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Otten Earns Campus and Systemwide Teaching Honors

Tracy Otten in her office
Author: 
Jenna Ray
Publication date: 
March 21, 2018
  • Otten is known for her commitment to student learning and collaboration.
  • Her discipline, printmaking, is a metaphor for the liberal arts approach to education.

Professor of Studio Art Tracy Otten has earned the Horace T. Morse - University of Minnesota Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education and the University of Minnesota, Morris Alumni Association Teaching Award. The honors affirm at the campus and system levels her hard work and dedication to student learning.

The Secret

According to Otten, great teaching happens when teachers expose students to a broad range of perspectives. This approach, she says, works in both the arts specifically and the liberal arts more generally.

"The goal is to give your students access to the broadest range of experiences and tools so they can identify what best suits their particular needs and ideas for creating artwork," says Otten. "And that is the case in any field: you want your students to have a strong foundation so they can find their own direction."

The Connection to Bigger Ideas

Printmaking—Otten's field of expertise—could be described as the ultimate liberal art. Combining elements of sculpture, chemistry, and digital applications, it asks students to solve problems creatively and to adapt quickly when things don't go as expected. It's an excellent metaphor for the liberal arts experience, she says.

"Printmaking has relationships with all of the other art media," she says. "It's a great combination of different ways of thinking and creative problem-solving. And that's challenging for some students because how it ends up is not always what they thought. But sometimes it turn out better than they imagined."

The Systemwide Stage

Otten's Morse recognition affirms at the system level Morris's model of liberal learning and her own approach to it. It honors her commitment to student learning and collaboration as well as that of the campus community.

"We're special in that we are incredibly involved in the success of our students at every stage, and that's not the norm [in higher education]," says Otten, who is an adviser to studio art majors and to the art club. "So anytime that model is recognized, it's a really amazing thing."

Otten is one of two Morse recipients from the Morris campus this year. She and Sheri Breen, associate professor of political science, will join the University of Minnesota's Academy of Distinguished Teachers.

About Otten

Otten has taught art and printmaking at Morris for 17 years. She holds a master of fine arts from the University of South Dakota and a bachelor of science from the North Dakota State University.

About the Morse Alumni Award

Each year since 1965, the Horace T. Morse - University of Minnesota Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education (Morse-Alumni Award) has been given to a select group of teachers who reflect the University's emphasis on the importance of high quality undergraduate education. Learn more at scholarswalk.umn.edu

About the UMMAA Teaching Award

The University of Minnesota, Morris Alumni Association established the UMMAA Teaching Award to honor individual faculty members for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education. Learn more at alumni.morris.umn.edu