Ann Darling (’87): Teaching is probably in my DNA

By Kirsten Johnson –

Ann Darling

Ann Darling

Ann Darling (PhD, 1987) has racked up an impressive list of accomplishments over the years, but one of her lesser-known achievements isn’t anywhere to be found on paper. “I have a second-degree black belt in karate,” she laughs. “I spent many years and more than a couple visits to the doctor earning those belts.” On Oct. 16, Darling will be inducted into the Communication Alumni Hall of Fame along with four other alums.

“I’m thrilled and honored and humbled,” she said. “It doesn’t feel quite real yet, it will probably be more real when I’m there. It’s probably one of the nicest things that has happened in my life.”

Darling currently serves as an associate professor of the Department of Communication and senior associate dean of the Office of Undergraduate Studies at the University of Utah. She served as chair of the Department of Communication for nine years as well as Interim Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence and president of Northwest Communication Association.

In 2002, she received the Distinguished Teaching Award at the University of Utah. In 2004, she received a $1.1 million grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for her research work in improving education communication in engineering. In 1987, she received the UW Excellence in Teaching Award and she serves as co-chair for the University Neighbors Partnership Board.

Back when she was at the UW, Darling took classes for her Ph.D. program through the Department of Communication when it was located in Raitt Hall. She recalls faculty members with whom she worked closely and taught her things that she still uses to this day.

“I think one of the most important things that I carried from the UW is a sense that I’m a professional and a community professional,” she said. “I was taught by my mentors how to be curious and I’m not sure all academic units still do that. I was very aware that I was a member of a professional community and that still means a lot to me.”

Driven by her mentors, after graduating from UW, Darling moved to Urbana, Ill., to teach at the University of Illinois. She didn’t leave without missing a few bits and pieces of Seattle. But what she missed most — and still misses — might be a bit unexpected.

“I miss the rain,” she said. “I actually always thought it was so artistically beautiful to see all those umbrellas and hundreds of students trying to navigate the quad under those umbrellas.”

At the University of Utah, she’s involved in a gargantuan task of redesigning general education at the university and also studying classroom communication patterns and how communication pedagogy intersects with issues of social justice.

“It’s consuming in a very positive way,” she said. “So I’m loving that.”

She’s also helping to prepare new teachers to go forth and teach, a task she said she’s loved since she was young.

“It’s a life-long love of mine that’s probably in my DNA,” she said.

While she doesn’t see a yellow light anytime soon, she still enjoys her downtime. Some of her favorite hobbies include reading, yoga, visiting with her nieces and nephews and, of course, karate.

She said she’s not sure what the future holds, but she’ll always look back on her years at UW fondly.

“I’m just very, very grateful for my time there,” she said. “It was really a magical time.”