MENOMONIE, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents today presented its 31st annual Teaching Excellence Awards. The awards recognize outstanding career achievements in teaching and are the UW System’s highest recognition for members of its faculty and instructional academic staff.
“These UW educators and programs are inspiring students to develop invaluable life skills,” said Regent Cris Peterson, chair of the selection committee. “With this award, we recognize the innovative, collaborative approaches to teaching that are equipping students to reach their full potential.”
The 2023 recipients are:
Individual: Erin Aldridge, Professor, Music Department, UW-Superior
“I feel lucky to be a teacher,” said Dr. Erin Aldridge, a professor of violin and director of orchestra at UW-Superior. “It starts from a place of wanting to be a lifelong learner. I’m sometimes asked if I still have to practice. Practice is never ending. I will always work to learn more – and to model that to my students.”
For over 20 years, Aldridge has served as an accomplished educator and scholar in addition to leading a successful professional performing and recording career.
Aldridge said she has a few key concepts that guide her work: (1) individualize teaching to the student; (2) constantly reflect on what is working and what isn’t; (3) never be afraid to admit you’ve made a mistake because mistakes are just information; (4) never forget what it’s like to be your students’ age; and (5) don’t be afraid to have fun.
She also said she finally learned to reject the concept of perfection. “I’m always working to just play the best I possibly can. It can be difficult to navigate, but it’s made me a better teacher for my students.”
Individual: Jonathan Shailor, Professor, Communication Department, UW-Parkside
“Education is a communal enterprise,” said Dr. Jonathan Shailor, who accepted the award from a classroom at the Racine Correctional Institution where he has led the Shakespeare Prison Project since 2004.
Shailor has been a professor at UW-Parkside for 28 years, teaching 22 different courses. A leader and role model for his commitment to community-based learning, Shailor engages his students in numerous regional organizations that serve elementary and high school students, as well as the incarcerated and homeless.
“To me, the guiding lights are: individual empowerment, which means helping others clarify their goals, recognize their resources, and develop their capacities; relational responsibility, which is recognizing our interdependence and building community through outreach and dialogue; moral imagination, broadening our understanding of the human condition and using that understanding to enrich our lives and the lives of others; and social justice, responding to everyone’s needs and capacities with kindness and creativity in ways that are inclusive and promote nonviolent responses to social problems.”
“All human beings are basically good, basically kind, basically strong. What gets in the way … is an inability to deal with problems,” he said. “If we get communication right, the best possible things happen.”
He offered thanks to his students “who share their lives to make a better world.”
Program: First Nations Education Doctorate, UW-Green Bay
The First Nations Education Doctorate program is an applied degree centered in indigenous knowledge systems and housed within UW-Green Bay’s College of Health, Education, and Social Welfare. Conceived and sustained between UW-Green Bay and Tribal Nations in Wisconsin, the program is the first doctoral program of its kind in Wisconsin and only graduate-level offering in First Nations, Indigenous, or American Indian Studies in the UW System.
Dr. J.P. Leary, associate professor in First Nations Studies, History, and Humanities, said he was accepting the award on behalf of the faculty, the students in the program’s inaugural three cohorts, and the elders who have advised them.
“Our elder teachers have shaped our curricular design and pedagogy,” Leary said. “We continue to learn and grow as we listen to the elders. Their input regarding what our graduates should know and should be able to do was invaluable.”
Leary said their teaching also has been shaped by lessons learned from students. The students in Cohort 1, who received their diplomas in spring 2022, “taught us resilience and flexibility” during the early days of COVID, he said. Then, under tight pandemic restrictions, “Cohort 2 taught us tenacity and hope, and Cohort 3 (who started in fall 2022) taught us community and renewal in our first year back together.”
He thanked the Oneida Nation for its support in helping the program build instructional capacity and for helping students.
Student Accessibility on UW System Campuses
In September 2022, the Education Committee discussed some of the challenges the UW System’s campus disability resource centers were experiencing with high demand for services and low staffing levels – and the resulting impact on student outcomes. Friday’s discussion provided a follow-up.
“Students are seeking accommodations for a range of physical, psychological, learning, and other disabilities that present barriers to accessing both living and learning environments on UW campuses,” said John Achter, UW System’s interim associate vice president for student success. He noted that demand for services has grown by 50% over the last five years.
A panel of students provided Regents with insights into their experiences navigating campus life with various disabilities.
UW-Green Bay at Manitowoc student Karime Galaviz, who uses a wheelchair, told the Regents about getting stuck in the snow and acknowledges the general difficulties. “As someone with a physical disability and the fact that I still struggle, I cannot imagine how someone with an invisible disability could manage,” she said.
UW-Green Bay student Harrison Thiry noted that students often have to become self-advocates, which can be especially challenging for students with invisible disabilities like anxiety or depression. “Reaching out for help from a stranger can often seem insurmountable,” he said. Granting that resource centers are stretched thin, he also noted that “it’s unfair students can only be served when in crisis. We need more proactive work.”
