Recipient Profiles - DTA

2017 Distinguished Teaching Award Winners

Peter Alilunas - 2017 Ersted Award for Specialized Pedagogy

Peter AlilunasSince joining the University of Oregon in 2014, Peter Alilunas has offered courses on a wide range of topics in the area of media studies, including Introduction to Media Studies, Mass Media and Society, and Cinema, Sex, and Censorship in the School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC). “He is the TED Talk professor of the School of Journalism and Communication!” lauded one colleague. Alilunas’s superb classroom teaching style is dynamic, passionate, knowledgeable, and engaging.

Alilunas is not only an exceptional classroom teacher, but also an innovative leader at SOJC. Since 2016, he has taken a leadership role in the media studies area as interim director. In this position, he successfully brought internal and external spotlights to the program to increase student interest.

His colleagues attest to his exceptional skills at holding the attention of his large classes of more than 400 students with complex matters, highly abstract concepts, and theoretical issues. He approaches the challenge by carefully and methodically unpacking these concepts and theories and connecting them to accessible, real-life examples that are relevant to students’ lives. He creates rapport with students and develops an active and positive learning environment in the classroom. Dean Juan-Carlos Molleda said, “Professor Alilunas’s teaching style is not simply attentive for students, but absorbing.”

Students are deeply impressed with his passionate and intellectually stimulating lectures as well as his ability to relate his lectures to the real world. They describe his classes as “amazingly engaging,” “extremely relevant,” and “powerful.” One student writes that his class “has raised my awareness of myself, those around me, and what is most important, the things that happen around me. Professor Alilunas was able to permanently turn on my critical thinking ability.”

In recognition of his achievement and expertise in the area of media studies, Peter Alilunas is a recipient of a 2017 Ersted Award for Specialized Pedagogy.

Steven Brence - Thomas F. Herman Faculty Achievement Award for Distinguished Teaching

Steven BrenceSteven Brence is the sort of teacher who changes lives. Brence has long been inspiring students to become philosophy majors or minors. Recognized as an outstanding teacher, one who is articulate, engaging, and thought-provoking, one of his students writes, “Professor Brence has exemplified excellent teaching ability, raising very provocative points that have helped shape me into a more thoughtful person.”

Brence has made tremendous contributions to undergraduate teaching in the Department of Philosophy. One example is his development of two very successful philosophy courses: Philosophy of Film and Philosophy and Popular Culture. Both are popular courses that draw a wide range of undergraduate students who might not otherwise be introduced to philosophy. Neither course is easy; they require the full participation of the student in discussions, projects, and essay writing. The student involvement he fosters is unique. Brence encourages his students to find the relevance of philosophical questions to their own lives, enabling them to develop a more critical and reflective disposition to the forms of culture that define their lives.

The nominations Brence received from students and his written evaluations are a testament to his impact on his students. One writes, “I have been privileged enough to take multiple courses with Professor Brence and experience firsthand his ability to challenge the mind of his students . . . (He) is the primary reason for my decision to earn a degree in philosophy from the University of Oregon.” Another student adds, “I truly feel that the learning experience I had in this class . . . was highly unique and exceptionally valuable . . . I am not exaggerating when I say that this course has had the greatest impact on my academic career and has made me a better writer, a better thinker, and a better person.”

In addition to his exemplary teaching, both within and outside the classroom, he is an exceptional mentor and role model to his graduate teaching assistants as they embark on their own teaching careers.

In recognition of his excellence in teaching, Steven Brence is the recipient of a 2017 Thomas F. Herman Faculty Achievement Award for Distinguished Teaching.

