By Annette Finley-Croswhite and Amber Kennedy

In 2022 August Agho, Ph.D., Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs established guidelines for protecting scholars and researchers from attacks on social media, message boards, and other online forums. To further enhance faculty expertise in working with the media and help mitigate risks, Amber Kennedy, Assistant Vice President for Public Relations, spent time over the summer meeting with faculty and administrators around campus to gain insight into faculty media needs. The result is a series of trainings that will be launched in 2023-2024 to help faculty better engage media outlets. University Communications will offer three specific workshop trainings this fall, and the CFD is pleased to co-sponsor. The fall topics include: 1) Broader Impacts: How to Share Expertise Through Media; 2) Media Panel: The Elements of a Great Story; and, 3) Virtual Workshop: Social Media for Academics. RSVP links are listed below. Media trainings will continue in the spring. 

Before launching the workshops, Amber Kennedy shared time with the Center for Faculty Development to discuss her background and goals for the series. Please see her responses below.

Would you please introduce yourself to our faculty readers and share a little bit about your background?
I’m Amber Lester Kennedy, the assistant vice president for public relations. I joined the University as the director of news and media relations in June 2021 after six years as a senior public relations counselor with an advertising agency. That role afforded me opportunities to work with an international manufacturing client, local art museums, tourism bureaus and municipalities on projects that garnered national and international coverage. I started my career as a journalist, working in Harrisonburg, Staunton and Williamsburg; my dad is the editor of my hometown newspaper, so you could say I grew up in a newsroom.

What was your inspiration for developing a series of media-related workshops for faculty?As a journalist, I was always seeking expert sources to provide clarity on issues that couldn’t be provided in the same way by those directly impacted or advocating for specific actions. I would often reach out to universities to seek faculty. Those engagements offer an opportunity not only for faculty to present the information they’ve gathered to a wider audience, but to truly bring the public into conversations that might be happening among researchers. I know faculty are sometimes nervous about distilling their research into soundbites for media, and I’d love to help provide some tools for success.

What do you think faculty ought to know when engaging with media outlets?

Most media outlets are seeking broad subject matter expertise, but not usually the level of detail one would expect to publish in an academic journal. We’ve often seen faculty express concern about speaking on a specific issue or topic they haven’t directly researched, but usually they’re more than qualified to speak in general terms.

How do you think faculty could better position themselves to share their research with larger audiences and audiences outside of the scholarly domain? 

Practice and refine the ability to talk about research in the most relatable terms, the way you might describe your work to someone you just met at a party. Think about how to frame research as the problem or question you’re hoping to address through your study, and how that might impact greater society.

Is there anything in particular about the series you'd really like to highlight?

I am hopeful faculty will attend the workshop with news editors to hear directly what they’re looking for when assigning stories. I think it’s easy for both editors and academics to make assumptions about each other’s motives, and it can be illuminating to find out what drives decision-making for both parties.

What should faculty know about your office and how your office can help with media/faculty interaction? 

ODU News facilitates media relations on behalf of the University and our faculty, and that can include working with media to find experts, conducting outreach to promote faculty expertise, vetting opportunities and all aspects of coordination. Our team is staffed with experienced journalists and media relations professionals who maintain relationships with reporters and editors. We can also offer ad hoc media training to prepare for specific interviews. Because of our training, we anticipate what a reporter or photographer might need to be successful and do all the necessary follow-up. If a faculty member does feel coverage wasn’t fair or accurate, we can help navigate those conversations with media outlets.

Is there any other insight you'd like to offer at this juncture in terms of this series of media trainings?

This semester’s offerings are just the beginning of topics we could explore. In the future, we’re planning sessions on writing and submitting opinion pieces and in-person interview training. We’d love to hear from faculty on other topics they’d like to learn more about.

Fall Schedule:

Broader Impacts: How to Share Expertise Through Media

12-1 p.m. Monday, Oct. 2 | Student Government Chambers, Webb Center

A panel of faculty will talk about the benefits and best practices for sharing research and expertise through news outlets in a one-hour discussion. Panelists will offer tips, lessons learned and how they approach interviews.

Panelists include:

  • Holly Gaff, professor of biological sciences
  • Jessica Whitehead, the Joan P. Brock Endowed Executive Director of the Institute for Coastal Adaptation and Resilience (ICAR)
  • Ben Melusky, associate professor of political science and geography
  • Jim Blando, associate professor in School of Community and Environmental Health


Media Panel: The Elements of a Great Story

12-1 p.m. Monday, Oct. 16 | Webinar

News editors Mechelle Hankerson of WHRO and Andrea Noble of The Virginian-Pilot explain how a kernel of an idea becomes a news story. Attendees will learn how to frame their expertise or research, what makes something newsworthy, how editors determine if a story idea is a “fit,” and the importance of timing.


Virtual Workshop: Social Media for Academics

12-1 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13 | Webinar

University Communications and University Counsel experts will offer tips for faculty about using social media. Learn about the benefits of engaging in online discourse, the potential risks and the University’s Guidelines for Protecting Scholars and Researchers. This one-hour webinar is cosponsored by University Communications, the Center for Faculty Diversity and Retention, and the Center for Faculty Development.


If you require special accommodations, please contact