U-M professor named one of top in U.S.
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—University of Michigan professor of English language and literature William "Buzz" Alexander, who launched a prison arts project 10 years ago, has been honored by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for The Advancement of Teaching for his commitment to undergraduate education.
Alexander is one of only four such national CASE and Carnegie winners from a pool of more than 300 nominees.
"This award highlights not only the excellent teaching that the University offers its students, but also our dedication to service learning and community outreach. We are very proud of Professor Alexander and the model of social engagement he has created in his work for our undergraduate students," said President Mary Sue Coleman.
Alexander was noted particularly for his enthusiasm in teaching, outstanding courses he has created and his work as founder and director of U-M's Prison Creative Arts Project, a program that to date has trained more than 1,000 students to facilitate workshops in the arts at Michigan prisons, juvenile facilities and marginalized Detroit high schools. These workshops help inmates and youth develop and perform material drawn from their own lives, encouraging individual initiative and pride in accomplishment.
Founded in 1990, the Prison Creative Arts Project is committed to original work in the arts in Michigan correctional and juvenile facilities and has worked with prison actors, writers and performers to create two dance performances, more than 174 original plays in 18 Michigan prisons, 109 original plays in four juvenile facilities and 70 plays in Detroit high schools and one rural high school.
Since 1998, the program has supported more than 40 creative writing workshops in Michigan prisons with 39 public readings and 26 anthologies. The program has also curated 10 Exhibitions of Art by Michigan Prisoners and three exhibitions of art by incarcerated youth from four juvenile facilities.
Alexander, who joined U-M in 1971, has a doctorate from Harvard and is U-M's Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of English Language and Literature.
"This award for our work brings recognition to a heretofore invisible national crisis—massive incarceration," Alexander said. "We are grateful to the University for its long and continuing support, to the Michigan Department of Corrections and to the work of several thousand students and Michigan prisoners."
In addition to prestige among his peers, the CASE and Carnegie award provides Alexander with a $5,000 prize.
The program saluting professors for their commitment to undergraduate education is the only national initiative specifically designed to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring. Campus provosts and academic vice presidents typically make nominations, and current and former students, colleagues and peers from other institutions send letters of support.
Nomination materials include the professors' teaching logs and course descriptions as well as personal statements describing their teaching and mentoring techniques, courses or curricula they created or their impact on teaching on their campuses and beyond.
"It is clear that for our state and national Professors of the Year, teaching is a calling, not merely a job," said John Lippincott, president of CASE. "Through their remarkable efforts inside and outside of the classroom, these professors have profoundly changed the lives of their students, providing them with a solid foundation upon which to build the rest of their lives."
The other three professors honored are: W. A. Hayden Schilling of The College of Wooster; Katherine R. Rowell of Sinclair Community College; and Carlos G Gutierrez of California State University.
Contact: Joanne Nesbit