Megan Toland knew her why. Her how was less clear.
“Even as a young child, I always wanted to be a teacher,” said Toland. “I just didn’t know what I wanted to teach. So, when Mr. (Anthony) Caton (head of the Arkansas Tech University Department of Communication and Journalism) approached me about teaching as an adjunct, I thought it was a great opportunity to put what I’ve learned and my experiences into the education realm.”
Seven years later, Toland is the 2019-20 ATU professor of the year. She was selected for the honor during voting by the Arkansas Tech student body April 22-24.
Toland is a two-time graduate of Arkansas Tech. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and a Master of Arts degree in multimedia journalism before embarking upon a career in public relations and marketing.
After five years in that profession, she became an adjunct instructor at ATU in 2013. Full-time employment as visiting instructor of journalism followed the next year, and it wasn’t long before she earned an appointment as assistant professor of journalism. The ATU Board of Trustees granted Toland tenure during the spring 2020 semester.
She has built her teaching career upon the notion that her students should be both scholars and practitioners while pursuing their degree and their career goals.
“As faculty members, we pride ourselves on the hands-on experience we offer our students,” said Toland. “Looking back now, I can see how much of an opportunity that gave me as a student…to get that exposure to what the real world looks like, and to get that experience early on.”
Toland provides that exposure to her students by leading them on an annual industry tour that allows them to visit a public relations firm, a television station and a print entity, be it a newspaper or a magazine.
“It allows students to connect their classroom learning to the real world,” said Toland. “You see their eyes widen.”
Toland, who serves as advisor for the ATU chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, uses her classroom to help build community on campus.
“I love interaction, discussion and engagement,” said Toland. “I rarely get through a 50-minute lecture without some type of discussion. When the students communicate with one another, they become more familiar with each other and their support system grows. Someone who starts out as a person across the room becomes a partner in class, and now they have another familiar face on campus.”
Seven years after she first stood before a class, Toland’s why is confirmed and her how is identified. Receiving recognition from the students she serves helps cement the fact that she has found her place in the world.
“I love my students, and it sounds cheesy, but I am grateful and truly blessed to say that I love my job,” said Toland. “I give half of the credit for that to my colleagues. They are very helpful and supportive. I give the other half of the credit to my students. They encourage me and challenge me every day. I feel as though I have great support from my students, and I hope I am supporting them in return. To have this (ATU professor of the year) award, and to know that they voted for me for this, it’s pretty amazing.”