Teresa David, a student at UW-Milwaukee, helps with promotional events to bring students’ attention to campus resource centers and the services offered. “Many students lack the knowledge of what resources are available or how to utilize them,” she said.
UW-Stout student Hunter Kuester, who is blind, told of challenges in finding classrooms or getting classroom accommodations. He said the university has been responsive in helping meet his needs but urged more focus on universal design, which is based on inclusion for all people to buildings infrastructure, and policy. “We should all have an equal chance to succeed,” he said.
Ann Murphy, the director of disability services at UW-Stout who has worked with students for 20 years, agreed. “Accessibility is about equity and inclusion,” she said. “It ensures the campus environment, the content of courses, the activities on campus are accessible to all, and everyone is able to participate regardless of circumstance. Disability rights are an individual’s civil rights.”
Ruben Mota, ADA coordinator at UW-Madison, told Regents that understanding what barriers exist is critical, and that applies to both physical and digital environments. He noted that UW-Madison started an accessibility reporting form in 2021 to learn more, but students and others need to know that reporting is an option and how to make a report.
Elizabeth Watson, dean of students at UW-Whitewater and chair of the UW System President’s Advisory Committee on Disability Issues, said the problem often is they don’t know what they don’t know. “It’s an additional barrier if you can’t report something easily. It’s adding layers of ‘you don’t belong here,’” she said. “And if you’re only striving to meet the minimum standard, then you’re already creating barriers.”
Regent Ashok Rai urged the Board to “look at a system-wide approach with resources.”
Video: Research in the Rotunda
Research in the Rotunda is UW System’s signature advocacy event, highlighting undergraduate research. This year’s event included 90 research projects. Every university in the UW System submitted multiple presentations on a wide variety of topics.
“This was my first experience with Research in the Rotunda, and I’ve got to tell you, I was very impressed,” said System President Rothman. “The passion and sense of purpose from our students was on full display.”
“Any time you feel a little down about the state of the world, go have a look at one of these experiences,” he said. “You’ll feel a lot better about the future.”
Rothman thanked participating students and their faculty advisers. “Not only was their research notable, but each of them served as great ambassadors of our universities to our state elected officials and agency heads who attended the event,” he said.
Next year’s Research in the Rotunda will be the event’s 20th anniversary.
Recognition for departing colleague
Regents recognized the accomplishments of student Regent Brianna Tucker, whose term of service on the Board ends May 1. Regent Vice President Amy Bogost presented her with a resolution of appreciation.
Tucker, who will graduate from UW-Stevens Point in May, said it was a prestigious honor to serve in the position. “Being able to serve with such intelligent and welcoming people has been an experience like no other,” she said. “I learned some valuable lessons. First, listening will get you so far. I sat through so many meetings, just trying to take it all in. And second, asking questions is OK. It saves times if you ask questions and get help.”
She said she especially appreciated the mentorship, advice, and friendship she experienced while serving on the Board. She also thanked UW-Stevens Point Chancellor Tom Gibson and her professors for their support and patience. “I am really proud to represent Stevens Point,” she said.
In other business, the Regents:
- Approved a resolution of appreciation for UW-Stout’s hosting of the March 2023 Board of Regents meeting;
- Approved UW-Green Bay’s contractual agreement with Compass Group USA, Inc., for dining services;
- Approved UW-Madison’s request for a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in Chicano/a Latino/a Studies;
- Approved UW-Madison’s request for a Master of Science in Business: Data, Insights, and Analytics;
- Approved UW Oshkosh’s request for a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering;
- Approved UW-Stevens Point’s request for a Bachelor of Science in Conservation and Community Planning;
- Approved UW-Stevens Point’s request for a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Education and Interpretation;
- Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to sell 3,230 square feet of agricultural land located at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station to the City of Madison for construction of the West Terminal Bus Rapid Transit Park and Ride facility;
- Approved UW-Green Bay’s request for authority to sell two approximately 40-acre parcels of unimproved land located in Door County, Wisconsin;
- Approved UW System’s request for authority to construct various All Agency maintenance and repair projects, including 6 for UW-Madison as well as 1 each for UW-Milwaukee, UW-Superior, UW-Parkside and UW-La Crosse;
- Approved UW System’s request for authority to construct various minor facilities renewal projects, with a total of 3 projects from UW-Madison;
- Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority for completion of design and construction of the Libraries Collections Preservation Facility project;
- Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to complete the design and construction of the Near East Play Fields Renovation project;
- Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to complete the design and construction of the Chemistry Second and Fourth Floor Lab Renovation project; and
- Approved UW-Madison’s request for a budget increase and construction of the South Campus Utility Improvements project.
The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will next meet on June 8-9, 2023, at UW-Milwaukee.