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UofM alumna Lehn receives Excellence in Teaching Award at Sewanee

Melody Lehn

Melody Lehn, assistant professor of Rhetoric and Women’s and Gender Studies at Sewanee: The University of the South, has done quite well since earning her Ph.D. in Communication with emphases in rhetoric and public address from the University of Memphis.

Lehn in 2018 received the Southern States Communication Association’s Dwight L. Freshley Outstanding New Teacher Award and followed that this month by earning Sewanee’s Excellence in Teaching Award. Lehn, who earned her doctorate from the UofM in 2013, is only in her second year as a member of the Sewanee faculty and is that university’s first pre-tenure faculty member to win the award.

She also is the co-director of Sewanee’s Speaking-across-the-Curriculum initiative and assistant director of its Center for Speaking & Listening. She previously worked as a teaching assistant at the UofM and as an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina at Columbia (Extended University). She began teaching at Sewanee in the fall of 2017.

Last spring, Lehn explained her research interests in an interview with The Sewanee Purple, that university’s student newspaper, saying that it focuses around rhetoric, gender and politics. “In other words,” she told the newspaper, “I’m interested in how women who are politically active become rhetorical by finding and creating opportunities for to speak, even when it is unpopular or dangerous to do so.”

The Purple wrote:

“The bulk of her research focuses on American women as political candidates and spouses, including First Ladies. Because First Ladies are unelected, there is a certain level of suspicion surrounding their contributions, even as they are often in a position to conduct and encourage humanitarian work. One of Lehn’s favorites is Eleanor Roosevelt, who used her platform to speak out in favor of human rights, racial equality, and women’s political progress.

“Yet, Lehn finds some of the best speakers are those with little previous experience. From Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer’s lack of a formal education but voice of raw power to Lady Bird Johnson’s struggle to overcome crippling public speaking anxiety, Lehn notes that any speaker can improve through careful study, preparation, and practice.”

While at the UofM, Lehn won the Morton Dissertation Award in 2013 for “‘Talking It Over’ with Hillary: Domestic and Global Advocacy, 1995-2000,” and several other honors, including the John Angus Campbell Award for Excellence in Teaching (Ph.D. level) in 2012, the Department of Communication Graduate Research Award ( Ph.D. level) in 2013, the 22nd-annual Student Research Forum (first place, Liberal and Fine Arts Division) in 2010, the Top Graduate Student Paper Award from the Tennessee Communication Association in 2009 and the John Angus Campbell Award for Excellence in Teaching (M.A. level), also in 2009.

— Phillip Tutor, CCFA media coordinator,

Published inDepartment of Communication & Film

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