Faculty Spotlight – Wayne Hepler
15 December 2021
A veteran educator with extensive classroom experience, Professor of Mass Communications Wayne Hepler is a shining example of commitment, resilience and quality at Harford. Professor Hepler has been educating students at Harford for more than 24 years and, in his own words, has “loved teaching from day one.” His extensive career as a media writer, producer, documentary filmmaker, and on-air talent is key to the incredible reputation of the Mass Communications department that he leads within the Arts & Humanities division.
Starting at Harford in 1997, Wayne was tasked with revamping the Mass Comm program and has since transformed it, modernized it and created a program with integrity, high academic standards, and sought-after teaching with real world experiences in the media through professional internships and hands-on training.
Professor Hepler teaches a variety of courses including Intro to Electronic Media, Writing for Electronic Media, Digital Audio Production, and Electronic Media Performance, as well as Independent Study courses for advanced students, and guides students with Field Projects including internships and co-ops. In addition, he instructs the Honors Program course History of Film. He also serves on the Honors Committee, selecting and reviewing curriculum to ensure an academic and social challenge for students as well as opportunities above and beyond their program of study.
Even with his long career, Wayne says, “I still really feel on fire when I get in front of students. I have really strong feelings about pedagogy. No matter how obvious it may sound, if I as a teaching professor don't care about my students, I am less of a teacher. It’s all about rapport with my students for me.” To build that rapport, Professor Hepler makes it a priority to connect to each of his students. During his lessons, you’ll find him walking through the classroom, talking to each student individually and even sitting among them.
Wayne is revered by his students for his extensive knowledge and experience. Former students, including those who have succeeded in the industry, continue to engage with him and seek his mentorship, advice and guidance. He regularly has alum as guest lecturers for his classes, adding that real-world aspect to his lessons. One notable former student and Harford alumna, Kristy Breslin, current morning traffic anchor for WJZ-TV CBS Channel 13, says of her former professor, “Wayne Hepler was instrumental in helping me pave the way to become a broadcaster. Wayne encouraged me to follow my dreams and gave me the determination and confidence I needed to make it a reality. I have had a wonderful career in TV over the past 20 years, which is still going strong to this day. Wayne remains a close friend and mentor to me who I still call for advice and guidance. He goes above and beyond the call of duty for his students and I feel so fortunate to have had him as a teacher and now to call him a friend.”
The course History of Film stands out for this educator as a distinctive class to teach. It’s a class where he can live up to his reputation for bringing humor to his teaching, adding a unique aspect to the class by wearing “film-specific” costumes, masks, wigs or displaying an occasional film prop to garner student attention. He makes his performance classes, in his words, “low terror” by getting students out of their shells using known tricks of the trade, while still training them in important transferable skills. Wayne knows that there are few things that unify a classroom like a good laugh. He brings his notable humor to the classroom to lower stress, reinforce lessons and boost student engagement.
In keeping with Harford’s mission to provide the tools and platforms for student aspirations to become realities, Wayne works tirelessly to keep his students engaged by staying innovative and keeping curriculum and programming up-to-date in an ever-changing mass media industry. He works tirelessly to ensure that articulation and transfer agreements are current and accurate with Towson, University of Baltimore, and other surrounding transfer institutions. He has been instrumental in helping to establish the direction and partnerships for the Mass Comm production and announcing program and continues to make strides for student leadership, internships, and other opportunities with the College’s radio station, WHFC 91.1FM.
Through his friendship with Kristy Breslin and professional connections, Wayne was able to acquire the authentic and iconic WJZ-13 anchor desk and professional stage set for Harford’s Mass Comm department, providing a pivotal tool for our students to gain high-level experience. In an effort to give our students competitive advantages, Wayne worked to secure several grants to maintain equipment currency so students have learning experiences with up-to-date technologies and hardware. Currently he’s spearheading an innovation grant that will follow up the state-of-the-art studio camera purchase both he and Todd Abramovitz, Dean of Arts and Humanities, helped to bring to Harford.
Prof. Hepler strives to make an impact at Harford by serving our campus community in numerous ways, including participating on the Academic Policies Committee as a mentor to tenure track faculty, member of the Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum (RWAC) group, and continues to lead the hiring and mentoring of Mass Communications adjunct faculty. Wayne is a co-contributor along with faculty members Lynn Patterson and Heidi Neff, working to develop and build Discovery Learning courses for high school students interested in our Interactive Media program. The anticipated program proposal is currently being reviewed by Harford’s Curriculum Work Group and the Maryland Higher Education Commission. Most recently, Professor Hepler was honored with the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) Excellence Award for demonstrating outstanding commitment and contribution to students and colleagues with excellence in teaching and leadership – a testament to the important work he does each day. Wayne maintains numerous professional memberships, including Broadcast Education Association, former Fulbright College Representatives, National Association of Broadcasters, and National Association of College Broadcasters. His media experience is considerable and includes significant past work as producer, director and writer of the documentary film, “Taking Back the Airwaves: The Story of the Radio Pirates,” as well as his current role as radio host and co-producer of “Feedback,” a weekly public affairs interview radio program that’s been on the air for 13 years.
Active on campus as well as in the community, Wayne serves on the Harford TV (formerly Harford Cable Network) Advisory Board and is active with his church. As a devoted Christian, it gives him great joy to be a representative of Jesus Christ. Wayne is the father of triplets and loves sports, music and appreciates art as a hobby. He especially loves caricatures.
With everything Wayne provides to his students, his true hope is “that they are better for stopping here in their educational journey.” With retirement approaching in Professor Hepler’s future, Harford applauds this veteran teacher's ambition to remain in teaching and, in doing so, continue to strive for improvement in his students and the community college experience.