Writing Professor Sara Chaney Wins Apgar Award

Writing professor Sara Chaney and her colleague Bill Hudenko have been awarded the prestigious Apgar Award for Innovation in Teaching for their interdisciplinary course entitled "Autism: The Science, Story and Experience."

The course reviews the scientific literature on Autism-Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and also critically engages popular representations of the condition in the broader culture.

The full announcement about the award from Interim Provost David Kotz is included below:

Dear Faculty,

I am delighted to announce the winner of the 2017 Apgar Award for Innovation in Teaching. This year's award goes to Dr. Bill Hudenko and Dr. Sara Chaney for their course "Autism: The Science, Story and Experience." Bill Hudenko is Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the Geisel School of Medicine and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences. Sara Chaney an Instructor in the Institute of Writing and Rhetoric.

The Apgar Award recognizes and supports innovative teaching initiatives that cross traditional academic boundaries. The award is aimed at team-taught, interdisciplinary courses, particularly those offered by faculty at an early stage of their careers and particularly faculty in the Arts and Humanities. A gift from Mahlon Apgar, IV D'62 and Sarah Tipper Apgar, Tu'11 made this award possible. The endowment for this prize provides a modest cash prize to each of the faculty teaching the course selected for the award.

This course focuses on three main learning objectives. First, students learn about the scientific theories of Autism-Spectrum Disorders (ASD), develop critical thinking skills about empirical evidence in the scientific literature, and demonstrate understanding the cutting-edge neurological and psychological science behind the condition. This "Science" section draws upon Dr. Hudenko's background as an autism-spectrum researcher and practicing clinical psychologist. Second, students consider the complex social and cultural factors that lead to shifting portrayals of ASD and unpack the assumptions and "stories" that they have formulated about the condition. This "Story" section of the course draws upon Dr. Chaney's expertise as a writer and scholar in the field of ASD. Finally, students experience what it's like to live with ASD through in-person interactions, live Skype sessions, and video clips, and they learn how to engage thoughtfully and skillfully with individuals on the autism spectrum. They conclude the course by working with children on the autism spectrum to curate an art exhibition and mount it at the Hopkins Center. This course exemplifies experiential learning at its best by applying scientific and cultural theory to work across difference, develop artistic expression and inform public discussion about an important social issue. Professors Hudenko and Chaney have given particularly careful attention to articulating clear learning objectives, exciting learning activities and a cogent assessment plan.

David Kotz
Interim Provost