2016 Silver Circle winner Marsha Cassidy
Since 1966, the Silver Circle Award has been presented to some of UIC’s best teachers. Winners, who are honored at their college commencements, receive $500 and their names join a long list of distinguished colleagues. But what makes the award especially meaningful is its selection committee: the graduating seniors.
Learning to teach well is an ongoing process for media studies scholar Marsha Cassidy.
Even with two decades of UIC teaching experience and two Silver Circle Awards, she continues to seek out new ideas and techniques from conferences and colleagues.
“You’re never at a plateau in your teaching,” she said. “You always need to keep thinking and learning from others. What’s working or not working in your classroom will also help you grow.”
From the gothic imagination in popular culture to the Super Bowl, Cassidy’s courses cover a wide range of topics in literature, film and television.
The contrast of television viewing, past and present, stands out in her American culture class. While Cassidy presents some programs that might be considered legendary, she’ll include contemporary shows that students stream online and are interested in talking about.
“One semester there’s a series that might be valuable to study now. Then the next year that’s long gone and forgotten and viewers have moved on to something else,” she said.
“This interactive process in the classroom has been very useful for all of us. I learn from students and it emphasizes how television has changed dramatically in the past five to 10 years.”
Cassidy’s research in cognitive studies is a new key part of her teaching. Her latest book project explores how bodily sensations and reactions contribute to audiences’ enjoyment and appreciation of film and television.
Overall, she considers a course’s trajectory as a challenging, yet rewarding, journey.
“Sometimes it feels difficult, but then as we move up and across ideas we can, at the end of the course, come back to what we were talking about earlier and make new connections that I think are valuable,” Cassidy said.