Dance, marine science share award for quality of education

The UW Dance Program and the Friday Harbor Labs Apprenticeship Program share the 2002 Brotman Award for Instructional Excellence for their efforts to improve the quality of undergraduate education at the UW.

Since 1999 the Friday Harbor apprenticeship program has brought more than 100 undergraduates to the world famous marine laboratories on San Juan Island. The students are organized in teams of five to eight apprentices, with two graduate students and one faculty member as mentors. The team tackles a specific research subject, such as tracking fish parasites, making brain implants for mollusks or probing bottom fish recovery efforts.

Work coming out of this research activity has already appeared in academic journals such as Nature and Science. But more important, it has introduced undergraduates to the wonders of scientific research. “Students spent many nights doing experiments all night, not because we asked them to, but because they could not wait to see the results,” says Botany Professor Dina Mandoli, a faculty mentor in the program.

“Working with so many faculty members and graduate students, and being treated as an equal partner, was an eye-opening experience. It helped to demystify the glamour of research,” added undergraduate Irene Choi.

The Dance Program was honored for its ability to reach the hearts, minds-and feet-of hundreds of undergraduates. It receives some of the highest student evaluations of any humanities unit at the UW and educates 900 undergraduates each quarter.

One of its strengths is the M.F.A. degree in dance, which attracts professional dancers who are preparing for teaching positions in higher education. Undergraduates frequently take technique classes with these dance professionals. In addition, undergraduates experience cross-disciplinary learning such as in a class with music composers or by videotaping human movement.

“I will carry the teachers I have met in this program always in my memory. There is something powerful about a teacher who not only shows a student the way, but also makes the student feel confident about his or her ability to travel that path,” writes dance major Zachary Klaja.

“Opportunities abound for the investigation of dance in more depth through courses such as dance history, teaching methodologies, dance aesthetics, world dance and culture, and anatomy for dancers,” adds dance major Jessica Beck. Named after UW Regent Jeffrey Brotman, ’64, ’67, and his wife, Susan, the Brotman Instructional Excellence Award has been given since 1999 to units that enhance undergraduate education at the UW. This year’s winners each receive a $17,500 grant.