Waite earns university-wide honor

Waite earns university-wide honor

Friday, April 29, 2016 - 3:15pm
Matt Waite flying drones in Drone Journalism Lab
Matt Waite flying drones in Drone Journalism Lab

For expanding his academic expertise beyond university classrooms, Matt Waite has received one of the University of Nebraska system's most prestigious awards.

Waite, a professor of practice in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications, has earned NU's Innovation, Development and Engagement Award. The IDEA honor recognizes faculty who extend their area of expertise and enrich the broader Nebraska community.

The IDEA was one of five university system-wide honors announced by NU President Hank Bounds on April 27. The annual awards recognize faculty whose teaching, research and engagement has had a significant impact on students, the university and state.

“Our talented faculty are some of the University of Nebraska’s greatest assets," Bounds said. "Whenever I spend time in their classrooms, labs and fields, I walk away even more excited about what the university is doing to serve students, our state and the world.

“I’m privileged to honor the outstanding work of our faculty members and I thank them for all that they do. Nebraskans can take pride in the work that’s happening across our campuses.”

Waite is founder of UNL's Drone Journalism Lab. The lab, which launched in 2011 and is the first of its kind, is designed to explore how drones could be used for reporting. Students and faculty in the lab build drone platforms, using them to research the ethical, legal and regulatory issues involved in using pilotless aircraft to do journalism.

Since he joined the faculty in 2011, Waite and his students have used drones to report news in six countries on three continents.

Waite regularly speaks about the legal and ethical complexities of using drones at conferences around the world and is frequently consulted by media organizations about their potential. He also teaches courses in data journalism, web development and the intersection of storytelling and technology.

He created an open learning lab for students called Maker Hours, helped develop an interdisciplinary minor in informatics and serves on the publications board of the Daily Nebraskan.

Waite previously was a hybrid programmer/journalist for the St. Petersburg Times, where he developed PolitiFact, a website that fact checks what politicians say. The site became the first website awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2009.

Before becoming a web developer, Waite was an award-winning investigative reporter.

Waite, and the other winners of the university system-wide honors, will be presented the awards during a luncheon this spring. All winners, which are selected by a committee of faculty members, receive $10,000, a presidential medallion and an engraved plaque.

Other winners of the university-wide awards include:

Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity Award (OTICA)
Neal Grandgenett, chair of science, technology, education and mathematics education, University of Nebraska at Omaha

Outstanding Research and Creative Activity (ORCA) award
Surinder Batra, chair and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, University of Nebraska Medical Center
Bruce E. Johansen, professor of communication and Native American studies, UNO

Innovation, Development and Engagement Award (IDEA)
Elliott Ostler, professor of educational leadership, UNO

For more information on the awards, click here.