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News Release

Sept. 21, 2022

Past, current Northwest faculty honored by Associated Collegiate Press for contributions to journalism education

Four journalism educators with connections to Northwest Missouri State University and decades in the field are among 101 individuals who will receive the Associated Collegiate Press (ACP) inaugural Pioneer award this fall.

Laura Widmer

Laura Widmer

Steven Chappell

Steven Chappell

Dr. Bob Bergland

Dr. Bob Bergland

Dr. Linda Smith Puntney

Dr. Linda Smith Puntney

The honor distinguishes journalism educators and advocates who have provided exceptional leadership to collegiate media programs as well as contributions to collegiate journalism and service to ACP.

The honorees include Dr. Bob Bergland, Steven Chappell, Dr. Linda Smith Puntney and Laura Widmer.

“We wanted to recognize 101 great journalism advisers and educators in this first class, and these Pioneers represent a Who’s Who of collegiate journalism,” Widmer, who now serves as ACP executive director, said.

Widmer, a 1979 Northwest alumna, began working at the University in 1983 as an assistant professor in what is now the School of Communication and Mass Media and as the student publications director, retiring in 2012.

She raised the bar for excellence at Northwest’s student publications, adding a four-state travel magazine, Heartland View, to complement the profession-based experiences students receive with The Northwest Missourian student newspaper and Tower yearbook.

Under Widmer, The Missourian expanded its coverage beyond the Northwest campus to include Maryville news and high school sports. Additionally, Tower added a CD-ROM supplement, and later a DVD, to its book that included video, audio clips, extended campus coverage and photos.

Widmer received numerous awards for her teaching at Northwest, including the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education. She is a member of the College Media Association’s John Boyd Hall of Fame and the Missouri College Media Association Hall of Fame. Most recently in 2021, she received the Northwest Alumni Association’s Distinguished Faculty Emeritus Award.

Chappell joined the Northwest faculty and succeeded Widmer in 2012 as director of student publications. In addition to his more than 25 years of college newspaper advising experience, Chappell is a former newspaper reporter, photographer, copy editor, page designer, news editor and editor in chief, having worked with The Birmingham News, The Columbiana Reporter, The Leeds News in Alabama as well as The Columbia Missourian.

Bergland joined Northwest in 2019 and serves as an associate professor of mass media. Previously, he advised the student newspaper and yearbook for 22 years at Missouri Western State University. He has been connected to the journalism field since 1983.

Puntney served as advisor of the Tower yearbook from 1976 to 1978 and has continued to advise Northwest journalism students through training sessions and workshops. Today, she is an emeritus assistant professor at Kansas State University, having joined its faculty in 1989. She also is a member of the College Media Association’s John Boyd Hall of Fame.

While the Pioneer is the only award ACP presents to journalism educators, a six-member committee of retired and active advisers from throughout the nation reviewed and selected the honorees. ACP will maintain a plaque naming all Pioneer recipients at its headquarters in Minneapolis. 

ACP, which is celebrating its 100th birthday, will recognize recipients Friday, Oct. 28, at its Fall National College Media Convention in Washington, D.C. To view a complete list of the honorees, visit


Dr. Mark Hornickel
Administration Building
Room 215