George Mason University

News at Mason

Recognizing teaching excellence at Mason

April 12, 2018   /   by Buzz McClain

Monday afternoon, 25 of George Mason University’s professors will be recognized for their dedication to teaching when the Office of the Provost and the Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning present the 24th annual University Teaching Excellence Awards from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on the first level of the Center for the Arts on the Fairfax Campus.

“At a large research university, sometimes good teaching can be taken for granted,” said E. Shelley Reid, director for Teaching Excellence in the Stearns Center. “Our celebration gives us the opportunity to applaud some truly extraordinary faculty and lets us recognize the vital daily work of excellent teachers from throughout our community.”

There were 95 faculty members among 133 nominations from Mason staff and students. There were 49 applicants for the 25 awards.

Star Aldebaran Muir, who has taught and worked at Mason since 1988, is the recipient of the David J. King Teaching Award, given to a professor with at least 20 years at Mason. The award recognizes “significant and lasting contributions to educational excellence” at Mason and comes with a $3,000 prize.

“This career of teaching and learning is kind of like a pointillist painting,” Muir said. “Each little thing was a little dot that I did and then after 25 years you take a step back and realize, wow, that’s an actual picture. You can see what it all adds up to.”

Muir, a communication professor, has also served as the director of Learning Support Services in the Information Technology Unit, coached the debate team, served as undergraduate coordinator for the Communication Department and lead university marshal, and helped open the Student and Technology Assistance Resource Center—the Star Labs.

Professors winning the Teaching Excellence Awards and the Teachers of Distinction recognition come from a wide variety of academic units at Mason, including the Graduate School of Education, School of Music, and the Departments of Environmental Science and Policy and Global and Community Health.

“I am humbled and honored to be the recipient of a University Teaching Excellence Award,” said James Carroll, founding director of Mason’s Jazz Studies in the School of Music in 1999.

Unlike many professors who teach in lecture halls and large classrooms, Carroll’s teaching includes multiple one-on-one sessions that add to an already significant workload; he’s also the co-founder of the Jazz 4 Justice series, established in 2001, that benefits legal assistance foundations. (Community involvement is an important component in a nominee’s application.)

“I am grateful beyond words for all of the opportunities for myself, but especially for our students. Watching and getting to participate as the entire university grows, matures and achieves its destiny of greatness is constantly reinvigorating,” Carroll said.

While Monday’s event celebrates innovative teaching, it was an experience with poor teaching that led Muir to the discipline of communication.

After graduating from high school in Aspen, Colo., he entered college as a physics and math major.

“When got into college I took calculus and intro to physics, and they, combined, were the worst teachers I had ever had,” he said. “As a result of that I went over and declared communication as my major.”

See all the winners.