Caitlin Fausey - Ersted Award for Distinguished Teaching

Caitlin FauseyAssistant Professor Caitlin Fausey received an awe-inspiring number of nominations from her faculty colleagues in the psychology department. They described her as a “passionate, rigorous, and inspiring teacher,” and a “highly confident, absolutely excellent and energetic instructor.” Fausey converts the theoretical and complicated discipline of cognitive development into a subject that students cannot merely understand but also expand upon and question, creating deep and meaningful discussions, even in large classes. She teaches a broad range of courses including undergraduate courses in cognitive development, psycholinguistics, and research methods as well as graduate courses in her areas of expertise.

A member of her graduate student teaching team praised Fausey for her “patience, listening, and confidence,” and for challenging her students to learn sophisticated coding on the statistical software package R, rather than tools more commonly used at the undergraduate level. A member of another teaching team noted how Fausey drew upon the knowledge of her discipline while designing her courses: “As a good cognitive psychologist, she incorporated evidence-based practices to enhance learning into her teaching, including reviewing the material covered in the previous lecture, explicitly guiding students through the connections between concepts, asking leading questions, and consistently testing students on new and old material.”

Fausey’s students also praise her teaching methods: “Fausey is a very enthusiastic teacher; she is very knowledgeable on the subject, and her style of teaching is very effective. Her passion toward the subject makes learning easier. Also, she was always available to answer any questions,” said one student. Another said: “Fausey is the best teacher I’ve ever had. She was so nice and so knowledgeable. She cared about teaching and that made Methods my favorite class.”

In recognition of her excellence in teaching, Caitlin Fausey is the recipient of a 2017 Ersted Award for Distinguished Teaching.

Christopher Michlig - Ersted Award for Specialized Pedagogy

Christopher MichligChristopher Michlig, an assistant professor in the Department of Art in the School of Architecture and Allied Arts, is an extraordinary teacher committed to innovative instruction featuring broad-based inquiry and hybrid studio practices.

Since joining the UO, Michlig has made remarkable contributions in curriculum and teaching. Notably, he redesigned the cornerstone course of the core studio (or foundations) area into a series of lectures that introduce key design concepts to students in the context of contemporary art practice. These lectures dovetail with a sequence of applied lab projects that allow students to develop basic visual literacy through a speculative process of making. What is especially innovative about this course is that it asks students to follow a trajectory of ideas finding form across two-dimensional, three-dimensional, and time-based media. Such an approach represents a radical but necessary break with traditional, media-specific ways of teaching art, given that artists today typically work across media and often combine 2-D, 3-D, and 4-D forms in a single exhibition. This course, therefore, offers students the conceptual skills they need to solve problems across media and supports their ongoing work in the other two core courses and throughout the program.

Michlig is not only a skilled curriculum designer but also an outstanding teacher with the rare ability to captivate large groups of students. Students describe his lectures as “fantastic,” “passionate,” “engaging,” and “knowledgeable.” They praise his intellectual engagement and breadth of knowledge as well as his ability to motivate them to think independently and creatively. Faculty peers are likewise impressed with Michlig’s teaching, describing him as “highly energetic,” “extremely organized,” “animated, articulate, [and] completely in control of the audience.”

In recognition of his achievement and expertise in the area of Core Studio, Christopher Michlig is a recipient of a 2017 Ersted Award for Specialized Pedagogy.

Shannon Mockli - Thomas F. Herman Award for Specialized Pedagogy

Shannon MockliShannon Mockli is an associate professor in the Department of Dance. As a 2017 winner of the Herman Award for Specialized Pedagogy, she is recognized for her work in kinesthetic pedagogy—pedagogy situated in bodily movement. Mockli is dedicated to integration of the theoretical underpinnings of movement in the midst of movement practices. Her field of instruction includes technical skill training and creative practices, but also theory building, the history and philosophies of dance, and public performance.

Mockli brings to her distinguished teaching practices an embodied presence as a highly regarded performer, choreographer, and educator in the field. Students gravitate to her strong contemporary focus, evidenced by exceedingly impressive student evaluations. Of Mockli’s 50 courses with student evaluations since fall 2012, she has scored 4.5 or higher (on a scale of 5) 41 times for instructor quality. One of the most consistent comments from students is how she cares for and supports students at the same time she challenges them.

