University Distinguished Associate Professor, English
Holloway Award Recipient, 1994

      Mia Carter learned to read at the precocious age of three. Many of the happiest hours of her childhood, she says, were spent nestled with a book in the branches of a tree. “I was always, always reading,” she says, “and I still am!”
      Carter loved school from the start, but was often too shy to speak up in class. Today, she draws out quiet students by giving them the option to write extra journal entries. “Then I collect their notebook, respond with my own entry, and we begin a dialogue that way,” she says. “And 90 percent of the time, they start talking in class.”
      Carter has earned dozens of honors for her research on modernist literature, film studies, and more, but she says the best moments in her career happen when she can transform a classroom of former strangers into a community buzzing with energy. “I want every student to realize that they have a voice, and their voice matters,” she says. “Each semester, when we hit that point when the students really open up, I’m in heaven.” –Rose Cahalan

Years at UT:


Teaching Tip:

"Always pass on what you have learned." - Yoda


Bans phones and laptops in her classroom.

University Distinguished Teaching Professor, Chemistry
Senior Vice Provost for Enrollment & Graduation Management
Holloway Award Recipient, 1993

      David Laude describes the in-class demonstrations he’s known for as unusual. A less charitable person might call them strange, or dangerous, or potentially illegal. Whatever they are, they are effective. As a professor, as well as UT’s graduation czar, Laude’s focus is the same: help students grow.
      It doesn’t hurt that Laude is animated and articulate, a natural showboat who, by his own admission, gives lectures off the cuff.
      That might be why his demonstrations come so naturally. Take, for example, the first day of Laude’s introductory chemistry class. Hundreds of freshmen sit down to find five very large pickles, wired with copper, shaped to spell out UT at the front of the room. Laude kills the lights and plugs the pickles into an outlet. When they begin glowing yellowish-orange (because of the sodium ions, he notes), he leads the class in the singing of “The Eyes of Texas.”
      He is also known to cook a complete turkey dinner from scratch to entice seniors to show up the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. That tradition was recently canceled, not because his decorative balloon turkeys explode (they do), but because the class grew too big for Laude to feed all of them by himself.
      He still celebrates with his seniors, bringing pie and ice cream—made from liquid nitrogen, of course—for 500.
      “I think I’m really blessed,” Laude says. “It isn’t work for me. And it honors all these parts of how I am, from wanting to be creative, to wanting to be innovative, caring, and productive. When you have the opportunity to do all those things, that’s a good deal.” –Andrew Roush

Years at UT:


Memorable Moment in the Classroom:

"The day a hydrogen balloon turkey exploded and brought half the fire department to campus."

Classroom Pet Peeve:

"Not laughing at my jokes."

Retired Professor, Mathematics, Former Vice President for Student Affairs
Holloway Award Recipient, 1976

      On the first day of the spring 2014 semester, James Vick walked into his Math 310 class—the last course he’d ever teach at UT—with a stack of quarters. “If I can’t already tell you your name,” Vick announced to his more than 50 students, “I’ll give you a quarter. We’ll play until we run out.” He only lost one quarter.
      Though he’s officially retired, Vick still refuses to divulge how he manages to remember so many names and faces before ever meeting them. But it’s certainly a skill that has served him well in his 44 years on the Forty Acres, 11 of which were spent in the dean’s office, and another 16 as VP for student affairs.
      Freshmen Interest Groups, the Martin Luther King Jr. statue, the honors dorms—Vick and his staff were instrumental in bringing all of these to campus, along with the Undergraduate Advising Center (which was recently renamed in his honor). But his true home has always been in the classroom, where, even after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2008, he remained until his retirement.
      “I would hope my legacy be that I left behind a lot of good citizens, who are not only just smart, but also committed to making the state and the world a better place,” Vick says.
      At the end of the semester, you’re likely to find Vick brushing up on his banjo in his newly acquired free time, or writing poems to share with an extensive and anxious listserv of friends and family. And he’ll definitely be staying in Austin. “I’m a big UT sports fan,” he says. “I try not to miss a game!” –Jordan Schraeder

Years at UT:


Teaching Tip:

"Build a relationship of trust and respect with each student. Listen."

Tough Tests:

Nicknamed his exams "Vick's Vengeance."

Associate Professor, Social Work | Co-Director, Institute for Grief, Loss, and Family Survival

      After earning her master’s degree in social work, Barbara Jones began her career working with pediatric cancer patients and their families. The resilience and courage she saw every day amazed her, but when it came to end-of-life issues, she felt completely unprepared.
      “I kept finding myself literally at the bedsides of kids,” Jones recalls, “wondering why I didn’t learn this in school. How do you even begin to sit and talk with a child who is facing his own death?”
      A decade ago, Jones says, few health-care professionals were even talking about pediatric palliative care—let alone studying how to do it better. She decided to change that. Today, Jones is one of the world’s foremost experts on the subject, and she’s spent the past decade at UT’s School of Social Work, teaching future pediatric professionals how to support families as they deal with grief and loss.
      Dozens of Jones’ students have gone on to become social workers, doctors, child-life specialists, and more. They work at Dell Children’s Medical Center, M.D. Anderson, and Texas Children’s Hospital, among other world-class institutions. “Some of the best moments are when my former students come back to speak to my classes,” Jones says. “They’re my colleagues now, and I couldn’t be prouder.” –R.C.

