March 26, 2015 at 3:45pm

Teaching Excellence

Dr. Tony Magagna, Millikin University assistant professor of English, is taking literary analysis to new heights on campus. Traditional literature is advancing, due in part to technology, and Dr. Magagna is researching ways to study literature with the use of new media.
These efforts and contributions to Performance Learning haven't gone unnoticed as Dr. Magagna was named the recipient of Millikin's 2015 Teaching Excellence Award. The award was presented to Dr. Magagna at the conclusion of Millikin's Interdisciplinary Faculty Conference (MIFC) on Feb. 20.
"The Teaching Excellence Award was developed some years back as a way of recognizing outstanding teaching in a tangible way," said Dr. Jeffery Aper, Millikin provost. "The intent of the award has been to not only encourage outstanding teaching, but to recognize the high quality of work."
The award, first presented in 2003, is given to a faculty member who best exemplifies the ideas and practices that can be employed to demonstrate teaching excellence. Criteria for the award include: teaching philosophy, evidence of student learning and innovation.
"It was quite a shock to learn that I had won the award because there are so many excellent teachers at Millikin," said Dr. Magagna. "The selection committee, especially this year, put a greater emphasis on Performance Learning in its decision, and it's not always easy to incorporate literary analysis with Performance Learning."
The Teaching Excellence Award selection committee was made up of seven past award recipients. Dr. Eric Roark, Millikin associate professor of philosophy, was chairman of the committee.
"Dr. Magagna gets a great response from students, but his colleagues also respond to him very positively because he always has good ideas and insights," said Dr. Aper. "In a lot of ways, his selection for this award reflects exactly the kind of ideals that this award was designed to support."
When asked how he incorporates Performance Learning with his classes, Dr. Magagna says, "In the last few years, there's been a lot of boundary-breaking that's occurred between the digital world and the literary world, and I've tried to fold that into a lot of my classes '€“ for example, taking literary scholarship and turning it into a digital case book."
In addition to the Teaching Excellence Award, Dr. Magagna was recently selected for the Warren G. Hardy Professorship of English. Throughout the two-year endowed professorship, Dr. Magagna will conduct research on ways media and technology influence literature, and how literature will be defined in the 21st century.
"Part of what I'm proposing is to both research and build curricula around the intersection of digital media and literary studies," said Dr. Magagna. "A lot of our talented and younger writers might gravitate towards writing for video games, which is something people might never have considered. From my perspective, new narrative expressions are occurring in digital spaces that we don't recognize at all or dismiss, and I think it's worth looking at."
Dr. Magagna will divide his research into three parts: literature that takes on the digital age as a subject matter; new forms of narrative that utilize new media and technology to tell stories; and ways people can teach or study both new literature and traditional literature using new media tools.
Based on the outcomes of his research, Dr. Magagna hopes to develop a new course at Millikin tentatively entitled "Hybrid Literatures."
Dr. Magagna adds, "It's important to embrace and recognize some of these aspects that are occurring because the worlds that our students know, and the reflections of those worlds, are occurring in media that we don't often bring into the classroom, and I'm trying to bring those things together."