Assistant professor receives Young Scholar Award

Josh Whetherholt and Josh Whetherholt

The annual Outstanding Young Scholar Award has been handed out, and for the second time in recent years, a member of the School of Media and Communications has claimed the prize.

Assistant Professor Stephen Croucher, a professor at the University since August 2006, was the winner of this year’s award, which included a $1000 research grant and a $2000 cash reward.

‘I was surprised and happy and rather pleased,’ Croucher said. ‘It’s really cool. I think it just shows [the School of Media and Communications does] good research and the school supports us.’

Croucher has also gained much support from his colleagues for winning his award.

‘I think it’s great,’ said Communications Professor Ellen Gorsevski. ‘He’s got a lot of fantastic publications and it was some stiff competition and the fact that he was chosen under stiff competition is really a credit to him.’

Croucher, who received the award in part because of his dedication to mentoring his students, has also been praised by his graduate students.

‘He deserved it because he’s published very well and he is very hard-working,’ said fourth-year graduate student Deepa Oommen. ‘He is always in his office and working very early.’

Croucher primarily researches the ways in which religion, predominantly Islam, and intercultural relations affect the way people communicate. He has done research all over Europe, as well as in India, and has done research in the field every summer since being at the University.

Croucher said he plans to use the grant money to go to either India or China during the summer break to look at immigrant adaptation, ethnic media use and religious fundamentalism. He joked the grant money will partially pay for the plane ticket.

Interim Chair of the Department of Communications Lynda Dixon nominated Croucher for the award. She said she nominated him because he has had multiple articles published in the highest quality publications, the way he mentors the graduate students he teaches and she feels that he has been researching topics that deeply affect the world.

‘If people would listen to the things that he says, we would have less conflict today,’ Dixon said.

Dixon was very impressed with Croucher’s ability to get both external and internal research grants, something she said is rare with such a young professor. Croucher came to the University straight out of a doctoral program and already had grants.

The most important thing that Croucher does, according to Dixon, is the way he uses his own grant money to help pay for his students to go to conferences with him to present papers, something Dixon said is not seen often.

‘It’s a very generous thing to do and is very much in the students’ interest,’ Dixon said.

Oommen has been at the University as long as Croucher and has had the opportunity to work with him on several papers, along with other students. In the summer of 2008, a group including Croucher and Oommen won the Top Paper award at the International Communications Association Conference in the Intercultural Division. In November 2009, they won Top Paper at the National Communications Association Conference in both the American Forensics Division as well as the Argumentation and Forensics Division.

Because of the amount of hands-on experience Oommen has gotten from working with Croucher, she feels much more prepared to publish her own papers when she one day becomes a professor.

‘I’ve been able to learn the tricks of publishing,’ Oommen said. ‘I’ve learned all that from the research group and it has really helped me for the future.’

Dixon has been impressed with Croucher thus far and looks forward to the department gaining from his hard work and dedication, something she said has been ‘outstanding.’

‘He has been ready to go forward,’ Dixon said. ‘With that kind of attitude, he will have a long and successful career.’