Years at UT:


Teaching Tip:

"Be your authentic self."

After Class:

"I'm a black belt in karate."

University Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor, Government

      Students trust Sean Theriault. A lot. This fall, the government professor and 2011 UT Professor of the Year will be officiating the wedding of a former student. And it’s not the first time.
      “That tells me that I’m doing my job,” he says. That job brought him to UT in 2001, but his first real work was in Washington, D.C.—a place he now studies from a distance. Like many who trek across the country to work in politics, Theriault wanted to help, but was discouraged by one simple thought: someone else was trying just as hard to do the opposite. That’s politics.
      Now he concentrates on educating future voters. He knows that few students in his introductory American government course are there for fun. But for Theriault, that’s all the more reason to make the class count, and that means students come away understanding what they read in the newspaper. His name even graces those very newspaper pages from time to time, affixed to an op-ed he’s penned, or in a review of one of his books, which examine Congress’ partisan behavior.
      “If my goal is to persuade members of Congress to behave differently, then I have the wrong goal,” he says. “But my goal is to get students to understand how members of Congress are behaving.” His favorite way of doing that? Theriault rewards his undergraduate researchers with a trip to Washington, D.C.
      “It’s funny,” he notes with a big smile. “I couldn’t wait to get out of that place, yet I love taking students there.” –A.R.

Years at UT:


Surprising or Fun Fact about You:

"I've visited six continents and 49 state capitals (sorry, Tallahassee)."

Teaching Tip:

"Be interested and interesting."

Senior Lecturer, Marketing Administration

      In Herbert Miller’s classroom, you aren’t just a student. You’re a brand. “I always tell students they are a product,” Miller says. “People are watching you; you have to market yourself and your skills to really wow them.”
      A marketing professor of more than 30 years, Miller knows a thing or two about success. After all, his former students include Ticket City CEO Randy Cohen and Nike VP Hans George. Another one of his former students is Arizona Cardinals linebacker Sam Acho, whom Miller helped one-on-one to develop his brand as a student-athlete on the Forty Acres.
      In 2012, two grateful McCombs alumni established the Herbert A. Miller Jr. Endowed Dean’s Scholarship in Business, only the fifth such endowment on campus to honor a UT professor.
      “I got called to the dean’s office, and when I got there, there was Dean Gilligan, a development officer, and my wife. I was like, ‘What are you doing here?’” Miller laughs. “It’s great to have made an indelible impression on these students with my teaching skills.”
      When he’s not in the classroom showing off his marketing chops, you will often find Miller decked out in waders and waist-deep in a river, fishing rod in hand. The enthusiast calls fly-fishing an “intellectual pursuit” rather than a hobby, because it requires patience and meticulous analysis—whether he’s at work or not.
      “I’ll be up until 3 a.m. preparing for class, looking for articles to keep my material current,” Miller says. “Students are going to be on top of it, so I need to be, too.” –J.S.

Years at UT:


Favorite Quote:

"Learning is continual and should be a daily quest."

Teaching Top:

"Inject humor into the classroom."

Memorable Catchphrase:

"Know that you know that you know."

Professor, Theatre and Dance

      Lecture? There’s no such thing in Professor Joan Lazarus’ classes. The 16-year veteran of UT’s theatre and dance department long ago dispensed with such an antiquated approach. For her, it’s all about creating a conversation between herself and her students, who are training to be theater teachers one day.
      One strategy Lazarus uses is role-playing. She acts as a middle school drama teacher; her students become middle-schoolers. Lazarus builds a structure for the class based on what the students have been studying. If it’s 20th century American theater, they might explore turn-of-thecentury immigration from Europe. Lazarus starts by leading a discussion on what makes a home—and why someone might leave theirs. As homework, Lazarus has her students develop their thinking by writing journal entries in character.
      A few classes later, they start to act. Scene One: they’re on a steerage ship from Europe to America. The students are asked to invent storylines for their characters and then to act them out onstage. The exercises offer level upon level of teaching and learning.
      “The students go in and out of their roles,” she says. “We talk about the structure of the exercise, the improvisational decisions that were made, how we learned and on what level.”
      The result is something deeper than a traditional classroom experience. Lazarus takes great care to ensure that she accommodates different learning styles: those who think out loud, and those who do the opposite. Too often, students who think, then talk, or who have a learning disability, silence themselves, so she builds in time for quiet and reflection.
      “The whole goal is to have a shift in understanding,” Lazarus says. “If there’s no shift, then teaching and learning never happened.” –Tim Taliaferro

Years at UT:


Teaching Tip:

"Teach the students, not your lesson plan."

