My profile for the “Best & Brightest 2009” Awards Ceremony at the University of Washington:
The imagined worlds in video games, Harry Potter books and other texts from fantasy and science fiction genres become starting points for how to study real-world culture. Television, the Internet and Facebook provide ways of learning how to think critically about complex ideas and controversial topics in Teaching Assistant Ed Chang’s classroom.
“Every time I read a book, watch a movie or see something as innocuous as a commercial, I hear his voice in my mind, asking me questions. ‘What does this mean?’ I hear Ed asking. ‘How may I use this media to better understand my world, my society and myself?’ I am no longer a passive observer in my own life; I am actively engaged in the media I consume, in the lectures I listen to and in the worlds I speak and write in,” wrote student Rebecca Slingwine in a letter of nomination for Chang, a TA in English, for the Excellence in Teaching Award.
In describing the course, Introduction to Cultural Studies: Virtual Worlds and Video Games, that Chang taught winter quarter, he told students that by using “a broad archive of ‘imagined worlds’ — drawing on literature, video games, text games and hypertext, film and scholarship — this course will identify and explore some of the key concepts, the key moves and the key terms of the interdisciplinary fields of cultural studies.”
Take the World of Warcraft game for example. Its 11 million game players create their own characters in one or more races such as blood elves, gnomes, humans and orcs. “The savage, green-skinned Orcs are one of the most prolific races of Azeroth,” the game site says and describes racial characteristics of Orcs in categories such as “blood fury.”
Chang made use of the game for his students to consider the cultural logics of race, gender, class and sexuality, he said.
“Ed led discussions on topics I had never felt comfortable discussing, such as race and classism in America,” Slingwine wrote. “He taught us how to have productive dialogs on these topics; he did not let us turn the discussion into an exchange of hackneyed buzzwords, and he made us examine ideals held paramount in our society, such as multiculturalism and self-determination.”
Chang pushes his students to think, wrote Gary Handwerk, chair of English. “His courses — independently designed and taught at the 200-level — are innovative and challenging; they range from cutting-edge topics to very traditional sorts of literature and culture courses. Regardless of the topic, Ed keeps his focus upon the core reading and writing skills that students should acquire in his classes.”
The number of hours students say they put into Chang’s courses is invariably at the high end, Handwerk wrote. “Students find his classes challenging; they feel they need to work hard to do well; they recognize and appreciate the effort that Ed, in return, puts into their learning.”
“Ed was great in the classroom but what puts him over the top is what he does for his students outside of class. He does more in this area than any other teacher I have ever met,” wrote student Nicholas Trost. “He listens. He holds collegial hours in Suzzallo Espresso every Thursday afternoon to keep tabs on his current and former students. He e-mails asking me how I am doing. . . He always gives me sound advice on what classes to take and offers suggestions on how to plan my life after college.”
Chang’s bachelor’s and master’s degrees are from the University of Maryland at College Park. He’s been at the UW three years and, along with his teaching, he’s been an officer for the English Graduate Student Organization and involved with the Q Center. The center seeks a UW community with respect for all people including those who consider themselves gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgender.
Chang should also be recognized for helping new teaching assistants in the department become better teachers, according Anis Bawarshi, associate professor of English. He has helped during orientation and led workshops.
“Ed’s expertise, experience, warmth and wisdom have been a valuable and valued resource to his peers,” he wrote.
Congratulations to all of the other award recipients! Full text: http://uwnews.org/uweek/awards2009/profile.asp?id=49942