Undergraduate Academic Affairs

May 19, 2009

UW Distinguished Teaching Awards Showcase to spotlight excellence in teaching

Undergraduate Academic Affairs

Distinguished Teaching Awardees

Experience the style and influence of the University of Washington’s best educators at the 2009 Distinguished Teaching Awards Showcase and hear from several of the UW’s Distinguished Teaching Awardees, past and present. The Showcase happens May 28 at 7 p.m. in Mary Gates Hall.

Experience the style and influence of the University of Washington’s best educators.

Join us on May 28, at 7 p.m. in Mary Gates Hall for the 2009 Distinguished Teaching Awards Showcase and hear from several of our Distinguished Teaching Awardees.

Professors Webster, Little, and Mesbahi will each give a 20-minute mini-class. It’s your chance to see what our students see and learn firsthand what makes the UW a world-class institution. Mini-classes will be held in different rooms at Mary Gates Hall, and it’s your choice which to attend. (Signs in Mary Gates Hall will direct you to classrooms on the night of the event.)

Following the mini-classes, you’re invited to a panel discussion on teaching today. Five awardees will be featured, and fellow Distinguished Teaching Awardee Lisa Coutu will moderate. A reception with the teachers will be held after the discussion.

RSVP for this event.

Read the University Week article.

Distinguished Teaching Awards Mini-Classes

Reading Shakespeare’s Nasty Sonnets: How Love Is not Always Love When the Bard Is Doing It
John Webster, 2009 Distinguished Teaching Awardee

People think of Shakespeare’s sonnets as odes to love, sweet love, and indeed, at least one or two actually are. But more often, Shakespeare’s sonnets are less about love’s sweetness than about how it has gone sour. In this class, we’ll look at how Shakespeare’s theatrical instincts enable him to strike sharp-tongued fire into some of his darkest erotic moments.

Correlation, Causation and That Amazing Rooster!
Laura Little, 2005 Distinguished Teaching Awardee

You may remember the story of the barnyard rooster who was convinced his crowing caused the sun to rise. Although we tend toward greater sophistication in our thinking and reasoning than the rooster, you’d be surprised at how often we make the same mistake.

Fly Me to the Moon: Johannes Kepler and the Science of Spacecraft Orbits
Mehran Mesbahi, 2005 Distinguished Teaching Awardee

In this class we will discuss Kepler’s laws of planetary motion and their applications for designing spacecraft orbits around the earth and for interplanetary transfers.

Distinguished Teaching Awardees


Lisa Coutu, 2003 Distinguished Teaching Awardee
Senior Lecturer, School of Communication

Lisa Coutu, Senior Lecturer, specializes in the study of communication and culture, the ethnography of communication and discourse analysis. In particular, her research interests involve the study of how groups’ ways of speaking are created and maintained within the context of coexisting and competing ways of speaking. She teaches undergraduate courses in language, culture, communication and interviewing, as well as the department’s survey course of the field of communication.


Laura Little, 2005 Distinguished Teaching Awardee
Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology, College of Arts & Sciences

Laura Little teaches and is a leader in implementing curricular reform and improvement in the core undergraduate courses offered by the Department of Psychology. She engages both pre-majors and majors in discussions of complex ideas in her field. In her courses, she challenges her students to engage the world as a scientist. Her course evaluations are among the highest in the department, and she is clearly passionate about her students and their learning (both in and outside the classroom).

Mehran Mesbahi, 2005 Distinguished Teaching Awardee
Associate Professor, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, College of Engineering

Mehran Mesbahi received his PhD from USC in 1996. He was a member of the Guidance, Navigation, and Analysis group at JPL from 1996-2000 and an Assistant Professor of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics at University of Minnesota from 2000-02. He is currently an Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the University of Washington. He was the recipient of NSF CAREER Award (2001), NASA Space Act Award (2004), UW Distinguished Teaching Award (2005), and UW College of Engineering Innovator Award for Teaching (2008). His research interests are aerospace systems, distributed and networked systems, and engineering applications of optimization and combinatorics.

Shanga Parker, 2006 Distinguished Teaching Awardee
Associate Professor, School of Drama, College of Arts & Sciences

Shanga Parker, director of the BA program, teaches Acting and Directing in the PATP and BA programs. Parker has acted professionally in regional theatres including A Contemporary Theatre, Rites and Reason Theatre, Intiman Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Tacoma Actors Guild, South Coast Repertory, Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, and at the International Theatre Festival in Sibiu, Romania. He has also directed at the Rites and Reason Theatre, Ball State University, and the Public Theatre of Kentucky. Television credits include “Married…with Children,” “Family Matters,” and “Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” He received his training at Brown University and UC San Diego and is a member of AEA, SAG and AFTRA.

Catrin Pittack, 2009 Distinguished Teaching Awardee
Senior Lecturer, Department of Biological Structure, School of Medicine

Catrin “Cat” Pittack has been an anatomy geek since grade school, where she could often be found in her brother’s room reading _The Human Body_—a book so large she had to crouch over it on the floor. She received her BS in Biochemistry from the University of Massachusetts and then moved to Seattle to attend graduate school at the University of Washington. After receiving her PhD in the Department of Biological Structure in 1996 studying the molecular signals of eye development, she took a break from research to become a massage therapist, a field where she could learn more about the human body and talk to clients about their ailments. After teaching anatomy at a local massage school, Cat found her calling and decided to try teaching at a new level. She joined the Department of Biological Structure in 1999 and has been teaching human anatomy to undergraduates, medical, dental, and nursing students ever since. Cat believes that one of the best teaching tools for inspiring students to want to learn is teachers who exude enthusiasm about the subject matter. She strives to do this every time she walks into the classroom.

John Webster, 2009 Distinguished Teaching Award
Associate Professor, Department of English, College of Arts & Sciences

At the University of Washington since 1972, John Webster’s teaching fields include Renaissance literature, literary theory, writing, and pedagogy, and he has published on Sidney, Spenser, Renaissance rhetoric and poetics, and the teaching of Renaissance poetry. A Carnegie Fellow since 1998, he has also served on the Executive Committee for the Division of Teaching as a Profession for the Modern Language Association. A recipient of the English Department’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2000, he has participated in numerous campus teaching and mentoring programs. He became Director of Writing for the University’s College of Arts and Sciences in November, 2003. Professor Webster has also led the University of Washington’s biennial London Theatre and Concert Tour for over 20 years. The next version of this tour will take place in March of 2010.