Communication News

  • University Honors Educators with President’s Awards for Teaching Excellence
  • Karen Baynham and Dr. Pamela Gossin

    Karen Baynham and Dr. Pamela Gossin

    Five instructors from The University of Texas at Dallas recently were honored with the annual President’s Teaching Excellence Awards for their positive impact on student learning and innovation in the classroom.

    UT Dallas President Richard C. Benson recognized the recipients virtually in May for their outstanding efforts. The Center for Teaching and Learning plans to host a future event to celebrate the faculty members’ achievements.

    “Teaching is at the core of our University. In fact, many of our bright students choose to attend UT Dallas because of the esteemed reputation of our faculty. Now perhaps more than ever, it’s important to recognize our instructors. We are so proud of their dedicated work and their willingness to help prepare students for rewarding lives and productive careers,” said Benson, the Eugene McDermott Distinguished University Chair of Leadership.

    The President’s Teaching Excellence Awards committee receives hundreds of nominations every year and considers a broad spectrum of eligible candidates throughout the University. The award comes with a stipend, and recipients are presented with medallions.

    This year’s honorees represent the School of Arts and Humanities; the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication; the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences; and the Naveen Jindal School of Management.

    President’s Teaching Excellence Award in Undergraduate Instruction (tenure-track)


    Dr. Pamela Gossin

    Dr. Pamela Gossin

    Dr. Pamela Gossin, professor of history of science and literary studies, director of Medical and Scientific Humanities

    School of Arts and Humanities

    What is the most rewarding part of the teaching experience?

    “All of my courses explore ‘big cosmic questions’ through interdisciplinary approaches that combine the methods and values of literature, history, philosophy, science, medicine and the arts. In class, we share and help each other build creative perspectives, self-awareness and mutual understanding — inner and outer worldviews and global philosophies of life — across disciplines, cultures and generations. I value opportunities to help students learn to trust (and even enjoy) the inherently dynamic (and sometimes uncomfortable and discombobulating) process of learning by unlearning and relearning, by constantly and courageously seeking out chances to refresh and revise their previous knowledge base, provisional hypotheses and learning styles. By helping each other quickly and ably adapt to new information, unexpected complexities and consequences, we can hopefully develop the kind of cognitive agility and emotional resilience that will enable us all to more compassionately and inclusively problem-solve whatever challenges we might face.”

    What is one of your favorite memories from teaching at UT Dallas?

    “Recently, one occurred during the final in-class mini-lesson plan given by a UTeach Dallas student in my Perspectives on Science class. A military veteran returning to complete his education and begin a new career as a STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] teacher, this student demonstrated the power of empathetic storytelling by teaching a classroom full of other future teachers about the ‘hidden figure’ of a high-level research scientist he’d discovered who worked through personal struggles and mental-health challenges to model unconventional pathways to success in life and academics. He then shared his own trauma-related challenges and how he’s been creating his own path to success by learning from others’ stories. One by one, all of the other students paused, looked up from their note-taking and fully engaged and listened to his story and then burst into spontaneous applause and support. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.”

    What was the best part of the online teaching experience during the final weeks of the spring semester?

    “This semester, my co-instructor, Dr. Marc Hairston [research scientist in the William B. Hanson Center for Space Sciences] and I faced the unusual challenge of having to convert our highly visual and experiential Literature of Science Fiction – Animated Nature course to an online format. The main themes of this class offered an exploration of humanity’s relationship with the natural world through both traditional and innovative visual storytelling techniques of Japanese anime and manga, with a shoutout to the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. But, how do you translate the impact and affective power of an aesthetically beautiful and emotionally dramatic big-screen, film-watching experience shared with 130 other highly enthusiastic fan-students into meaningful, small-screen, personal-device viewing moments? Our solution was to ‘gameify’ the original syllabus and rewrite it into a ‘post-viral’ science-fiction-fantasy journey in which students were given the choice of following one of two science-fiction adventure pathways. To bring us all together in the end, we invited students to share stories, photos and artwork inspired by their journeys through animated nature on an end-of-class online Earth Day gallery. Yes, the overall feel of this class ‘room’ was more virtual than we originally envisioned, but the final exhibit was full of truly inspirational sharing, surprise, hope and creative joy. Together — alone — we all survived the ‘viral’ path!”

    President’s Teaching Excellence Award in Online/Blended Instruction


    Karen Baynham

    Karen Baynham

    Karen Baynham, senior lecturer of communication and basic course director

    School of Arts and Humanities

    What is the most rewarding part of the teaching experience?

    “The courses I teach, COMM 1311 and COMM 1315, are communication classes. The most rewarding part is when I get to witness students’ transformations over the course of the semester from timid, inexperienced speakers suffering from high speech anxiety into confident, skilled presenters. Public speaking is such a strong, marketable skill.”

    What is one of your favorite memories from teaching at UT Dallas?

    “When a former student emailed me an update on his internship search, he informed me he was seeing the requirements ‘strong written and oral communication skills’ on literally every posting. Each semester I show students how to represent COMM 1311 and COMM 1315 skills on their resumes. This student used the communication tips he learned in class and got the internship. Success!”

    What was the best part of the online teaching experience during the final weeks of the spring semester?

    “I was expecting students to be stressed, overwhelmed and distracted. On the contrary, many took the time to thank me for all the work and preparation that went into keeping the communication going while they were struggling to adapt to a remote situation. They still felt connected in my class.”

