|Public Information Office
310 Owen Hall, Campus PO 1820
Asheville, NC 28804-8507
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|For Immediate Release
April 14, 2000
UNC Asheville's Dee James Recognized for Teaching Excellence
by UNC Board of Governors
One of UNC Asheville's best-loved professors, Deborah (Dee) James, was presented the University of North Carolina Board of Governors' Award for Excellence in Teaching today at a special luncheon in Chapel Hill.
As an associate professor of literature and language, James has what many regard as one of the toughest teaching assignments on campus, freshman writing. It is in her classes, and in the University Writing Center which she directs, that students master the organized thinking and skilled writing essential to success at a liberal arts college. And it is how she does this that is most remarkable, according to her students.
"Dr. James is very encouraging and very challenging at the same time," said Heather Talley, a 19-year-old sociology major from Baton Rouge, La. "Not only do you feel pushed to keep going, but you feel pushed to be better, to keep writing. Yet she's so personable, so motherly. She creates a comfortable, family atmosphere for all her students. That's the basis for her teaching style. Definitely."
Talley said it was in James' class that she was introduced to the personal narrative, which allowed her to find her niche as a writer. Talley went on to win a freshman writing contest and now tutors other students in the University Writing Center.
It is finding one's voice as a writer that keeps James engaged with her students. "I love writing but I struggle with it. I know how hard and scary it can be. I'm very interested in helping people understand that there are ways to write well. It's very important for people to give voice to their stories, to have a voice in the world," James said.
Another student who has found her voice is Blanca Miller, a French major and native of Quito, Ecuador now living in Weaverville. Miller, whose children are long grown, started taking occasional classes. James not only convinced Miller to become a degree-seeking student but to explore her dream of writing. "Oh, Dr. James was a fantastic discovery for me," Miller said. "She made us older students feel at ease taking classes with young kids. Dr. James has faith in me and in my writing. She has such a special talent to encourage us that I am writing two books, one an autobiography and a second on the elderly and nursing homes. I'm a constant customer at the Writing Center."
The University Writing Center, under James' guidance for the past 15 years, recruits and trains student tutors who then, as writing center staff, assist other students with their own writing. Faculty also volunteer and work both with students and other faculty, offering advice as "second readers." Between 200 and 300 students use the writing center each semester.
James' supportive style and thoughtful eloquence are also clearly a part of the success of UNCA's African American Colloquium. The colloquium course offered each fall has solid track record in helping African American students transition into and succeed at a predominantly white institution. As one of UNCA's first African American graduates, earning her bachelor's degree in drama/literature in 1973, she has lived the experience first hand. James serves as part of the colloquium's teaching community and serves as a tutor-at-large for African American students.
James is also active in the Asheville community. She serves on the Asheville YWCA board and has worked extensively with the Asheville City School System on issues of multiculturalism and African American student achievement. She has also served as coordinator and teacher in UNCA's Mountain Writing Project, a summer seminar for pubic school teachers.
James joined UNCA's faculty in 1984 and holds a doctorate from the University of South Carolina. She received UNCA's Distinguished Teacher Award in the Humanities in 1996.
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