Nikki Usher

Professor, Journalist and more…


Teaching Philosophy and Practice

As a teacher, it is my goal to make my students feel invested in the material they are learning. I have been in a constant process of working and learning to be a better teacher and often write about teaching experiences or lesson ideas on my Medium page. I want my students to understand, integrate, interpret, and apply the concepts and skills they have learned in my classes. I’m a recent convert to active learning and spend time in class doing exercises, partial “flipped classrooms,” reflective learning, and beyond. I also teach both MA and undergraduate students and advise theses and capstones for these degrees.

I have taken a number of opportunities to expand my understanding of pedagogy, including the GW’s Course Design Institute (which changed my life and made me a convert to active learning) and GW’s Faculty and Learning Community for Junior Scholars. I’ve presented on teaching with technology before the Lilly Teaching Conference and the Association for Education in Mass Communication and Journalism.

I believe that my students are the best part of my job. They have unbridled enthusiasm and passion. They are why we do what we do. They ask the questions that we often overlook, and they underscore why it is so critical to pay attention to detail. In addition to my classroom teaching, I am also an advocate for students professionally, and regularly keep them appraised of professional opportunities and aware of the skills they need to have to succeed in a competitive communications environment.

For a sample of some of my recent courses, see my syllabi for Journalism: Theory and Practice (UG), my Future of Journalism Class, and my Social Media: Theory and Practice (UG & MA) class. I’m particularly proud of showcasing the multimedia skills learning we apply in our blog and social media assignments in my UG social media class (for some examples of how this is taught and results, see and look at the blogroll).

I should mention that I am also a faculty-in-residence on GW’s campus (yes, I live with students in a dorm! yes, it’s fantastic!), but for more on that, get in touch.

But I teach outside the classroom, and talk to people across the DC area…

You can often find me giving talks to journalists from Russia or China, for example, or as of late, folks at the Foreign Service Institute of the State Department. I am a social media trainer for our executive education courses here at SMPA. I am well-versed in all the basic theories of Mass Comm (and persuasion), and believe to be an effective communicator, it’s not just about the gizmos, but about understanding some of these basic principles. At the same time, I teach a social media class, and I spend most of my time thinking about connections between news and social media. So you’ll often find me talking about news, the future of journalism, social media, the open Web, open source, and media and development.