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Mary Neuburger, Director BUR 452, 2505 University Avenue, Stop F3600, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-3607

Congratulations to Thomas J. Garza

Burnt Orange Apple Award 2009

Posted: December 4, 2009
Provost Steve Leslie, Dr. Thomas Garza and Dean Randy Diehl

Provost Steve Leslie, Dr. Thomas Garza and Dean Randy Diehl

Slavic and Eurasian Studies Scholar Recognized

Marilla D. Svinicki Burnt Orange Apple Award presented to Thomas J. Garza.

University Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor Thomas J. Garza received the 2009 Marilla D. Svinicki Burnt Orange Apple Award during a reception at the historic Littlefield House. On hand were Provost Steven Leslie, DIIA Associate Dean Robert Bruce, Dean Randy Diehl of the College of Liberal Arts, and award namesake Marilla Svinick to recognize Garza for his instructional leadership as a scholar, innovator, colleague, and administrator. 

The award honors a UT Austin faculty member with both a commitment to teaching and a commitment to the research and scholarship that inspire innovative pedagogy.

Candidates are judged on the basis of seven criteria:

  • The recipient has given at least 10 years of service to the university.
  • The recipient demonstrates profound commitment to student learning.
  • The recipient demonstrates leadership through scholarship, service, and collegial collaboration in teaching and learning.
  • The recipient fosters students’ love for learning and academic achievement by communicating passion for teaching.
  • The recipient respects students and values their role in fashioning the learning environment.
  • The recipient dares to be innovative in teaching methods and materials.
  • The recipient draws upon creative approaches to teaching and assessment to reach students with diverse learning styles.

Leslie noted that President Powers has characterized the university as a place with great faculty and an environment that supports learning. In such a place, Leslie suggested, teaching awards recognize very special accomplishments. 

Garza from the Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies expressed delight that Svinicki was present, recalling that she was a pioneer in focusing interest and resources on teaching. He credited a workshop by Svinicki for helping him as he developed a 398T Slavic languages supervised teaching course in 1991. In language teaching, he said, teaching and research are closely related, because “teaching is our laboratory. We write about our teaching, happy for anything that shines light back on teaching.”

Garza serves as director of the Texas Language Center. His scholarship is far ranging, encompassing topics associated with Russian language and culture, especially as they are manifest in youth and media. His research interests include Russian language teaching methodology, applied linguistics, contemporary Russian culture, the Chechen wars and the media, post-Soviet youth culture, language teaching pedagogy, Russian popular culture, modern Russian language, and contemporary Russian media. He has collected many other teaching awards, including most recently the Silver Spurs Centennial Award (2003), selection to the Academy of Distinguished Teachers (2003), and the Regents Outstanding Teaching Award (2009).

Garza has served as director of the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies (CREEES) which recently celebrated the centennial of the founding of Ballets Russes by Sergei Diaghilev, with a special symposium project, Once upon a Ballet: Russia’s Classic Fairy Tales and the Ballets Russes, presented in collaboration with the Department of Theatre and Dance, the Harry Ransom Center, and Ballet Austin. Featuring films, talks, discussions, and exhibitions, the celebration also included association with Ballet Austin’s presentation of The Firebird, one of the best-known tales of Russian folklore. The original ballet was introduced by The Ballets Russes, and its musical score paired the two great Russian composers Peter Tchaikovsky and Igor Stravinsky.

Concerning The Ballets Russes, Ballet Austin’s program notes explained that “from 1909-1929 the famed company … revivified the world of performing arts. The company collaborated with cutting-edge composers, costume designers and set designers to create revolutionary ballets.”

The 2009 Burnt Orange Apple Award serves as recognition that Thomas Garza has been no less committed to revivifying teaching and scholarship with cutting-edge approaches to teaching and learning in Slavic and Eurasian studies.

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