Prof. Laura Kelly on Journalism, Social Issues, and Teaching

November 22, 2022 Frantsiska Kutevska
Prof. Laura Kelly on Journalism, Social Issues, and Teaching

Professor Laura Kelly teaches Journalism courses at the American University in Bulgaria. Currently, a contributor to the column “Letters from Home”, she passes the knowledge gained from her vast experience in the media industry to prepare AUBG students for working in the field of journalism and communications.

Listen to the interview with Professor Kelly to learn more about her teaching philosophy, her views on writing and editing for media, and what you will learn if you enroll in one of her courses.

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A full-time Professor at AUBG. This is only one of many other things that Professor Laura Kelly has been. Among her many jobs throughout the years are a daily newspaper reporter, a magazine editor, a director of public relations for a museum, an executive director of a symphony orchestra, and a professor as one of the latest. 

Teaching at AUBG 

“I want to light their heads on fire. So, then they go out in the world blazing.” 

This is what Professor Kelly aims to do with her students by teaching them about journalism and the world in her courses Writing for Media and Social Issues Journalism. She shared that students are not the only ones learning something new in class. 

“Teaching is an ongoing relationship with the material, with the students, and with myself. I am interested in not remaining static. I don’t think of learning as static. I have said this in class. You guys are not the only ones learning. I am there learning, too,” shares Kelly. 

Social Issues Journalism 

This is one of the classes that Professor Kelly teaches at AUBG. The core idea of the course is for students to explore a variety of social issues from around the world through different methods of storytelling: podcasting, articles, documentaries and thus realizing how the world is interconnected. 

“It feels critical to talk about that and the development and awareness of what’s going on in the larger world, kind of a global perspective of what is happening, and also to exercise our capacity to become agents of change. So, if we know what’s happening, then perhaps we can make decisions about how we want to live in the world, be in the world, things we want to contribute to the world,” Professor Kelly said. 

Independent Study 

Aside from regular classes, Professor Kelly also teaches the so-called Independent Studies in which the student approaches the instructor with an idea for a course that only they will take. 

According to Professor Kelly, such courses are not suitable for everyone as they are highly demanding: “It’s not for everyone. You have to be very self-directed. You have to find Professor who is going to do it. Independent study is another class to teach. There is just one person in the class…It becomes an extra load for the professor and… there is more responsibility on the student.”   


A method that Professor Kelly uses in some of her courses is called ungrading. She started experimenting with the concept during the pandemic when she wanted to find something to keep her in the profession. She found out that ungrading is exceptionally suitable for grading writing. 

“The more I read about ungrading for writing, the more it made sense to me that what I noticed as a professor is that a student would give me an article. I read it, I mark it up…Students would take the work, turn to the back, look at the letter and not really absorb the feedback because whatever they attached to the letter is what they would attach to themselves and their ability,” shares Professor Kelly.  

She also adds that the common grading systems could have a negative effect on a student’s learning process. 

“There is a philosophy or a way of thinking about grading in the standard traditional ideas about grading — assigning either a number or letter to a piece. Some studies say it demotivates students, that it’s not representative fully of the work that they have produced, that it’s too minimizing. Take a task or skill like writing and you reduce it to one evaluation code. That can flatten out and negate and demotivate students.” 

One Last Lesson 

At the end of each academic year, AUBG Professors are asked to give advice to graduating students. What Professor Kelly advised the students of the Class of 2022 is valid for anyone else. 

“Risk more, fail more, laugh more, regret less, judge less, fear less.” 

Want to learn more about professor Laura Kelly? Read another story