UPDATE: Virtual 2021 Pleas Award ceremony moved to...

UPDATE: Virtual 2021 Pleas Award ceremony moved to Feb. 24

A professor dedicated to greater understanding of mass media will receive one of MTSU’s most cherished honors in a rescheduled virtual ceremony.

Jennifer Woodard, assistant dean of the College of Media and Entertainment and an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Strategic Media, will receive the John Pleas Faculty Recognition Award in a rescheduled broadcast slated for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24, at and on True Blue TV.

The original Feb. 18 broadcast date was postponed because of the university’s closure for inclement weather. 

Dr. John Pleas

Dr. John Pleas

Dr. Jennifer Woodard, journalism professor

Dr. Jennifer Woodard

John Pleas, for whom the award is named, is an MTSU professor emeritus of psychology who won the Outstanding Teaching Award in 1999.

The award, which is presented annually during Black History Month to a Black faculty member who had demonstrated excellence in teaching, research and service, was created in 1997 to honor Pleas.

Woodard teaches classes on convergence, digital writing, podcasting, audio journalism, women in the media, and race, class and gender. Her emphasis on media literacy instructs students in how to judge the media they see and hear based on credible facts, a valuable skill in an age of growing disinformation.

As assistant dean, Woodard focuses on diversity issues, assessment, student and faculty mental health programs, curriculum development, internship development and creating a mentoring/advocacy program for faculty. In addition, she is the faculty adviser to the student chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists.

With professor Ken Blake, Woodard is planning a “Come to Voice” project to expand data, media and social media skills to economically disadvantaged students in middle schools and high schools.School of Journalism & Strategic Media logo

Woodard earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism at MTSU, graduating summa cum laude with a double major in English and mass communication. She received a master’s in mass communication from the University of Georgia and her doctorate in mass communication from Indiana University-Bloomington.

A former student of the award’s namesake, Woodard said she is “honored and humbled” to receive the award.

“I have watched so many professors whom I admire for their service, scholarship and teaching receive this award,” Woodard said. “I looked at their careers and I was inspired by them. I’ll be honest. I’m still aspiring every day to be a person like Dr. Pleas, who took great care of his students, his colleagues and his community.”

Candidates for the award must have completed at least five years of service at MTSU and have a record of outstanding service. They also must have three letters of support each.

“John Pleas was the first African American professor that I ever had a class with,” Woodard said.  “I took his psychology class my freshman year at MTSU, and it changed my life.

“You see, representation matters, and he represented what was possible for me in the classroom. Later, when I came back to MTSU to teach, he was one of the first people to welcome me and ask me if I needed anything.”

For more information, contact Daniel Green, chair of MTSU’s Black History Month Committee, at 615-898-5812 or

— Gina K. Logue (