Faculty of Fine Arts Teaching Awards celebrate excellence in teaching and the studio

Marlis Schweitzer head shot Paul Sych head shot

Two fine arts faculty members have been honoured by their peers and students for their exceptional contributions in the classroom and studio. Design Professor Paul Sych and theatre Professor Marlis Schweitzer were applauded as the recipients of the 2012 Faculty of Fine Arts Teaching Awards at the annual fall Faculty Council reception.

“I’m delighted to congratulate this year’s recipients of the Fine Arts Teaching Awards,” said Dean Barbara Sellers-Young. “They join a distinguished group of educators who are praised for their passion, dedication and outstanding contributions to their students, colleagues and our academic enterprise.”

Schweitzer was nominated for the Senior Faculty Teaching Award by Professor Belarie Zatzman, her colleague in the theatre studies program.  Zatzman cited Schweitzer’s “extraordinarily detailed, thoughtful and collegial commitments to the development of both the undergraduate and graduate programs in theatre studies” in her nomination. In their supporting letters, other faculty members described Schweitzer as “a gifted, generous and dedicated teacher” who invests “a lot of thought into the larger pedagogical goals of her classes as well as the most innovative ways of reaching those goals.”  One colleague called her “the best collaborator one could ask for: a person you can take risks with, a person who listens, a person who has your back when things get rough, a person who challenges you to go further.”

Marlis Schweitzer head shotMarlis Schweitzer

Schweitzer was also acknowledged for her “heroic” levelheadedness and leadership during a difficult time in the Department of Theatre last year, when the tightly-knit academic community unexpectedly lost Graduate Program Director Lisa Wolford Wylam, a beloved colleague who passed away in October 2011. She subsequently steered the community through a thorough review of the program’s requirements, curriculum and appointment criteria.

Her students say they were privileged to take her classes.  They describe her as “dynamic, welcoming, supportive and passionate”, and expressed their gratitude for her willingness to make herself available outside of the classroom to review their applications for grants or further education, or to discuss professional development.

Schweitzer teaches courses on performance and commodity culture, Broadway musical theatre, theatre research methodologies, and 19th-century popular entertainment. She is the author of When Broadway was the Runway: Theater, Fashion and American Culture  (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), and has published articles in numerous journals including The Theatre Journal, Theatre Survey, The Drama Review, Theatre Research International, Theatre Research in Canada, and Canadian Theatre Review, where she currently serves as associate editor.

Sych, who joined the Faculty of Fine Arts in 2008, won the Junior Faculty Teaching Award. In his letter of nomination, former department chair Professor Wojtek Janczak names Sych as “one among a few Canadian graphic designers who are famous internationally,” referencing the frequency with which his work is published in professional publications, his many international awards and his reputation as a leader in innovative design.

Sych’s students describe him “inspiring”, “genuine”, “encouraging” and understanding of student needs. One recent grad called his classes “the most interactive and lively” she had ever taken. Another singled him out as “one of the most influential people” in her life.

The students writing in support of Sych’s nomination also made special mention of Sych’s engagement outside of class. They said how much they appreciated his accessibility by email and phone, and his willingness to stay after hours to discuss their projects and help young designers bring their work to its full potential.

Paul Sych head shotPaul Sych

Sych was also praised for his contributions to the Department of Design as a whole, directing and guiding a redesign of its website, designing promotional materials for the department’s 10th anniversary, and serving on many advisory committees, juries and student portfolio reviews.

Sych and his design firm, Faith, have challenged both clients and peers alike to enter his world of unique and flamboyant use of type and imagery. He has been commissioned by leading designers, art directors, educators and forums on typography internationally, and his work has been widely published in North America, Europe and Asia. Recent highlights from his almost 50 professional awards to date include platinum and five golds at the Graphis 2011 Awards, and a gold and a silver at the 2011 Advertising & Design Club of Canada Awards.

The Faculty of Fine Arts Teaching Awards recognizes excellence in teaching by full-time faculty members.  Any member of the Faculty’s academic community, from students to department Chairs, can initiate a nomination. The Fine Arts Research Grants and Awards Committee adjudicates the submissions, taking into consideration class polls, supervision, new teaching initiatives undertaken, new courses taught, research related to teaching and curriculum development, and contributions to life and vibrancy in the Faculty of Fine Arts.

In addition to receiving personalized plaques, award recipients have their names inscribed on a Faculty of Fine Arts plaque mounted permanently in the lobby near the north entrance of the Centre for Film and Theatre, recording their outstanding achievement for public recognition.