Excellence in teaching: Christopher Mitchell

Each year, UIC honors some of its most dedicated and outstanding teachers with the Award for Excellence in Teaching. The winners, who receive a $5,000 salary increase, are selected by past recipients of the award from nominations made by departments and colleges.

Christopher Mitchell
Christopher Mitchell, associate professor and director of Academic Program Development and Assessment in the Jane Addams College of Social Work

Years at UIC: 22

What does it mean to win an Excellence in Teaching Award?
I see the award as a recognition of my contributions to preparing the next generation of graduate social workers, as well as to advancing social work education and the profession as a whole.  Being an educator is rewarding to me at many levels, and I am proud to be part of the Jane Addams College of Social Work and the University. I am grateful to receive the award.

What do you teach?
I work primarily with Master of Social Work students who want to be clinical social workers pursuing careers in behavioral health. I teach several of the advanced social work practice courses that prepare students to understand and provide treatment to persons with a variety of mental illnesses and substance use challenges. I have also taught in the Ph.D. program and have advised numerous students as they conduct their dissertation research.

How do you engage students in your courses?
I am fortunate to teach courses that align closely with the students’ career interests and so it is pretty easy to engage them! When I teach I try to be as interactive with the students as possible and encourage them to think about how the course content can be applied to the clients they are working with currently in their internships. I draw on case examples from my own clinical work to make the content come alive and I use a variety of teaching modalities. I think I bring a good sense of humor to the class — but you’d have to check with the students to confirm that. I basically try to make the class an enjoyable and useful learning experience that students will look forward to attending.

What do you enjoy most about teaching at UIC?
I think I enjoy interacting with the students the most. Social work students continually impress me with their idealism and commitment to helping others particularly those most in need.

What are your research interests? 
My research has focused on interventions to assist persons affected by HIV.  I have conducted several projects researching interventions to prevent HIV infection and other interventions that help persons with HIV to engage in treatment and to adhere to their medication and treatment regimens.

What is your advice to students considering a teaching career?
Teaching is challenging, exciting, and takes a great deal of effort.  It’s hard work but it’s an exceptionally rewarding career.