Favorite Spot on Campus:

Texas Expresso

Great Quote:

"If you aren't listening, you aren't learning. My students are my partners. For me to just talk isn't teaching."

Retired Clinical Professor, Education

      Like any Austinite these days, Joan Shiring often gets stuck in traffic. But she sees that time as an opportunity rather than a drag. “Every night, I write down three things I’m thankful for,” she says. “When I’m stuck on Mopac, I’m usually thinking up that day’s blessings.”
      Gratitude is a daily habit for Shiring. She took it to heart in her early 40s, when she battled colon cancer and breast cancer. While undergoing grueling chemotherapy treatments, Shiring spent hours talking with fellow patients in the hospital’s infusion room. It was the end-of-life patients who affected her most deeply.
      “They would grab my hand and ask me, ‘Who have you loved, and who loved you?’” she remembers. “Love in the broadest sense of the word— caring, connecting. That’s all that matters in the end.”
      Shiring, MEd ’81, PhD ’86, says that beating cancer made her more grateful for a job she already loved: training future English teachers in UT’s College of Education, where she spent 32 years, first as a student and then as a faculty member.
      It showed. Former students like Karen Schrader, BS '87, remember Shiring for her warmth and compassion. “She showed me the impact an intelligent, caring teacher can have,” Schrader says, “and without her, I wouldn’t be the teacher I am today.”
      Shiring retired last year, but she’s already back in the classroom. “So far I’ve taken a class on colonial American history, and another one on the music of George Gershwin,” she says. “I am living it up!” –R.C.

Years at UT:


Words to Live by:

"Teaching is the profession that creates all others."

Favorite Spot on Campus:

"The Blanton Museum of Art. It's so peaceful!"

Light Feet:

"I once danced for 22 hours in a charity dance-a-thon."

J. Frank Dobie Regents Professor of American and English Literature

      If somebody had told me when I got my PhD from UT that I’d be back here teaching Southwestern literature, I would have laughed,” Don Graham says.
      Graham never planned to be a chronicler of Texan literature, or even a professor. He just liked reading and writing. After college, he realized he could make a living at it by teaching. Even then, teaching Texas literature came by accident.
      At the University of Pennsylvania, where Graham taught in the early 1970s, administrators asked him to teach a course about Western movies. “I was a cowboy. That’s the way they perceived me,” he says. Graham grew up in Lucas, on the edge of East Texas, where cotton is bigger than beef and oak outnumbers sagebrush. But that was all Greek to the Ivy League bunch.
      When he returned to teach at Texas in 1976, the department needed someone to take up legendary writer J. Frank Dobie’s class, “Life and Literature of the Southwest.” They picked Graham, the native Texan.
      Since then, he’s watched the state grow and change through his students, teaching them about Texas’ vast geographic scope and diverse literary heritage.
      He even makes his students experience the landscape in person. This semester, his students went to Barton Springs, not for a swim, but to see a bronze statue. There, frozen in conversation, sit writers Walter Prescott Webb, Roy Bedichek, and Dobie. And there’s still space for a sculptor to add a bronzed Graham, perhaps observing from a distance. After all—as he wrote about author Elmer Kelton—“in Texas writing, the last sanctification is a damned statue.” –A.R.

Years at UT:


Favorite Quote about Learning:

"Only connect." - E.M. Forster

Favorite Spot on Campus:

"Cactus Cafe, after a dusty day's talking."

Former Professor, History | Former Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

      When 18-year-old Ricardo Romo first set foot on the Forty Acres as a freshman, he had one goal: to run a sub-four minute mile on the men’s track team. A track-and-field scholarship had brought the west side San Antonio native to Austin. Little did he know he’d end up spending a total of 24 years there.
      “It was a very, very strange feeling to walk into Garrison from the Main Building, knowing you’re going to teach a class instead of take one,” says Romo, who joined UT’s history faculty in 1980 after a stint at UC-San Diego. In the classroom, Romo’s favorite moments involved seeing the light bulb go on for students in his civil rights courses.
      “Most of my students hadn’t had a deep analysis of the civil rights era,” Romo says. “Everyone came in with a little bit of knowledge, and after many spirited discussions, they left with so much more.”
      Romo also served as UT’s vice provost for undergraduate education before being called up to the helm of another UT System school, the University of Texas at San Antonio. As the fifth president of UTSA, Romo has less time for teaching these days. But that doesn’t mean all those hours in the classroom have gone to waste.
      “The main thing I learned in the classroom is that you must respect the students,” Romo says. “As president, I convey that same message in focus group meetings with students. I get them going, talking, and relaxed, which helps me learn. And that’s why I’m there.” –J.S.

Years at UT:


Unique Hobby:

His Mexican-American art collection appears in a book by UT Press.


Held UT's sub-four-minute mile record for 41 years.


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