School of Arts and Humanities News

University Honors Educators with President’s Awards for Teaching Excellence


Karen Baynham and Dr. Pamela Gossin

Karen Baynham and Dr. Pamela Gossin

Five instructors from The University of Texas at Dallas recently were honored with the annual President’s Teaching Excellence Awards for their positive impact on student learning and innovation in the classroom.

UT Dallas President Richard C. Benson recognized the recipients virtually in May for their outstanding efforts. The Center for Teaching and Learning plans to host a future event to celebrate the faculty members’ achievements.

“Teaching is at the core of our University. In fact, many of our bright students choose to attend UT Dallas because of the esteemed reputation of our faculty. Now perhaps more than ever, it’s important to recognize our instructors. We are so proud of their dedicated work and their willingness to help prepare students for rewarding lives and productive careers,” said Benson, the Eugene McDermott Distinguished University Chair of Leadership.

The President’s Teaching Excellence Awards committee receives hundreds of nominations every year and considers a broad spectrum of eligible candidates throughout the University. The award comes with a stipend, and recipients are presented with medallions.

This year’s honorees represent the School of Arts and Humanities; the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication; the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences; and the Naveen Jindal School of Management.


President’s Teaching Excellence Award in Undergraduate Instruction (tenure-track)

 

Dr. Pamela Gossin

Dr. Pamela Gossin

Dr. Pamela Gossin, professor of history of science and literary studies, director of Medical and Scientific Humanities

School of Arts and Humanities

What is the most rewarding part of the teaching experience?

“All of my courses explore ‘big cosmic questions’ through interdisciplinary approaches that combine the methods and values of literature, history, philosophy, science, medicine and the arts. In class, we share and help each other build creative perspectives, self-awareness and mutual understanding — inner and outer worldviews and global philosophies of life — across disciplines, cultures and generations. I value opportunities to help students learn to trust (and even enjoy) the inherently dynamic (and sometimes uncomfortable and discombobulating) process of learning by unlearning and relearning, by constantly and courageously seeking out chances to refresh and revise their previous knowledge base, provisional hypotheses and learning styles. By helping each other quickly and ably adapt to new information, unexpected complexities and consequences, we can hopefully develop the kind of cognitive agility and emotional resilience that will enable us all to more compassionately and inclusively problem-solve whatever challenges we might face.”

What is one of your favorite memories from teaching at UT Dallas?

“Recently, one occurred during the final in-class mini-lesson plan given by a UTeach Dallas student in my Perspectives on Science class. A military veteran returning to complete his education and begin a new career as a STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] teacher, this student demonstrated the power of empathetic storytelling by teaching a classroom full of other future teachers about the ‘hidden figure’ of a high-level research scientist he’d discovered who worked through personal struggles and mental-health challenges to model unconventional pathways to success in life and academics. He then shared his own trauma-related challenges and how he’s been creating his own path to success by learning from others’ stories. One by one, all of the other students paused, looked up from their note-taking and fully engaged and listened to his story and then burst into spontaneous applause and support. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.”

What was the best part of the online teaching experience during the final weeks of the spring semester?

“This semester, my co-instructor, Dr. Marc Hairston [research scientist in the William B. Hanson Center for Space Sciences] and I faced the unusual challenge of having to convert our highly visual and experiential Literature of Science Fiction – Animated Nature course to an online format. The main themes of this class offered an exploration of humanity’s relationship with the natural world through both traditional and innovative visual storytelling techniques of Japanese anime and manga, with a shoutout to the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. But, how do you translate the impact and affective power of an aesthetically beautiful and emotionally dramatic big-screen, film-watching experience shared with 130 other highly enthusiastic fan-students into meaningful, small-screen, personal-device viewing moments? Our solution was to ‘gameify’ the original syllabus and rewrite it into a ‘post-viral’ science-fiction-fantasy journey in which students were given the choice of following one of two science-fiction adventure pathways. To bring us all together in the end, we invited students to share stories, photos and artwork inspired by their journeys through animated nature on an end-of-class online Earth Day gallery. Yes, the overall feel of this class ‘room’ was more virtual than we originally envisioned, but the final exhibit was full of truly inspirational sharing, surprise, hope and creative joy. Together — alone — we all survived the ‘viral’ path!”


President’s Teaching Excellence Award in Online/Blended Instruction

 

Karen Baynham

Karen Baynham

Karen Baynham, senior lecturer of communication and basic course director

School of Arts and Humanities

What is the most rewarding part of the teaching experience?

“The courses I teach, COMM 1311 and COMM 1315, are communication classes. The most rewarding part is when I get to witness students’ transformations over the course of the semester from timid, inexperienced speakers suffering from high speech anxiety into confident, skilled presenters. Public speaking is such a strong, marketable skill.”

What is one of your favorite memories from teaching at UT Dallas?

“When a former student emailed me an update on his internship search, he informed me he was seeing the requirements ‘strong written and oral communication skills’ on literally every posting. Each semester I show students how to represent COMM 1311 and COMM 1315 skills on their resumes. This student used the communication tips he learned in class and got the internship. Success!”

What was the best part of the online teaching experience during the final weeks of the spring semester?

“I was expecting students to be stressed, overwhelmed and distracted. On the contrary, many took the time to thank me for all the work and preparation that went into keeping the communication going while they were struggling to adapt to a remote situation. They still felt connected in my class.”

Read the entire article in the UTD News Center.