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Beeson, Coester and McFarland receive College of Media faculty awards

Joel Beeson, Dana Coester and Mary Kay McFarland

Each academic year, the WVU Reed College of Media recognizes faculty members for their exceptional teaching and innovative research. This year, awards were presented to Joel Beeson, Dana Coester and Mary Kay McFarland at the College’s annual Spring Honors Ceremony.

Professors Beeson and Coester are co-recipients of the Faculty Research Award, which recognizes outstanding scholarly work or creative activity. Beeson and Coester have spent years documenting the spread of extremism and harmful content targeting teenagers on social media and gaming platforms. The pair produced and directed a feature-length documentary film, “Raised by Wolves,” which examines the online youth culture in an Appalachian community and reveals a complex ecosystem that exposes them to misinformation and far right extremism. As a result of their research, they have been asked to provide testimonies to congressional committees and briefings to other researchers and reporters at major media outlets. Their work was also recognized University-wide, when they were named co-recipients of WVU’s  2021-22 Benedum Distinguished Scholar Award.

Since joining the College in 2002, Beeson has led a collaborative initiative with Morgan State University’s School of Global Communication and Journalism to report on social issues impacting two seemingly disparate communities across urban/rural and racial divides. He also produced and directed the award-winning documentary, “Fighting on Two Fronts: the Untold Stories of African American WWII Veterans” and several experimental documentary projects about the experience of Black veterans of WWI, including  Soldiers of the Coalfields and  WWI Through the Eyes of the Chicago Defender, a Google Expedition in collaboration with the Congressional Black Caucus Veterans Braintrust and the US WWI Centennial Commission.  

Coester joined the College in 2009 and was instrumental in the creation of the College of Media’s  Innovation Center and the launch of the collaborative media outlet  100 Days in Appalachia, for which she currently serves as editor in chief.

McFarland, a teaching associate professor of journalism, received the College’s Outstanding Teaching Award, which recognizes innovative and excellent classroom teaching. She teaches courses in multimedia storytelling and media tools and applications, in which she works with students to explore new ways to use video, audio, photography and writing to tell authentic stories.

Since she joined the College in 2009, she has led several real-world and collaborative visual and multimedia journalism projects, including West Virginia Uncovered, which focused on finding untold stories in rural West Virginia;  Women Beyond Bars , a two-year grant-funded project that explored the causes and effects of the high incarceration rate of women in West Virginia; and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Reporting project, a collaborative project with the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs that assessed the impact of the pipeline in West Virginia. 

“These faculty colleagues embrace research and teaching projects that meaningfully engage our students and make a difference to society,” said Dean Diana Martinelli. “We are grateful for their dedication, hard work and expertise.”

The College’s faculty awards are based on annual performance and decided jointly by a committee of faculty peers and the dean.