Claiborne Honored by BVU for Excellence in Teaching

Claiborne Honored by BVU for Excellence in Teaching



Jamii Claiborne, associate professor of digital media, was named the 28th recipient of the George Wythe Award, Buena Vista University's highest honor for excellence in teaching, at the annual Faculty/Staff Recognition Dinner on May 23.

Claiborne, a 1996 graduate of Buena Vista University, has been a member of the faculty since 2001 and is the faculty advisor to the student-operated multimedia news web site, The Tack. She earned her master's degree in creative writing with a fiction emphasis from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, in 2000. She previously worked as an adjunct instructor for Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri, and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas.

Claiborne said, "Teaching at BVU means becoming part of a legacy of amazing teachers whose work lives on for generations. I'm obligated and privileged to try my best and live up to that legacy. This award is truly one of the great honors of my life, and I am so grateful and deeply touched."

The Wythe Award includes a $30,000 cash stipend and a sabbatical for the recipient to pursue professional development and/or research. Claiborne is not sure what her plans will be for the award, but she is keeping in mind the vision of those who established the award. "I am moved by their (Paul and Vivian McCorkle) generosity, not just in the magnitude of the award but also in his desire to let each faculty member have freedom to decide what would most benefit her and grow her teaching. He left it wide open, and as it sometimes is for students when you give them free reign, it's tough, at first, to even begin to focus, but I will start focusing soon."

Claiborne says her teaching philosophy centers on the belief that learning should be a transformative experience. "It doesn't have to be revolutionary or profound in the way it alters the lives of those who experience it, though it can be. Rather, teaching should certainly shift things for learners. The world should look, feel, seem and become different for them. Things should change when we learn and when we teach."

Claiborne was nominated for the Wythe Award by fellow professors, professional colleagues, alumni and current students. She was nominated for the award in previous years but had not been a finalist until this year. The other finalists for the 2014 Wythe Award were Dr. Joni Anderson, assistant professor of management; Dr. Bob Blodgett, professor of psychology; and Dr. Jason Shepherd, assistant professor of computer science.

In announcing the award recipient, Dr. Beth Lamoureux, professor of communications studies and chair of the Wythe Committee, noted that, "we must be masters in our disciplines and have a quest for constant learning" and that this award was established "to foster excellence in instruction at Buena Vista University."

Lamoureux cited comments from several of Claiborne's colleagues and current and former students who nominated her for the award:

A colleague said: "As I highlight Jamii's past accomplishments as an educator, more important than the acts themselves, are what they demonstrate about her — her commitment, integrity, reflective practice, scholarship and grace."

Another colleague noted: "As the class begins, Jamii comes alive with her irrepressible smile, her understated curiosity about her students, her animation and the unforgettable journalistic lesson for the day... She casts a spell so that every classroom lesson will be remembered."

A current student commented: "My professional and personal experience with her has been nothing short of phenomenal, and I can testify without a doubt that she has changed my life... My voice has been awakened because of her. Professor Claiborne has unveiled my validity and potential."

A former student said: "Professor Claiborne's approachability combined with her own desire to seek information and news, is the hallmark to her teaching intelligence. As a doctoral candidate today, my current digital media knowledge rests on the foundation Professor Claiborne built by teaching me to become a strong writer and thinker. Because of this I have had a fruitful experience in graduate studies presenting my research nationally and internationally."

The Wythe Award is endowed through a gift from the late BVU Life trustees Drs. Paul and Vivian McCorkle (Class of 1959). The award is named for George Wythe, the educator whose students included Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, James Monroe and Henry Clay.