Tuscaloosa, Ala. — The National Communication Association (NCA) has awarded Dr. Heather Hayes the Donald H. Ecroyd Award for Outstanding Teacher in Higher Education for the 2023-2024 year. 

The NCA presents this award annually to honor a member who enacts the highest quality of teaching within higher education. It is one of only 12 awards that are association-wide, and not contained within any one discipline. The NCA chose Hayes for her dedication to inclusivity, innovation and social justice while embracing the non-traditional community, including incarcerated individuals and citizens with a passion for social justice. They also referenced her nonprofit organization The Teach Out, established in 2020 to reach communities underserved in educational access. This organization is now active in 17 states and three countries.   

Hayes, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies, said she was surprised when she learned she would be this year’s award recipient.

“This news was unexpected for me,” she said, “and I am honored to be in the company of such incredible scholars who were nominated, whose teaching represents the most innovative ways we integrate research into our classrooms. Most of all, I am thrilled to represent The University of Alabama, the incredible faculty of C&IS, and my amazing colleagues in Communication Studies in this capacity.” 

When looking to the future, Hayes said, “My goal as an educator is to build transformative spaces of learning, spaces that are open to all and that invite us to study rigorously while engaging our wonder and joy. The transformative power of communication is a cornerstone not only in how we build community, but also in how we generate change and make the world a better place.”

The NCA is dedicated to advancing the study of communication and promotes the widespread appreciation of the importance of communication in all aspects of daily life, from improving interpersonal relationships to problem-solving on a larger scale. 

The NCA will present the award to Hayes during the awards ceremony at the NCA convention on November 18 in National Harbor, Maryland.