UNI professor wins first annual award

ZYRUS WHITEHEAD, Staff Writer

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In May, Dr. Doug Shaw, UNI math professor, improv aficionado and published author, was the first professor to be awarded the Beverly Funk Barnes Educator Excellence Award. Shaw, who has been teaching at UNI for twenty years, is known for his upbeat teaching style and classroom activities.

“The Beverly Funk Barnes Educator Excellence Award is focused on rewarding educators who continually create new value for those they work with through dedication, passion and creativity for the benefit of the University of Northern Iowa,” according to the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs.

The award is centered around the principle of “Fred the Mailman,” a postal carrier who embodies sincerity and warmth and never failed to puts others before himself. This “Fred Factor” identifies those who go out of their way to help people even when it’s inconvenient for them, a trait that, for Shaw, is important his teaching and life. 

Shaw goes the extra mile to help students succeed both in and out of the classroom. In his teaching style and classroom management, Shaw believes in the importance of keeping students active and involved in creative ways rather than simply lecturing for the entire class. He incorporates technology into his classrooms by having students use Poll Everywhere as a way to monitor student responses to learning and keep them engaged.

Shaw makes sure to add style to everything he does, whether it’s teaching in the classroom, or one of the many extra curriculars he is involved in, such as improv workshops, Pizza With Professors, orientation programs or any number of other roles he takes on. 

Shaw has been actively involved with the UNI improv comedy troupe Half Masted and has taught courses in improvisational comedy for various age groups. Regarding his involvement with improv, Shaw lives by the phrase, “Listen carefully, react quickly, make bold choices,” and tries to instill the same concepts in his students’ everyday lives.

His published book,  “Social Nonsense,” is a collection of activities to do when there is a little extra time while you’re in a group. It is designed to create interesting conversations and memories in a group setting and move away from the distraction of cell phones. 

Shaw specifically loves being a part of the learning community at UNI, and uses every conversation and relationship as an opportunity to learn and grow. He said that the students at UNI know they have to work hard to succeed, which makes it so much easier to help them learn.

Shaw said he is also inspired by his colleagues, and especially loves being on committees with people from all over the university events. He enjoys events like Campus Connexus, in which professors from different departments get together to have conversations. He said he is honored to learn about what everyone else is doing, and seeing all the great work further motivates him to be better.

“UNI makes it easy to do great things,” said Shaw. “[The university] allows me to do the things that I am honored [to contribute to campus].”

Shaw continues to be impressed by the consistent attitude of “what can we do to make this work?” and “what help do you need?” from staff and students.

Shaw encourages students of all majors, and especially those majoring in education, to make connections and build relationships with professors by visiting them and keeping in touch. Making these connections expands students’ repertoire of resources and also makes it easy to get good letters of recommendation when the time comes.

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