UW Comm earns two university-wide teaching awards

Matt and MilesEvery year, the Teaching Academy at the University of Washington recognizes a select few of outstanding faculty members and graduate teaching assistants with the highest honors for teaching. This year, the Department of Communication claimed two of those highly competitive awards: Senior Lecturer and Undergraduate Program Coordinator Matt McGarrity earned a Distinguished Teaching Award and Ph.D. candidate Miles Coleman won an Excellence in Teaching Award.

The Distinguished Teaching Award is given annually to seven faculty members (five from the Seattle campus) and chosen on a variety of criteria that includes “mastery of the subject matter, enthusiasm and innovation in the teaching and learning process, and ability to engage students both within and outside the classroom.”

“Matt has been an idea machine since joining us, and our students learn so much from him,” said David Domke, Chair of the UW Department of Communication. “He is smart, funny, and demanding, and has made public speaking a centerpiece of the campus – and it stretches even across the world, with his MOOC.”

McGarrity has shown leadership in the field of communication, and more specifically in public speaking, with his creation of the Public Speaking Center, his contributions to the graduate student teaching program, his work with the Communication Leadership faculty and students, his campus-wide teaching initiatives, his impact by teaching a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), and more.

“Fifteen years ago when I was still in grad school, I thought I wanted to go to a small liberal arts school and have a small cohort of students, but I came here,” McGarrity said. “I’ve been shaped by this place, but I wouldn’t go anywhere else because I have tons of resources and opportunities here.”

McGarrity added that he does all of these activities because they are interesting to him and he gets to work with interesting groups of people.

“I do workshops all over campus and across the state, and it’s not because of the pay (usually most of them are free), I’m just interested in what kind of presentations they have to give,” McGarrity said.

He is very pleased to receive the award, but he also recognizes the departmental effort to write letters, show support, and compose feedback for which he is greatly appreciative.

“I can attest to the fact that teaching public speaking as a large lecture course is no easy task,” said Leah Ceccarelli, Professor and Associate Chair of the UW Department of Communication. “But Matt makes it look easy. His background as a stand-up comic gives him the ability to hold an audience rapt and entertain them at the same time that he’s teaching them.”

But what most inspires Ceccarelli is the content of McGarrity’s teaching.

“He recognizes the importance of rhetorical theory and criticism to the college-level public speaking course; he emphasizes the ‘public’ in public speaking, helping students prepare to be more engaged in their civic responsibilities as speakers in a democratic society; and he focuses on the significant differences between the oral communication forms he teaches and the written modes of address that students have learned in other classes,” she said.

There was no shortage of accolades expressed about Coleman either. The Excellence in Teaching Award is given to two graduate students each year, honoring them for their “demonstration of extraordinary ability in the teaching and learning process as a graduate TA.” In addition to teaching, Coleman also started a Rhetoric Club that is designed to give students the opportunity to research and lead community and campus initiatives.

“Miles is everything we hope in a graduate student: a serious researcher who also loves teaching and makes learning a dynamic, challenging, energizing process,” Domke said. “And I don’t think he sleeps. Creating the Rhetoric Club is a contribution that will have a lasting impact in the Department.”

Coleman hopes to further define and develop the mission of the Rhetoric Club in the upcoming years, while heading out into the job market and continuing to “hook” people on rhetoric. Something that impressed Ceccarelli was Coleman’s creation of a blog to showcase the research papers of his students so that students could publish their work, making it available not only to others in the class, but to students and faculty across the university and other universities.

“When I observed Miles teach, I was most impressed with his ability to come up with examples on the fly, many from his own research, sometimes from the research of others, thus demonstrating just the kind of integrative pedagogy that a scholar at a research institution should adopt,” Ceccarelli said. “His students show intellectual vigor and excitement in the classroom, and he demonstrates great respect for their contributions.”

Coleman extends a sincere thanks to Ceccarelli, McGarrity, and Domke, as well as Mac Parks, Lisa Coutu, and the other “outstanding faculty in the department who continue to model and demonstrate amazing teaching and mentoring day after day, term after term. I would also like to thank my students for all their hard work and inspiring attitudes. I owe it all to you.”

With the addition of these two awards, the Department of Communication has become one of the most awarded units on campus. Previous Teaching Award recipients are:

Don Pember, 1975, Distinguished Teaching Award
Gerry Philipsen, 1984, Distinguished Teaching Award
Donald H. Wulff, 1984, Excellence in Teaching Award
Ann Darling, 1987, Excellence in Teaching Award
John Campbell, 1993, Distinguished Teaching Award
Karen Zediker, 1994, Excellence in Teaching Award
Gerald Baldasty, 2000, Distinguished Teaching Award
Stephanie Tomlinson, 2000, Excellence in Teaching Award
David Domke, 2002, Distinguished Teaching Award
Lisa Coutu, 2003, Distinguished Teaching Award
Crispin Thurlow, 2007, Distinguished Teaching Award
Lance Bennett, 2008, Clowes Award
Monique LaCoste, 2010, Excellence in Teaching Award