Eleanor Novek, Ph.D., is stepping down as a Professor of Communication after 25 years. During her time, she wrote three academic journals on prison education and activism, was nominated for the Distinguished Teaching Award, received the Judith H. Stanley Traveling Fellowship for Teaching in the Humanities, and taught dozens of courses related to every corner of the journalism industry.
Outside of the classroom, she joined the Board of Directors for the Redeem-Her Transitional Program for Women, became an Editorial Board Member for both the Atlantic Journal of Communication and the Journal of Prison Education and Reentry. She also became a state coordinator for the Alternatives to Violence Project in which she organized and led nonviolence workshops in prisons, churches, and community centers.
“I’ve been at MU for 25 years, and now it’s time to spend some time doing other things,” Novek wrote in a statement to The Outlook. “I’ve got the travel bug and once COVID-19 calms down, there are some places on my bucket list that really call out to me, such as Greenland and Cuba.”
“Professor Eleanor Novek will be impossible to replace,” Aaron Furgason, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Chair of the Communication Department and Adviser of WMCX said. “Finding a new colleague that is both a champion for Monmouth University students, an advocate for social justice and education for New Jersey’s prisoners, plus being a fantastic colleague will be a difficult role for someone to fill. Professor Novek will be sorely missed by students and faculty in the Department of Communication.“
Novek taught all different facets of journalism to students during her time, including newswriting, editorial writing, and online journalism.
“I think all forms of journalism are important, now more than ever,” Novek wrote. “I have enjoyed teaching journalism classes to some very bright and courageous students. The world needs you folks! The news keeps us aware of the changing events and issues in our world and gives us information we need to make the best decisions about our lives, our communities, and our government. In the distant and recent past, presidents and politicians, con men and corporations, have lied to the public shamelessly, and courageous journalists have stood up and provided the factual evidence we needed to discover the truth. I feel so proud of my students who have become journalists and are serving their communities and the world in this way.”
Novek’s research interests during her time at Monmouth focused on communication strategies and practices of incarcerated individuals; higher education in prison and the methods that sustain it. She spent her time greatly on racial justice issues involving men and women in prison; prison journalism; and methods of teaching nonviolence, leading to her receiving the Literacy Volunteer of the Year Award from the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
“Incarcerated people are people just like you and me,” Novek wrote. “As human beings, we are more than the worst thing we have ever done. Doing nonviolence workshops in prisons taught me that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. That experience has really shown me the value of connecting with students and helping them connect with each other, so I have taken some of those lessons and tried to incorporate them into my classes wherever possible. And as a journalist, I believe that prison is not the answer to the problems that plague our society. The public needs to know the human stories of those folks locked away behind bars, so they are not forgotten.”
The Outlook asked Novek if she recalled any particularly memorable or rewarding moments during her time at Monmouth.
“Quite a few!” She wrote. “One of the best was when Dr. Johanna Foster and I were able to bring a class of Monmouth students into a New Jersey State Prison to study with incarcerated learners for a semester. Their topic was ending the school-to-prison pipeline — the dynamic that pushes poor students of color out of school and into the criminal justice system. The MU students then made a public presentation about their work that was standing room only – it attracted everyone from the president of the University to the Commissioner of the NJ Department of Corrections. That was an awesome day!”
“I am a peace activist,” Novek wrote. “I intend to do more nonviolence workshops in my community and in prisons. And in addition to volunteer work and travel, my husband and I love to hike in the woods, and we plan to do more of that soon. And I’d like to see my family more often.”
PHOTO COURTESY of Anthony DePrimo