Professor Molly Taggart earns honor at OCA conference

Professor Molly Taggart (right) and her mother, Connie Taggart at the Ohio Communication Association awards ceremony on October 5-6. 

Jake Majka

During a panel at the Ohio Communication Association’s 82nd annual conference earlier this month, eight Kent State students participated in a panel during which they discussed a theory in communications they were passionate about and related it to their own personal journeys throughout their collegiate careers.

Each student talked about Molly Taggart, an adjunct professor in the School of Communication Studies, and the impact she’s had on them. All eight students

took time in their speeches to praise her for how she has helped them grow

and prosper as students.

The students decided to include Taggart in their speeches without telling her,

making the moment extra special for her.

“I was not prepared for that at all; I would’ve told them to keep that to yourself, but they did not,” Taggart said. “They certainly surprised me in an incredibly loving and generous way, and it was like something I (have) never seen and something I never expected.”

Taggart was honored Oct. 5 at the 2018 Ohio Communication Association Awards Ceremony with the Distinguished Adjunct Teacher award in the state of Ohio. This is the 20th award Taggart has received in her 14-year teaching career, but she said this one was the most rewarding yet.

Taggart received a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University in organizational communications and her master’s degree in mediated and mass communication from Kent State. In addition to teaching at Kent State, she also teaches at Hiram College.

“This was the first award that wasn’t from Kent State but from an outside organization, so it really meant a lot to me,” Taggart said. “I could not fall asleep the next day because I was so overwhelmed with emotions about how wonderful it all was.”

The whole weekend was eventful for Taggart as many current and former students came to the conference not only to attend for their own personal enjoyment, but also to support Taggart.

“I wanted to attend the conference to support her during the award ceremony and be there for her,” said Miranda Fothergill, a graduate communication studies student. Fothergill has been a student of Taggart’s since her undergraduate days at Kent State and believes Taggart’s supportive and passionate personality is what separates her from other professors she’s had in the past.

“She makes the classroom an accepting and supportive environment,” Fothergill said. “She’s like a personal cheerleader and a motivational speaker.”

Elizabeth Graham, the director of the School of Communication Studies, has been connected with Taggart since the early

2000s when Graham was Taggart’s professor at Ohio University. Their paths intertwined once again when Graham came to Kent State in 2016.

“It’s meaningful to watch a former student develop in class and watch their trajectory to their area of study and their area of professionalism, to watch that many years later and see that person come into their own and blossom,” Graham said. “Her enthusiasm is contagious, and students crave that and like to know that someone is in their corner.”

“Many of her students describe her courses as enriching, informative, challenging and usually pretty fun,” Graham said in her speech. “Molly spends a lot of hours with her students and she’s committed, and when you think of that combination and couple it with enthusiasm, you get a pretty great teacher.”

Because of their connection, Taggart said having Graham present this

award meant a lot to her.

“I started crying because it was so thoughtful the things she was saying about me and about my teaching record here,” Taggart said. “It just made me feel great.”

Taggart is not only a well-respected professor at Kent State; she also devotes her time to a number of organizations on campus. She is the faculty adviser to Kent Communication Society, a mentor for the LGBTQ Student Center in the Quest mentorship progam, a member of the diversity team for the College of Communication and Information and an active volunteer for Green Dot.

Katherine Vanke, the president of KCS and a senior communication studies major, said Taggart inspired her to follow the path she took in communications, and she’s thankful for that encouragement.

“I started out as a visual comunication and design major, and the semester I was contemplating changing majors, I took (Taggart’s) interpersonal communication class, and it kind of spiraled from there,” Vanke said. “I’ve now been in four of her classes, and she brings a lot of energy and knowledge to the classroom.”

The weeks leading up to the conference, Taggart never mentioned to any of her students she was winning an award.

“Molly was sending information every week, encouraging students to go to OCA conference without ever mentioning that she won her award,” Vanke said. “She cared more about the students’ experience.”

Taggart was blown away with the support she received the entire weekend, but she had one special guest who meant the most: Her mother, Connie.

“It was great because she’s my mom, but also she’s a teacher herself and spent 37 years in a special ed classroom and still teaches now, so that was wonderful to have her there,” Taggart said. “This OCA award was the honor of my life, and I was so glad to have her there with me to celebrate. It would not have been the same without her by my side that night or, more frankly, in my life.”

Taggart’s students and colleagues all believe it won’t be the last she receives. For now, Taggart said she is “floating on cloud nine” due to the overwhelming support she received at the conference.

“It’s been a great ride since I started at Kent State in August of 2004. In a few months, I will have been a Golden Flash for 15 years, and I couldn’t be more proud.”

Jacob Majka is the College of Communications and Information reporter. Contact him at [email protected].