UW Today

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November 16, 2006

David Domke named Washington Professor of the Year

An associate professor in the Department of Communication who says trusting students is the key to a vibrant classroom has been named Washington Professor of the Year.

David Domke’s selection, announced today by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, is the latest addition to his growing string of awards.

The CASE program was established 25 years ago to recognize the most outstanding undergraduate instructors in the country. Candidates are judged by three panels of experts who consider their involvement with students, teaching methods and contributions to the community, among other criteria.

This year, nearly 300 nominees were in the running for four national awards and top-professor status in 45 states. The last time a UW faculty member was picked as the state’s top professor was in 1998, when the honor went to David Salesin in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

Domke, 39, said the recognition is as much a reflection on the UW, because it “is indicative of the culture of teaching that has become an important part of the College of Arts and Sciences” — a value that isn’t necessarily embraced, he added, at all major research universities.

In a nominating letter, Philip Garland, a former UW undergraduate communication student and now a doctoral candidate at Stanford, recounted three things that were notable about Domke’s introductory communication course, held in a large lecture hall for at least 300 students. Garland wrote that attendance was “always strong without the use of gimmick penalties,” that Domke had “command and control of the room in terms of attention, silence and audience participation” and he often received “standing ovations after the last lecture.”

Asked about his own role models, Domke recalled a sociology professor at the University of Minnesota who impressed him not only because of his passion, but because he allowed students to have animated exchanges. He insisted on maintaining a certain level of respect, but also gave students room. That approach has stuck with him, Domke said.

“At least as important as my being prepared or being passionate is also to allow them to have space, to voice their ideas,” Domke said. “It’s really a function of trust. To me trust is the biggest thing in the classroom. Students will do just about anything you ask of them if they believe that you trust them.”

Domke also was the 2006 recipient of the Krieghbaum Under-40 Award from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, which recognizes young faculty members who have shown outstanding achievement and effort in teaching, research and public service.

In 2002, he received the UW’s Distinguished Teaching Award, given to faculty who show a mastery of their subject matter, intellectual rigor and a passion for teaching.