Photo by Mary Levin
The Department of English is proud to announce that Dr. Anu Taranath is one of the recipients of the 2010 Distinguished Teaching Award, a university-wide honor that recognizes faculty who show a "mastery of their subject matter, intellectual rigor, and a passion for teaching." Taranath teaches a range of courses for the Department, from colonial and post-colonial literature to gender theory and cultural studies, as well as contemporary world literature, including texts from South Asia, the Caribbean, and parts of Africa. She also teaches for the Comparative History of Ideas Program and the Honors Program, and designed and teaches a very popular study abroad program in Bangalore, India.
Regardless of the course focus, Taranath strives to create and foster a collaborative and dynamic learning community in her classroom. "My pedagogical philosophy encompasses joy, accountability, camaraderie, and passionate engagement," she explains. She sees every class as a chance to learn and grow-for both her and her students. "My students are my greatest colleagues on this campus. I feel that every class is an opportunity to engage in meaningful discussion and idea-making, and I am extraordinarily fortunate to have this experience again and again." Taranath consistently gets the highest student evaluation scores in the Department, and often remains in close contact with students long after finals week is over.
Some of Taranath's students enjoy a dynamic opportunity for learning and growth by participating in her study abroad program to India, offered roughly every other year. The students travel to Bangalore and its outlying areas for four to five weeks in the summer to learn from various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that address issues of social justice, activism, and human rights (please see 2008 English Matters.). Students who participate in the study abroad experience often return to the States with new perspectives on what it means to be global citizens, and many continue working for social justice causes as volunteers or professionally after graduation. Taranath has created a study abroad experience that seeks to deeply impact students' lives. The process of guiding and collaborating with the students and NGO colleagues in each seminar is incredibly rewarding for Taranath, as well.
In May 2010, Taranath hosted two representatives from one of the Indian NGOs with which her students work-Usha Badethalav and Indhu Subramaniam from Hengasara Hakkina Sangha, a feminist women's rights organization based in Bangalore. Taranath arranged for her colleagues to visit non-profit organizations in Seattle, and organized a number of academic events for the UW community to meet and learn from them. "My study abroad students learn from these colleagues while they are in India, and it was wonderful to host them here to facilitate the learning in a different environment for all parties involved: the Bangalore colleagues, myself, students who had participated in the exploration seminars, and the larger UW and Seattle community." Taranath organized a workshop through the Simpson Center, "Feminist and Transnational: How We Might Work Together," that brought together faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students. In addition, Badethalav and Subramaniam participated in informal roundtables with students from English, South Asian Studies, and the University Honors Program. Taranath is now collaborating on new scholarship with Badethalav and Subramaniam: "We are working on different writing projects regarding feminist transnational collaboration as a methodological and political project, radical pedagogy, and the ethics and politics of study abroad-all super exciting ideas and issues, and all incredibly challenging and perplexing!"
Because Taranath feels that she learns as much from her students as she sees them learning, she views the Distinguished Teaching Award as recognition of the success of the collaborative model of teaching. "While I am the central figure of this award as a recipient, I really feel like it belongs to my students," she states. "They are the ones stretching their experiences, retooling their minds and engaging with ideas and each other in ways that are fantastic and stellar. That is the hard work that the award celebrates; my job is relatively easy in comparison!"