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April 24, 2022

Donald F. Koch Quality in Undergraduate Teaching Award

Allison Eden

Department of Communication
College of Communication Arts and Sciences

Allison Eden is the embodiment of the best of undergraduate teaching: innovative, energetic, challenging and influential. Her ability to convey information on basic communication in a compelling and organized fashion has made her a favorite among students.

As director of the department’s large survey course in communication theory and public speaking, Eden pioneered a unique training program using virtual reality for speaker training in which students practice their speeches in a virtual reality lab where audience members can interrupt, become disengaged, and even act disrespectfully. This method provides students with rigorous training without the anxiety that such an audience would actually cause an inexperienced student learning to speak publicly.

Because her teaching informs her research, Eden is currently applying for external funds to study the effectiveness of training in public speaking against the perceptual affordances of virtual environments to examine the effects of virtual audiences. She plans to contrast the effect of practice alone, practice with others in real life, and practice in a virtual environment on speech anxiety, fluency and psycho-physiological responses to public speaking.

Additionally, Eden’s teaching is informed by research. An expert in media and entertainment, she wrote a textbook under that title (“Media Entertainment”) with colleagues because therewas a dearth of evidence-based college texts in this area — and she wanted her students to have access to a textbook filled with current scholarship.

Eden recognizes the importance of national and international diversity in her teaching and research and, thinking carefully about the examples she uses in her classes, regularly employs DEI-centered (diversity, equity, and inclusion) strategies. Even when writing quizzes, she is careful to think about the names and words she uses, knowing representation matters. She also developed a DEI-centered image bank for the entire faculty to use toward greater inclusivity when teaching.

Eden’s students always speak highly of her mentoring, with the words, “empathetic and kind” regularly noted in evaluations. Her commitment to graduate education is evident in her work. In just three years, she has served on eight master’s committees, three as chair; nine Ph.D. committees, three as chair; she currently has four graduate students working on her research team.

This award celebrates educators who engage undergraduate students through innovative teaching techniques and compelling research. Allison Eden’s efforts to prepare future generations of communication specialists is extraordinary. The late Donald F. Koch would be honored to know an instructor of this caliber is receiving an award bearing his name.

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By: Marguerite Halversen

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