Students and faculty members say the following things about Shannon: “She embodies the artistry she espouses,” “She is compassionate but demanding,” and “She shares her personal thrill of learning with students as they investigate material together.”

In recognition of her achievement and expertise in the area of kinesthetic pedagogy, Shannon Mockli is a recipient of a 2017 Thomas F. Herman Award for Specialized Pedagogy.

Elly Vandegrift - Thomas F. Herman Award for Specialized Pedagogy

Elly VandegriftElly Vandegrift, senior instructor of biology and associate director of the Science Literacy Program, is recognized for her constant and astonishing dedication to education in the Department of Biology and the science literacy program. In the words of department head Bruce Bowerman, “Eleanor is bringing us together to explicitly and deliberately focus on how we can systematically improve both our curriculum and our approaches to teaching.”

Vandegrift has been the driving force behind the implementation of the Science Literacy Program since the beginning, focusing her contribution in assisting participating faculty members in developing innovative teaching strategies. Her multifaceted executive and teaching activities have been essential in proving the effectiveness of learner-centered teaching methods, such as backward designed courses, or “flipped” classes. These innovative approaches challenge traditional methods of curriculum planning. While in traditional curriculum planning the teacher focuses on a list of content that will be taught, in backward course design, the educator starts with goals, creates assessments, and, finally, makes lesson plans. Flipped learning is the result of a collaborative effort by which information assimilation takes place in the classroom, rather than through lectures, by students’ participation in consequential activities.

Introducing these new pedagogical approaches in which the teacher is involved in creating and curating relevant content for students and with students, Vandegrift had an immense impact on science education at the University of Oregon, first within the Science Literacy Program and then in transforming the teaching culture within the Department of Biology where core courses are now taught as flipped courses.

Vandegrift has attained national prominence through her participation in conferences and institutions that focus on promoting more effective science education at the college level. Notably, she was elected to be both a National Academies Fellow and a mentor in the life sciences, a PULSE (Partnership in Undergraduate Life Sciences Education) ambassador.

In recognition of her achievement and expertise in the area of science literacy, Elly Vandegrift is a recipient of a 2017 Thomas F. Herman Award for Specialized Pedagogy.

Akiko Walley - Thomas F. Herman Faculty Achievement Award for Distinguished Teaching

Akiko WalleyAkiko Walley, the Maude I. Kerns Professor of Asian Art, specializes in Japanese Buddhist art of the seventh and eighth centuries. Her creativity and innovation as a teacher has been repeatedly recognized and rewarded. Since joining the Department of the History of Art and Architecture in 2009, she has developed 15 new courses. Six of those courses were supported with competitive teaching awards from a range of UO sources, including the Oregon Humanities Center, the Tom and Carol Williams Fund for Undergraduate Education, and the James F. and Shirley K. Rippey Fund for Teaching Innovation.

Walley offers courses characterized by active learning based on students’ direct engagement in works of art. Working closely with the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, local collectors, galleries, and artists, she creates opportunities for students to experience high-quality Japanese art works firsthand. Her courses, whether lower-division lectures or upper-division seminars, incorporate museum visits and in-class demonstrations of artistic technique, production process, or use. In an introductory lecture course offered annually on the history of Japanese art, for example, she holds an in-class demonstration of the traditional tea ceremony and brings small groups of students in rotation to view woodblock prints at the Schnitzer Museum.

Students praise Walley’s passion, knowledge, and creativity, citing especially her innovative hands-on pedagogy. As one student explains, “I particularly enjoyed the various venues through which we explored the themes of the course—through traditional lectures, days looking at specific pieces of art in the museum, traveling exhibitions, visiting artist talks, and various media such as books, exhibition catalogs, manga, and video.” Another writes: “I felt privileged to have the rare opportunity to see such a wide range of high-quality prints from well-known artists in person, and not behind glass. Being able to closely examine the texture of the prints, the backs and margins, gave me much more insight into the processes of printmaking than I would have gained from looking at slides in a lecture hall.”

