Culver receives UW System teaching award

(Reposted, with edits, from UW-Madison News)

Two University of Wisconsin–Madison educators are among the recipients of the UW System’s 2011 Alliant Energy Underkofler Awards for Excellence in Teaching.

Katy Culver, faculty associate in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and Janet Branchaw, faculty associate and interim director of the Center for Biology Education, received two of the four awards given by the UW System this year.

A rich undergraduate experience is absolutely critical to the educational mission at UW–Madison, says Provost Paul DeLuca.

“Although our faculty are internationally recognized for the quality of their teaching, these accomplishments are strongly complemented by the simply outstanding efforts of our instructional academic staff,” DeLuca says.

The Underkofler awards are given annually to four teaching faculty and academic staff at UW System institutions by the Alliant Energy Foundation as a tribute to the energy company’s longtime senior executive, James R. Underkofler, an advocate for excellence in undergraduate teaching.

Just like the best journalism today, great teaching is a collaborative venture, Culver says.

“I never would have been able to teach my courses without our outstanding students or my top-notch colleagues,” she says. “I’ve taken some chances on innovations here and have felt trusted, respected and supported every single time.”

Culver and Branchaw are best known for teaching courses they designed, which provide core basic training in their fields.

Culver teaches Journalism 202, the point of entry to the school for journalism majors.

“Katy has had a direct and positive influence in every single UW–Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication major who has graduated over the last decade,” says journalism school director Greg Downey. “The preparation she offers to new majors for our rigorous curriculum — and for their future careers — is exemplary.”

In teaching 120 students a semester and overseeing seven teaching assistants, Culver instructs students in such journalism basics as clear, concise writing while also keeping them up to date on the latest technology for telling multimedia stories.

“Her teaching is not just preparing students for the present, but for whatever may come for the journalism profession in the future,” says former student Katie Harbath.

Her high standards have meant students bring a greater work ethic to later classes, says journalism professor James Baughman.

“I can demand more of them — and get few, if any, complaints about my demands,” he says.

Culver and Branchaw will be honored for their achievement by the UW System at an Oct. 14 awards ceremony and reception. It is scheduled from 2–4 p.m. in 1920 Van Hise Hall, 1220 Linden Drive.