Thursday, November 29, 2012

Whitworth communication studies professor receives high honors for dissertation


Last October, Erica Salkin, an assistant professor of communication studies at Whitworth, was chosen from a nationwide pool of applicants to receive the Joseph C. Beckham Dissertation of the Year Award for her dissertation on students’ free speech. Along with this award, Salkin presented her dissertation at the Education Law Association’s annual conference Nov. 9-12.

The Joseph C. Beckham Dissertation of the Year Award recognizes exceptional dissertations by doctoral students in the field of education law. Each dissertation is evaluated on its theoretical base, sound methodology and cogent analysis as well as on its use of applicable literature.

“Past winners of the Beckham award have gone on to create outstanding research in the field – many of them were cited in my dissertation,” says Salkin. “To be on a list with so many well-respected professionals in the field of education law is humbling.”

Salkin’s dissertation is titled, “A Foundation for the Future: Creating a System of Public Student Free Speech and Expression.” It focuses on the foundation theory for the protection of student free speech in public schools and universities. In her dissertation, Salkin offers a theory defining the value of free speech within the educational environment while addressing the changing social and technological trends.

“I have long been interested in the rights of students and teachers in the public school environment – where the government plays a role as educator,” says Salkin. “How does the First Amendment right to free speech play a role when the integrity of the learning environment is seen as an equally compelling state interest?”

Salkin is a recent addition to Whitworth, having joined the faculty this year. Her areas of specialization include censorship, communication, journalism, and media and law.

“I consider myself very fortunate to have found a home here at Whitworth, where interdisciplinary research is encouraged and valued,” she says. “The more our ideas are shared across departments and disciplines, the more we can explore the world around us and work to make it a better place.”

The ELA is a national nonprofit association that provides its members with information regarding current legal issues that affect both public and private education and the rights of those involved. Membership consists primarily of attorneys, professors and school administrators. The association holds an annual four-day conference that acts as a forum for the discussion of current education law issues.

The Joseph C. Beckham Dissertation of the Year Award, first given in 2007, is named for Joseph C. Beckham, a professor in the department of educational leadership and policy studies at Florida State University. Beckham is a longstanding member of the ELA and was the president of the organization in 1991.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.