In recognition of her excellence in teaching, Akiko Walley is a recipient of a 2017 Thomas F. Herman Faculty Achievement Award for Distinguished Teaching.

Kristin Yarris - Ersted Award for Specialized Pedagogy

KKristin Yarrisristin Yarris is an assistant professor in the Department of International Studies and is affiliated with the Center for Latina/o and Latin American Studies, the Center for the Study of Women in Society, and the Center for Global Health. Yarris’s teaching broadly addresses the political-economic and social-cultural determinants of health and the relationship between population health and development processes in contemporary global contexts.

Yarris has developed innovative courses, adding to the breadth and depth of curricula offered by the Department of International Studies. One of her areas of expertise is transnational migration, focusing on the Americas. Yarris creatively and critically examines representations of the circulation of Central American and Mexican migrants through what she describes as a zone of transit in western Mexico. Another research area focuses on psychiatry, mental illness, and mental health care in Mexico. She studies the social determinants of health and well-being and the cultural shaping of illness and distress in different global locations.

Students and colleagues admire Yarris’s energy and dedication. One student writes: “Kristin Yarris is an incredible professor. Her passion for global health is inspiring and it is evident that she wants students to succeed and love global health as much as she has.”

In recognition of her achievement and expertise in the area of global health, Kristin Yarris is a recipient of a 2017 Ersted Award for Specialized Pedagogy.

Char Heitman, Jennifer Rice, Beth Sheppard
Joint Awardees - 2017 Thomas F. Herman Award for Outstanding Online Education

Char Heitman Beth Sheppard Jennifer RiceThree extraordinary individuals received the Thomas F. Herman Award for Outstanding Online Education in its inaugural year. Char Heitman, Jennifer Rice, and Beth Sheppard are recognized as excellent teachers, mentors, and designers of online educational environments. They all teach at the American English Institute, a campus leader in online education.

Char Heitman is a true innovator in the field of education technology. Developing programs and teaching in an online environment is only part of Heitman’s contribution to the field of education technology. She has published and presented extensively on online education, namely in the areas of English as a foreign language literacy, project-based instruction, student engagement, listening and speaking skills, and assessment. Her presentations have taken her to dozens of international and regional conferences as an invited speaker. She has authored several publications including book chapters, reports, case studies, and articles. Students refer to her online courses as “valuable and unforgettable.”

Jennifer Rice was heavily involved with the prestigious E-Teacher Scholarship Program and Access Teacher Development Online Program, which provides teacher training opportunities to thousands of educators outside the US using front-line synchronous and asynchronous technologies. Her contributions have been instrumental in making each of these programs an international success. She has taught and revised courses on multiple learning management system platforms and mentored other faculty members who were new to online teaching. She consistently receives exemplary student evaluations for her courses. Over the course of her career, she has instructed and presented to thousands of students from nearly every country on the globe, and has mentored many English language and content faculty members here at the American English Institute and in institutions worldwide.

Beth Sheppard has helped expand the field of online and hybrid education in applied linguistics and English for Specific Purposes, attaining recognition on an international level. She helped craft the concept of outstanding instruction in the field of online teaching and what it means to conduct teacher training in an online platform. Alumni of her online courses indicated they were “the best classes I ever took” and “life-changing.” Over the course of her career, through her leadership in the Advanced Certification in English Language Teaching (ACE) program, the E-Teacher Scholarship Program, and the development of multiple massive open online courses (MOOCs), she has instructed thousands of students and mentored many faculty members.

In recognition of their innovation and creativity in implementing excellent online learning experiences, Char Heitman, Jennifer Rice, and Beth Sheppard are recipients of the 2017 Thomas F. Herman Award for Outstanding Online Education.