UChicago announces winners of inaugural Academic Communicators Network awards

Awards honor faculty who excelled at sharing their research, expertise with the public

Since it was established in early 2018, the Academic Communicators Network (ACN) has helped hundreds of University of Chicago faculty share their field-defining research and expertise more effectively with the public. Developed as a partnership between the Office of the Provost and University Communications, the ACN offers sessions on media training, presentation delivery and digital communications throughout the academic year.

In recognition of outstanding contributions to elevate the visibility of their scholarship, increase engagement with the public and reinforce the eminence of the University during the past year, three UChicago faculty members have been named winners of the inaugural Academic Communicators Network Excellence Awards. They are Prof. Aziz Huq for media relations, Prof. Daniel Johnson for op-ed writing and Prof. Christopher Blattman for digital communications.

Each of those selected, who were nominated by either their dean, a faculty colleague, or a campus communicator, were chosen from dozens of entries by the awards committee, comprised of the ACN Faculty Advisory Committee, the Office of the Provost and University Communications.

“The role of the ACN is more important than ever in today’s news environment,” said Paul M. Rand, vice president for communications. “Academic experts rank among the most credible sources of information and giving our scholars greater support and opportunities to present their evidence-based research is critical. These awards are a wonderful reflection of the impact of their work.”

Media relations award

In the past year, University Communications fielded more than 1,000 media requests through the ACN. The media relations award recognizes the faculty member or academic who demonstrates leadership while working with online, broadcast and print news media to promote their research and scholarship.

The Frank and Bernice J. Greenberg Professor of Law, Huq comments frequently in publications such as The New York Times, Washington Post, Politico and Time, as well as broadcast outlets, offering his perspective on U.S. Supreme Court proceedings and other current issues, such as the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and ongoing attempts to ban the teaching of critical race theory.

The co-author of How to Save a Constitutional Democracy, Huq appears frequently in the University’s weekly “Monday Outlook” newsletter for journalists.

Op-ed writing award

The op-ed writing award recognizes the faculty member or academic who writes insightful op-eds and has received recognition in noteworthy publications, sharing their research and scholarship with external audiences.

A professor of pediatrics and the chief of academic pediatrics and pediatric infectious diseases at UChicago Medicine, Johnson argued that it is safe to provide in-person instruction for children during the pandemic, as long as schools follow proper safety protocols.

Through a series of co-authored op-eds in national and local publications such as The New York Times, USA Today and the Chicago Sun-Times, Johnson outlined how educators could provide children with safe, in-person instruction and the psychosocial consequences of not doing so.

Digital communications award

The award for digital communications recognizes the faculty member or academic who found innovative ways to highlight their research and scholarship on digital channels.

Blattman, the Ramalee E. Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies at the Harris School of Public Policy and the Pearson Institute, is an economist and political scientist who studies conflict, crime and poverty around the world. He leverages his own channels to share his research and perspectives with more than 82,000 Twitter followers, including reporters from the Washington Post, Axios, the Los Angeles Times and NPR, as well as fellow academics, government leaders and influencers.

Blattman has prioritized making research more accessible to the public, sharing his findings and inviting guest writers to publish on his well-trafficked blog.

Join the ACN

All faculty, lecturers, postdoctoral researchers and other academic appointees are invited to join and participate in the Academic Communicators Network. To learn more, visit the ACN website.