentor, Counts.

"Will inspired his students with a blend of practical experience drawn from his professional life as a working photojournalist and the theoretically based teaching innovations that he had learned during his graduate education at IU," Kelly says. "Try as I might to find better ways to teach over the years, I still rely on more than a couple techniques I borrowed from Will," adds Kelly, who encourages student participation through critiques and group discussions of student work.

In Kelly's final year of doctoral study at IU, when he was given a photojournalism class to teach on his own, he realized how important teaching was to him.

For the next 17 years, he taught photojournalism at Southern Illinois University, where he was a five-time teaching award winner, before he joined the IU faculty. In addition to photojournalism, he also teaches publication design and international communication. In 2012, he became director of the IU School of Journalism Honors Program.

"With the retirement of Will Counts and John Alhauser, our photography program dropped out of national prominence. Professor Kelly is helping to bring it back," says David Boeyink, retiring director of the IU School of Journalism Honors Program. "I cannot recount all the ways he has used research, teaching experts, external workshops and self-analysis to improve the learning of his students."

Among Kelly's former students is Crista Chapman, a freelance photo editor for The New York Times, who still appreciates the attention and insights he shared with her when she was an IU student.

"Mostly, professors show their knowledge of a subject by talking. Dr. Kelly demonstrates his knowledge by listening and asking thought-provoking questions," Chapman says. "I would like to point out that I was one of dozens of students that Dr. Kelly had that semester. In my subsequent career as a photojournalist, I have never had an editor give my work that kind of attention and thought."

Bradley J. Hamm, dean of the journalism school, says of Kelly, "He is a talented teacher and special professor who is dedicated to teaching students and professionals in our field, throughout the year, at any location in the world."

As Boeyink and Hamm note, Kelly has taken the photojournalism program beyond the vision of his IU mentors, into the global media environment. Kelly has been an active proponent of the school's Classrooms Without Walls course initiative that features a unique travel component.

Since 2000, he has organized dozens of reporting workshops in South Asia and Africa for working journalists covering social issues such as HIV/AIDS. He has twice taken a class of IU students to Eldoret, Kenya, home to the IU-Kenya Partnership, and this summer will take 20 Ernie Pyle Honors Students to London, where they'll intern at various British media organizations. He has formed strong links with colleagues in Pakistan, Kenya, India and Sri Lanka.

In her evaluation of Kelly's 2011 Kenya course, Kathleen Sideli, IU associate vice president for overseas study, told him, "What you have done with this program is nothing short of extraordinary. ... Your program is perfect proof of how much students can learn on multiple levels from being abroad for only a few weeks. They became informed about so many areas that are difficult to enumerate in a brief list: HIV/AIDS, extreme poverty, Kenyan culture, politics and history, [the HIV/AIDS treatment consortium] AMPATH and its impact on people's lives, as well as the art of reporting about sensitive and complex issues."

While Kelly acknowledges that official recognition is an honor, he reflects, "Student learning is the grandest award I can receive, and that motivates me to do better at what I love."