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Amend to that

Professor Robert Amend receives a Distinguished Service Award.

By Nathan Solheim

May 23, 2017

President Stephen Jordan (left) presented Professor Bob Amend with a Distinguished Service Award at MSU Denver
President Stephen Jordan (left) presented Professor Bob Amend with a Distinguished Service Award at MSU Denver's Faculty and Staff Appreciation Barbecue in May.

Professor Robert Amend, chair of MSU Denver’s Department of Journalism and Technical Communication, received a 2017 Distinguished Service Award to recognize his decades of service to the University.

Amend came to MSU Denver in 1984, became a department chair in 2004, and helped combine the journalism and technical communication programs into a single department in 2012. For 25 years, Amend has served as the announcing marshal at commencements and has been a steadfast presence on numerous committees.

Those are just a few lines on an impressive curriculum vitae. We caught up with Amend and asked him about his award, his future and even a bit about his past.

What was your reaction to receiving the award?

I’m really humbled to have received the award, especially because there are so many other faculty that have contributed immense amounts of service. I think about some of those people and all their accomplishments, and I’m honored to be considered among them.

At the barbecue, you were described as an “inspirational leader and teacher.” Why?

I think it’s because I tried to break out of the mold of the straight lecture. That was used exclusively when I came here. I just wanted to develop some different modes of delivery, whether that’s using technology or small groups or writing exercises. Even doing some impromptu assignments in class. We’re really a hand’s-on department, so a lot of our professors do great things—they’re really the ones that are the innovators. They try to develop new forms of communicating information to students in ways they’ll understand and then apply. They come up with some great ideas—it almost makes me want to start teaching again.

You were also lauded for your calm demeanor with students and faculty. What’s your approach?

I attribute some of that to my wife—she’s taught me a lot. I have to admit at times, I have had to dig deep inside and say, “Calm yourself.” Dealing with the students—even with the challenging ones—I don’t mind it. There’s usually some way to resolve the issue. A lot of times they get a little befuddled and they don’t see the bigger picture. But by me maintaining a calm exterior, it calms them.

We heard you’re retiring. What are your plans?

Actually, I’m going into transitional retirement in September. I’m basically coming back half time and I will be working to create curriculum and working with DIME. I hopefully will be researching, writing and shepherding the curriculum through the process to get a bachelor’s degree in the visual side of music—basically how visuals can support music, from videos to photography to promotions to even a little bit of web-based stuff and on social media. I’ll be doing that all of next year.

So you’re into music, too?

I helped pay for college by managing a band—“Nebula Spoon.” Later, we just called it “The Spoon.” We did the Big 10 [university] circuit and a PBS documentary. I had classical training on piano and I loved the Beatles. I love all kinds of music from punk to opera.

Tell us the story behind bringing journalism and technical communication together.

We had so many commonalities in terms of faculty and students, and it’s been a really great fit. We’ve had our ups and downs as you would with a merging of programs, but by and large it’s been successful. I think we’ve been able to expand their sphere of knowledge. One example of that is the photography students are now becoming much more involved with video production. And the video production students are becoming more involved with social documentary. That intermingling of the programs happens across all the concentrations. We have journalists interested in technical writing for example. It allows students to see there are greater horizons out there as far as careers.

How has your department changed over time?

When I first came here, we only had two concentrations. Since that time, we’ve evolved to five concentrations within the technical communications side. And only one of those original concentrations remains—technical writing and editing. Everything else has grown since I got here. Video production came first then interactive media, and then the most recent has been mobile and social media. All those have come about since I started.

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