    Read the entire article in the UTD News Center.

  • College Prep Camp Helps Teens Improve Communication Skills
  • Dr. Carie King (left) and Dr. Melissa Hernandez-Katz

    Dr. Carie King (left) and Dr. Melissa Hernandez-Katz

    Even with excellent test scores and high class rankings, many prospective college students still have a lot of work to do when it comes to college essays, resumes and interviews, according to two UT Dallas communication instructors.

    That need for better student communication skills in the admissions process is why the two will hold a college preparation camp this summer.

    “Students think it’s all about test scores, but it’s really not,” said Dr. Carie King, clinical professor of communication and associate director of rhetoric in the School of Arts and Humanities.

    “We’re covering some of the most stressful parts of the college application process — the essay and the interview — while providing some other important information for students hoping to be accepted into their targeted universities,” said Dr. Melissa Hernandez-Katz, senior lecturer in communication in the School of Arts and Humanities.

    Developed for rising high school juniors and seniors, the camp will be held the week of July 30.

    While some research studies indicate that the college admissions process can be very stressful for high school students, Ingrid London BS’07, MS’16, director of freshman admissions, said UT Dallas tries to make the process as streamlined as possible.

    “It can involve a lot of information and a number of deadlines, but our goal is to make the application process as smooth as possible for prospective UT Dallas students,” London said.

    University admission requirements vary a great deal across the country. UT Dallas, for instance, does not require essays or interviews for admissions, but they may be required for scholarship applications. Other universities also may require interviews and essays for scholarships or admissions.

    London said communication skills are important for prospective students and are considered in UT Dallas’ holistic application process.

    In addition to essay and interview preparation, the summer camp will look at other factors that could influence admissions counselors, such as social media and life balance.

    Hernandez-Katz said social communication use makes it more difficult for some students to switch to a more formal approach when necessary.

    “Students text a lot, and they often become very relaxed in their texts. Sometimes that comes across in their emails so that when they’re emailing an admissions director, or a person in charge of awarding a scholarship, they can be too informal,” she said.

    King said colleges want to know about student activities and motivations.

    “They want to know how you’re going to be able to balance the challenges of the academic world with being healthy, taking care of yourself, socializing and creating lasting relationships — part of the whole college experience,” King said.

    Hernandez-Katz and King will provide two three-hour sessions each day during the camp. Interested students or parents can register online.

    This story originally appeared in the UT Dallas News Center

  • For 80-Year-Old Undergrad, Long Road to Degree Nearly Complete
  • Suzanne Stricker

    Suzanne Stricker began taking classes at UT Dallas in 2006. On May 11, she will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in visual and performing arts.

    For 80-year-old Suzanne Stricker, a hobby of taking college classes soon will turn into a UT Dallas bachelor’s degree. And, even then, she will not be stopping her path of lifelong learning.

    Stricker plans to participate in commencement ceremonies for the School of Arts and Humanities on Friday, May 11, as she earns her degree in visual and performing arts.

    “I’m excited about it. And my family is proud of me,” she said.

    Born in New Zealand, Stricker speaks with a slight accent, which was much stronger when she moved to Texas in 1967.

    “Because I felt that people were having a hard time understanding me, I practiced rolling my R’s,” she said.

    Stricker stayed at home as she raised her family. But when the last of her three children began high school, she saw it as an opportunity to begin taking classes: first at a community college and then, after she worked for a local nonprofit organization, at UT Dallas in 2006.

    Because she enjoyed music and played the piano, Stricker chose an academic path that focused on the humanities. Her classes included history, geography, communication and, of course, music.

    “She came into my classes probably over age 70, yet she was one of the most energetic and enthusiastic members of the class,” said Dr. Kathryn Evans, senior lecturer and director of the UT Dallas Chamber Singers.

    As a member of the Chamber Singers, Stricker participated in “The Best of Broadway,” a traditional University show that involves singing, costumes and movement. But none of that proved to be an issue.

    “I appreciated that they would let me be in it because I was so much older than everybody else,” she said.

    Evans said Stricker kept up well.

    “She’d get up there and do the steps, and do her best, and she would say she was a little bit older, but it didn’t even slow her down,” Evans said.

    For Stricker, one of the major attractions to enrolling at UT Dallas was the special state of Texas tuition waiver for individuals 65 years old and older. The waiver allows senior citizens to take up to six hours each semester with no tuition costs, as long as a minimum GPA is maintained.

    “That means I don’t have to pay for classes,” she said. “It was something I could take advantage of so that I could continue my studies. And since I’m retired and have good health, thank the Lord, I can do things like this that I enjoy.”

    Stricker said she has enjoyed her time at UT Dallas, and especially appreciated her “excellent” instructors and the diverse student body.

    “You’re getting to know others of different persuasions, and what they can do. It’s such a diverse community at UTD,” she said.

    Evans said Stricker is a great role model and inspiration for students, as well as for Evans herself.

    “She was a very wonderful student and, in some ways, I think she inspired me to go back to school,” Evans said. “Suzanne is a great example of lifelong learning.”

    Stricker said she hopes to continue taking classes at UT Dallas, perhaps working toward a master’s degree.

    “I believe it’s good for your mind to be able to keep learning,” she said.

    This article originally appeared in the UT Dallas News Center.