Encouraging. Inspiring. Fearless. These are words used to describe this year’s University College nominee for the Outstanding Teaching Award, Tara Mullins of the NC State Dance Program.
This year’s selection process proved to be exceedingly difficult as a number of spectacular candidates from across University College were nominated. The Outstanding Teacher Award highlights excellence in teaching at all levels. Anyone from NC State is able to nominate a faculty member for one of the six university-level awards.
Tara garnered strong support from students and peers alike. Associate Director of University Theatre, Joshua Reaves, found “Tara’s ability to both teach and do allowed her to lead the dancers as an educator and to step into the group as a collaborator.” Many of Tara’s students, like Virginia Brown, also appreciate her genuine passion for dance and teaching. “She is not afraid to put her heart and soul into her choreographic work,” says Brown.
Inside the classroom Tara demonstrates an unwavering commitment to her students and excellence in teaching. She advocates for arts to be integrated throughout other disciplines, and encourages exploration of important social issues through her and her students’ artistic voices. For example, her 2013 piece Operation Breadbasket (2013) combined music, dance, spoken word, and film to chronicle the history of the Civil Rights Movement. The piece was presented in collaboration with the Justice Theatre Project at The North Carolina Museum of History.
More recently, Tara has collaborated with Dr. Maria Gallardo-Williams from the department of chemistry to create Dancing Chemical Reactions (2017), which illustrates chemical reactions in a visual and dynamic way. Dr. Gallardo-Williams was impressed with Tara’s innovative approach to teaching, particularly how she was able to listen to the class’ needs and come up with “a unique way to use dance movements to represent molecular motions in a way that is beautiful to watch while still being scientifically accurate.”
Tara has also partnered with Dr. Fay Payton and Ashley Walls White from Poole College of Management to co-author the article STEM Majors, Art Thinkers- Issues of Duality, Rigor and Inclusion (2017) which was recently published in the Journal of STEM Education. The article examines students who have chosen to incorporate arts education into STEM fields, and the importance and impact of the interdisciplinary combination.
Tara received her undergraduate degree in Dance from James Madison University, and later her Masters of Fine Arts in Dance from Arizona State University. She has received numerous awards throughout her career for her teaching, leadership and choreography; including nominations for the Chancellors Creating Change Award in 2015 and 2016. Winners of this academic year’s Outstanding Teaching Award will be announced in March 2018.
University College combines all of the academic services from NC State’s Division of Academic and Student Affairs into one centralized entity geared towards student success. Tara’s approach to teaching is a true embodiment of the University College spirit and a stellar example of the great interdisciplinary learning opportunities across campus.