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Two UO professors awarded 2021 Sustainability Teaching Awards

Rachel DiNitto and Diana Garvin

Rachel DiNitto and Diana Garvin have been awarded the 2021 Sustainability Teaching Awards

Rachel DiNitto, professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures, and Diana Garvin, professor of Romance Languages, have been awarded with the 2021 University of Oregon Sustainability Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Sustainability has long been a shared value at the UO, fundamental to our research, teaching, and operations of the university. The sustainability teaching awards recognize and celebrate the achievements of our faculty members to further sustainability education at the UO. Recipients are nominated by their colleagues, and the award is open to career and tenure-related faculty. Candidates are chosen based on their excellence exhibited in both the areas of sustainability and pedagogy, applied through course content and teaching practices.

Garvin was nominated based on her depth of teaching around the three aspects of sustainability: environmental, social, and economic. Her colleagues note that her research and classes are “changing the face of Italian and Italian Studies at the UO.” Garvin’s innovation of her assignments in Italian 319: Eco-Italy and the implementation of a student e-portfolio with illustrated articles, podcasts, and YouTube videos particularly impressed the award committee.

“Receiving this award means a chance to celebrate the students, librarians, and fellow faculty who all contribute to the common conversation around sustainability at UO,” Garvin said. “Sustainable teaching places students’ hearts and professional aspirations at the center in two ways: first, by focusing on issues that they care about, and second, by teaching technical skills to enhance their career prospects.”

Garvin was also recognized for her goal in helping students to speak about ecological phenomena in “vivid, human terms.” In Eco-Italy, students bridge the arts and sciences by engaging with creative practices like photojournalism and documentary film, and by interpreting materials from the humanities, such as land art and ecocriticism, in tandem with related articles from science and nature. Her support for students making connections between the Italy-focused content of the course and the student’s own social and cultural context in Oregon, especially while navigating the challenges of remote teaching and learning, was applauded.

DiNitto impressed the award committee with her Japanese Environmental Cinema course, which linked the power of artistic representation to shaping perceptions that drive real societal change. DiNitto’s own research connecting local to global disasters informed the course. Her students were invited to a webinar with two important figures for DiNitto’s scholarship: documentary filmmaker Hitomi Kamanaka, who discussed nuclear power and radiation, and Indigenous activist Leona Morgan, who discussed nuclear waste on the North American Reservations. The committee also recognized DiNitto’s efforts with remote teaching to create an engaging classroom community despite the challenges of remote learning.

“By viewing Japanese films that address environmental issues, students learned about local problems for the Japanese, like the decades-long methylmercury poisoning known as Minamata disease,” DiNitto said. “But more importantly, they learned that they are part of a global Anthropocene that touches our local lives here in the U.S. Oregon saw this first hand when the 2011 tsunami brought irradiated debris and water to our coastline.”

DiNitto adds that she asks her students to think not just about what environmental films say but how they say it through the cinematic medium. She highlights the power of storytelling to transform the values and perceptions necessary to generate policy changes

“The UO is a great place for this research and teaching because of the already existing support for environmental and sustainable initiatives, but also because of our strong academic focus on Asia and our location on the Pacific Rim. I look forward to teaching this class again in the future and working with UO students on Asian environmental and sustainability issues.”

An award ceremony and celebration dinner are scheduled for the awardees on Thursday, October 7. This is currently planned as an in-person event but will depend upon public health guidance at the time.

By Victoria Sanchez, University Communications

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