Emily West and James Kitts Win 2017 SBS Outstanding Teaching Award
Emily West, Associate Professor of Communication, and James Kitts, Professor of Sociology, have been named the 2017 recipients of the SBS Outstanding Teaching Award. Candidates for this award are nominated by their peers and selected by the SBS Teaching Award Selection Committee.
Emily West’s research focuses on the areas of promotional culture, media and cultural studies of health, qualitative research methods, and gender and performance. She is known to be a highly sought after graduate supervisor, currently chairing eightPhD and MA committees and serving on eight more in Communication, Education, Anthropology, and Sociology. As an undergraduate instructor, West’s teaching methods are widely acclaimed among students and colleagues, serving as a model for fellow faculty members. Her Communication Inquiry course was designed to enable students new to group work to find their collaborative voice and to do original research on Communication topics of their choice.
West was nominated for the award by the Department of Communication Personnel Committee, who jointly stated that “On all measures (teaching, advising, scholarship), Professor West is outstanding.” A student described the lasting impact of taking a course with West, saying “I always left feeling inspired and like a more competent researcher. She is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had and this class was the best of grad school.”
"I'm very honored to receive this award, and appreciative of all the support from colleagues and students that made this award possible,” says West. “The College of Social & Behavioral Sciences, and my department in particular, has so many talented teachers, and takes excellence in pedagogy very seriously, making this award all the more meaningful. I want to particularly acknowledge our campus's Institute for Teaching Excellence and Faculty Development. I have benefited so much from the professional development they provide, including the midterm assessments, the Lilly fellowship, and standalone workshops. My teaching has improved by leaps and bounds since I started at UMass Amherst and the institutional support has been a major reason for that."
While Kitts’ tenure in academia goes back nearly 20 years, he is a relatively new addition to UMass. In his short time here since 2012, he’s already made a huge impact. Kitts has dedicated a significant amount of his time to developing the Computational Social Science Institute, and is known as an outstanding instructor among his students. Kitts has also won teaching awards at Cornell University, the University of Washington, and the University of Michigan.
Kitts teaches both undergraduate and graduate level courses, and advises three graduate students in sociology. Former Ph.D. students Kitts has advised have gone on to receive positions at Harvard, Cornell, and West Point, and have won 10 best paper awards at various national professional associations. His undergraduates at UMass have won a number of awards and recognitions, including the Sociology Best Paper Award, Henry Korson Best Senior Award, the William field Alumni Scholarship, and the LeBovidge Undergraduate Research Award.
Michelle Budig, Chair of the Department of Sociology, states, “On every dimension of teaching, advising and mentoring, Dr. Kitts is outstanding. He has made extraordinary contributions to the UMass teaching mission and learning community.” One of Kitts’ students writes, “An important aspect of Professor Kitts’ interactions with students is his belief in the potential of any student who crosses his path. No other professor has taken such care in ensuring the success of my college career nor has any other professor taken so much time…to ensure that I am able and ready to achieve great things.”
“In accepting this great honor, I credit the collaborative culture among UMass faculty and staff. I watched colleagues teach, gave guest lectures in their classes, shared teaching materials, and traded advice over many lunches,” says Kitts. “And of course I could never have succeeded in teaching such challenging courses without the curiosity, ingenuity, and diligence of the UMass students.”
Both will be honored at the SBS Senior Celebration on May 13th.