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Past Winners of the Teacher of the Week

Mitzi Vernon

   

The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Mitzi Vernon, professor of Industrial Design Program, for her emphasis on the design studio as both a teaching model and collaboration strategy for design and scientific innovation.

Professor Vernon is a renaissance teacher with a background in design, engineering and science. She has forged her career from multidisciplinary collaborations working in a studio environment that is based on the successful design studio for industrial design and architecture students. She has been an investigator on several sponsored research projects, which were driven by undergraduate and graduate student teams from seven different disciplines across campus. She builds her pedagogy on industrial designers who are not experts in anything except the design process of everything, building interdisciplinary teams of subject matter experts. A tool used within the design studio is what Vernon calls the thinking notebook, which she uses in all of her classes from Design Research to Entrepreneurship, Portfolio Development and Studio to serve as a model for redefining research (how we record our problem-solving), a business plan and for rethinking the classic portfolio. Vernon continually propagates the studio and notebook as unique pedagogical tools that have the potential to enhance teaching and learning beyond the design disciplines.

The Director of the School of Architecture + Design notes: “Professor Vernon was among the founding faculty of our industrial design program in 1995. While she provided important insights that shaped the curriculum of the new program, her most important contribution was a dedication to developing a research and teaching agenda that fostered the idea of collaborative sponsored research across disciplines. The School of Architecture + Design received an Exemplary University Program Award. Without question, Professor Vernon is a primary reason for the Award. For over a decade, she cultivated relationships across departmental boundaries and contributed to the exponential growth of the School’s interdisciplinary collaboration.” In the past three years, Vernon has received a Favorite Faculty Award sponsored by the Office of Residence Life and named an Edward Singleton Diggs Teaching Scholar. She is a recipient of one of eleven international Design Educator Awards from Dell Computer’s ReGeneration: International Green Computing Technology Design Competition in 2008. Within the past four years, her students have won one of the top three prizes in three different international design competitions with one winning the grand prize. One team was the only United States submission that was awarded. A co-principal investigator with Vernon states (about her student teams): “Throughout my 11 years as a faculty member at Virginia Tech, I have never seen another team who so completely embraces the philosophy that academic excellence is achieved within distinctive working and learning environments to which many individuals contribute in essential ways. This philosophy is evident in both their work, and the way they interact with individuals.”





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