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Two programs, one department recognized with 2012 University Exemplary Department or Program Award


BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 30, 2012 – The College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences swept the 2012 University Exemplary Department or Program Awards. Two programs within the School of Education were chosen including the Arts and Humanities Programs within the Department of Teaching and Learning and the Higher Education Program. The Department of English was selected for the second year in a row.

Presented annually since 1994, the University Exemplary Department or Program Awards Program and ceremony are funded through the Office of the Provost and facilitated by the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research within the Division of Undergraduate Education.

The awards program was established as a part of the University's Faculty Rewards Project, and seeks to clarify the expectations of faculty and define appropriate rewards for accomplishments.

The award recipients will be honored at recognition ceremony on Tuesday, Dec. 4, at the Inn at Virginia Tech from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Each department will receive a portion of the $40,000 award for their achievements in effectively integrating ePortfolios to improve student learning, the annual theme set forth by the University Exemplary Department or Program Awards Committee.

Senior Vice President and Provost Mark McNamee and Vice President for Undergraduate Education Daniel Wubah will make presentations to representatives from the winning programs and department.

  • Kelly Parkes, associate professor; David Hicks, associate professor; and Katie Dredger, visiting assistant professor; will accept the award for the Arts and Humanities Programs in the Department of Teaching and Learning.
  • Joe Eska, department chair, will accept the award for the Department of English.
  • Steven Janosik, program leader and associate professor, will accept the award for the Higher Education Program.

Arts and Humanities Programs

The Arts and Humanities Programs in the Department of Teaching and Learning is made up of the music education program, English education program, and history and social science education program. Each program offers a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction as well as Commonwealth of Virginia postgraduate professional teaching licensure in each respective field.

Demonstrating the theme of effectively integrating ePortfolios to improve student learning, the program collaborates with students in each discipline by giving each a medium in which to reflect on and share their experiences across their graduate programs and create a foundational evidence-based case of their developing professional careers. The Arts and Humanities Program has used ePortfolios for the past decade.

Their work has been recognized even outside of the Virginia Tech campus. “[The team] sees electronic portfolios as far more than tools to showcase the end-products of student work in the program,” said Todd Dinkelman, associate professor and coordinator of elementary and social studies education at the University of Georgia. “They see electronic portfolios as an integrated educational support of the entire teaching and learning process, from program entry to program completion.”

Higher Education Program

The Higher Education Program offers masters and doctorate degrees in professional and scholarly development in higher education policy and leadership.

The program began incorporating ePortfolios as the primary component of the comprehensive exam for masters degrees in 2009. Faculty members developed a robust, multi-phased approach to program assessment and review. The program uses the ePortfolio process to encourage students to reflect on what they have done and what is left “undone,” using the ePortfolios as professional development plans relevant beyond graduation.

“I have watched as students discuss what they know, what they still need to learn, and how they plan to continue their professional development in the future,” said Joan Hirt, professor in the Higher Education Program and interim director of the School of Education. “The ePortfolio exercise is the catalyst for this change.”

Department of English

The Department of English has undergraduate programs in literature, language, and culture; creative writing; and rhetoric and writing. In addition, the department offers two masters degrees in English and creative writing and a doctorate degree in rhetoric and writing.

Representing the award theme, the department requires its undergraduate students to take a course entitled, English Studies ePortfolio. Over the past six years, hundreds of students have created ePortfolios demonstrating collaboration with peers and mentors as well as reflective learning.

English majors like Olivia Walsh, a 2012 graduate of the program, have valued the ePortfolio process. “I am genuinely proud of the open-ended journey, the amount of planning and revision involved in the process, and the level of engagement I have put forth in fully developing an archive of my work intended not only for myself but for others as well.”

About the Awards

A complete list of past Exemplary Department or Program Award winners, along with the theme of the award for the year, is available online.

Next year’s award theme is, “Effectively implement and assess programs for first year students that incorporate problem solving, inquiry, and integration of learning skills.” Nominations are typically due in October. Information will be provided on the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research website.

The Division of Undergraduate Education provides academic support, programs, and courses that touch on every aspect of the undergraduate experience, from recruitment to graduation and beyond. Its offices, units, and centers advocate for ways to create and nurture a vibrant and diverse community of engaged learners, while supporting the development of innovative and dynamic faculty. The division is committed to excellence in student access, retention, and success for the university’s 24,000 undergraduate students.