The Fintz Award for Teaching Excellence in the Arts and Humanities recognizes outstanding tenure-stream faculty who, in keeping with the goals of integrative studies, seek to make students familiar with different ways of knowing and artistic expression and to assist them in developing critical thinking and effective communication skills. Every year CISAH recognizes two IAH faculty members with the Fintz Award (one in IAH 201-210 and one in IAH 211-241). The Fintz Award is possible thanks to an endowment provided by Professor Ken Waltzer, former director of CISAH, to honor his father. The selection of candidates, final recommendations made by the CISAH Advisory Committee, and awards ceremony take place during the spring semester of each year. IAH tenure-stream faculty may receive the Fintz Awards only once every three years.
The Fintz Awards Committee is pleased to honor Kristie Dotson, Associate Professor of Philosophy, for her outstanding teaching of IAH 241B, "Philosophical and Literary Investigations into Race,” in Spring 2016. Professor Dotson’s course tracks the evolution of several ideas of race. In an effort to gain a perspective on the power of ideas, it traces the development of several ideas of race and considers attempts to define and create the concept of “race.” Ultimately, it attempts to answer questions as to whether “ideas of race” have improved our lives to date. Professor Dotson’s course engages a variety of disciplines, including historical perspective, fiction and non-fiction narratives, philosophy, and film, and was cited by students for having excellent and intellectually challenging lectures and for enhancing their ability to acquire, analyze, and evaluate information from a variety of sources. The committee members were unanimous in their choice, noting that Professor Dotson was among the highest ranked IAH professors in 2016 and that she has made a significant contribution to the field of interdisciplinary study.
Students were unanimous in their praise. Two student comments explaining why each would nominate Professor Dotson for a teaching excellence award exemplify the overall feedback from students in the course:
In addition to her exceptional teaching, Professor Dotson is a highly regarded scholar in the fields of epistemology, feminist philosophy, particularly Black feminism and feminist epistemology, and critical philosophy of race. Her current book manuscript, entitled Varieties of Epistemic Oppression, is under contract with Oxford University Press. Professor Dotson received her M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Memphis. She also received a MA from the University of Illinois at Chicago in Literature and a BA in African American Studies and English Literature from Coe College.
The Fintz Awards Committee is pleased to honor Deric McNish, Assistant Professor of Theatre: Acting, Voice, and Speech, for his outstanding teaching of IAH 209, " Art, the Visual, and Culture: Disability In Performance," in Spring 2016. Professor McNish’s course questions the nature of popular stories about people with disabilities in our media. In his course, Professor McNish aims to give his students the tools to question these narratives, to think critically about disability, and to promote that kind of thinking in their future interactions. The awards committee members were impressed with the attention with which he “crafted each 110-minute class section to engage every kind of learner, embracing the principles of universal design to present material in multiple ways.” The committee also noted the variety of creative assignments that allowed students to explore these issues through dramatic performance.
Student praise of the course went beyond typical praise. One student wrote, ”Deric McNish did a great job passionately presenting the course material that required students to think critically about social issues. I feel more confident in discussion about disability in performance, and now I can analyze television shows, movies and plays for the different themes and messages that these medias present to viewers.” Another student commented, “I think that Deric is an incredible teacher. He is passionate about his teachings and has an actual understanding of what he is teaching. I think that the effort he puts in to help us understand the material is incredible. He is definitely one of my favorite professors that I have had at MSU.” Yet another student wrote, “He shows passion for what he teaches and clearly wants his students to learn and grow as well. He has changed my perspective of disability and disability in performance in a positive way and challenged to me question how I think about other things in the media as well.” Many students also felt this course would impact their lives long after leaving campus. One student commented, “This has turned out to be one of my favorite courses during my six years at MSU. I feel like I'm walking out of this a more educated woman with a new insight on something I had never put much thought into. What I learned here will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
In addition to his excellent teaching, Professor McNish has worked professionally as an actor, director, dialect coach, audiobook narrator, and dramaturg. His research focuses on new and inclusive approaches to actor training, training actors with disabilities, as well as employing theatre techniques in ESL classrooms. He created a new course in collaboration with MSU’s English Language Center that uses theatre techniques to improve language skills for non-native speakers in addition to the course for which he is receiving this recognition. Upcoming publications include “A Moving Target: Success and the Reset Button” in the Focal Press series Perform: Succeeding as a Creative Professional. He is also developing a book chapter titled, “A Practical Guide to Training Actors with Disabilities,” for a book titled New Developments in Teaching Theatre Arts, which will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2018. Professor McNish earned a PhD from the University of Colorado Boulder and an MFA in acting from the conservatory at Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Play House.