The Academy of Distinguished Teachers announces new additions

Wesley Story

The Academy of Distinguished Teachers at UT announced its 2017 inductees late last month after a thorough selection process that began in March.

The Academy’s newest additions include six professors from five different colleges. The honorees are professor James Cox and associate professor Janet Davis from the College of Liberal Arts; professor Tracy Dahlby from the Moody College of Communication; professor Marianne Gedigian from the College of Fine Arts; associate professor Kristen Grauman from the College of Natural Sciences; and professor Kumar Muthuraman from the McCombs School of Business. 

Lydia Cornell, administrative program coordinator in the Office of the Provost, said the professors chosen have made significant contributions to the University either through research, teaching, or other projects that enhance the student experience.

“All the nominees are the best of the best,” Cornell said. “But the committee members look for a little something extra through things like service contributions or contributions to their fields that help set the candidates apart.”

Dahlby, a journalism professor, founded Reporting Texas, a course that exposes students to real-world reporting. Students in the capstone-style course produce content for the Reporting Texas news website. Dahlby said projects such as these provide students with more learning opportunities.

“Teaching assumes different forms and it takes place in different venues,” Dahlby said. “Particularly for journalists, reporting is experiential. You really need to immerse people not only in the theory, but also in the practice.” 

Dahlby said he credits his previous mentors with instilling in him a passion for teaching. 

“I had some teachers who were really exceptional,” Dahlby said. “Part of it was just realizing that they were interested in me at a time when it was important for someone to be interested in me.”

Each year, the Provost’s Office asks the colleges to submit a certain number of nominees, which varies based on the size of the college, Cornell said. About 20 professors are nominated per year, and the selection committee usually chooses between five to ten members to induct.

Gedigian, professor of flute and holder of the Butler Professorship in Music, said it was humbling to be chosen considering the breadth of talent at UT.

“Any time anyone in the arts has some sort of acknowledgment of their work, it’s particularly meaningful,” Gedigian said. “In our society, to have an intensive arts program within a major research institution is at once exciting and necessary. There are so many of my colleagues on campus deserving of recognition.” 

The selection committee is composed of university administrators, faculty members from in and outside of the Academy, student representatives and representatives from the Provost’s Office.

The honorees receive the title of Distinguished Teaching Professor and will remain members for the remainder of their tenure at UT.

“There are so many fulfilling aspects of teaching,” said Davis, associate professor of American studies and history. “I get to watch my students literally grow up and become productive members of society. But to have recognition of the kinds of mentorship and work I do every day is such an honor and feels so validating.” 

The Academy will host a dinner Oct. 17 to honor the inductees.