The Department of Art presents the 2023 Fred Joel Larson Excellence in Teaching Awards 

Assistant Professors Chotsani Elaine Dean & Christina Schmid are the inaugural honorees. The 2023 Outstanding Service Award also went to Senior Academic Advisor Patricia Straub.
Four people stand in a row, the two on the right holding documents
Left to right: Fred Joel Larson's daughter Robin Larson, his granddaughter Lucy, Term Assistant Professor Christina Schmid, and Assistant Professor Chotsani Elaine Dean, both holding their awards and prints of Fred Joel Larson's artwork.

On May 5, 2023, at the Public Program for the 2023 BFA Thesis Exhibition, the Department of Art was pleased to announce the honorees for the first annual Fred Joel Larson Excellence in Teaching Awards.

The award is given in honor of the commitment that Fred Joel Larson showed to the study of Art as a longtime student at the Regis Center for Art and with thanks to the David and Leni Moore Family Fund at the Minneapolis Foundation. The award is presented to Department of Art faculty member who demonstrate the highest standards of teaching, research, scholarship, and innovative practice while also exemplifying the generous creative spirit of Fred Joel Larson. Click here to read more about Fred Joel Larson and his 13 years studying Art at the U.


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Assistant Professor Chotsani Elaine Dean

Assistant Professor Chotsani Elaine Dean teaches in the Ceramic area and joined our faculty in the fall of 2020. Assistant Professor Dean moved to a new city and started her job during the height of the pandemic and the Uprising. For Covid protocol reasons, ceramics classes were being taught across two classrooms, as this was before vaccines were available. Chotsani Elaine Dean adapted her teaching in many ways and found innovative technological solutions to work across classrooms. She has also led ambitious all-night wood kiln firings twice a year along with her students and colleagues. Dean is in high demand by both undergraduate and graduate students to work under her guidance and has developed a strong cohort of undergraduate ceramic technicians. She has led efforts to consider the issues of environmental sustainability as related to ceramic practices, and has emphasized reusing materials, conserving water, and using safer glazes. Professionally, Dean has also co-published Contemporary Black American Ceramic Artists and currently has work on view at the Weisman Art Museum.

In these first years of teaching here in the Art Department, Chotsani Elaine Dean was nominated by her students for the Arthur "Red" and Helene B. Motley Exemplary Teaching award in 2021-22 and 2022-23. Due to the restrictions of the award, we were not able to forward her on for consideration. We are pleased to award her the 2023 Fred Joel Larson Award for Teaching Excellence in 2023.

"Assistant Professor Chotsani Elaine Dean has changed the way I think about art and education. Being her student as well as her undergraduate teaching assistant, I have both experienced and observed her pedagogy, which is fundamentally rooted in creating community and meeting people where they are. She cares deeply for each of her students, regardless of what they're studying. Not only does she care, but she skillfully forms cross-disciplinary connections and has helped many students, including myself, see and experience clay in new ways. Professor Dean also makes her students aware of the labor and resource exchanges that occur in order for studio communities to function well. Her guidance has supported the flourishing of stable ecosystems of artists whose practices are inherently considerate. She truly leads by example."

Lily Winslow (BA ‘23)


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Term Assistant Professor Christina Schmid, PhD

A fierce advocate for diversity and inclusion, Term Assistant Professor Christina Schmid, PhD, is a creative, inspiring, and supportive teacher who has positively impacted emerging artists through teaching, studio visits, and mentorship. She brings her many years of experience in arts writing and criticism into her work with graduate students and engages them at the highest level with rigor, enthusiasm, and insight. Her expertise has transformed the MFA program and continues to expand students’ professional practices.

Assistant Professor Christina Schmid has been teaching in the Interdisciplinary Art and Social practice area in the Department of Art for the past ten years. She teaches courses in Critical Theory and has been teaching our largest course in the Department of Art, Introduction to Contemporary Art and Theory. During the pandemic, she had to shift this large class online and manage hundreds of students in a new modality.

The course remains in such high demand that we continue to add additional sections. Schmid also teaches Critical Theories and Their Construction From a Studio Perspective and MFA Thesis Research + Writing for all graduate students. She has successfully reoriented the Art Department’s curriculum toward more inclusivity and social justice. These efforts have included reshaping the general introductory art course for undergraduates (Arts 1001) as a liberal education theme “Race, Power, and Justice in the United States,” and she has reworked the intermediate Critical Theories course so that it now meets the “Civic Life and Ethics ” liberal education requirement. She is also in high demand to work with our graduate students on thesis credits and on MFA thesis committees. 

Schmid was also nominated by her students for the Arthur "Red" and Helene B. Motley Exemplary Teaching award in 2020-21 and 2021-22 but was also not eligible due to the award restrictions. She has also been nominated by the Department of Art for the Graduate teaching award in 2021-22 and 2022-23. She was nominated for the College of Liberal Arts Excellence in Teaching Award in 2022-23.

“I have had the privilege of having Christina as a professor for both Contemporary art and theory and Critical Theory from a Studio Perspective. Christina pushes her students to pave a path that emphasizes self-improvement in a personal and artistic sense. Her passion for the arts is truly captivating and inspiring to witness. She is invested in her students and provides a space for them to understand and familiarize themselves with the complexity of art and its many layers.”

Kathryn Blommel (current BFA student)


2023 Department of Art Outstanding Service Award

Also announced was the inaugural Department of Art Outstanding Service Award, given in recognition of exemplary service to undergraduate and graduate students. This award is presented to a Department of Art staff member who, through their patience, thoughtfulness, and unwavering support, epitomizes the Department’s commitment to our students’ success and well-being.

Patricia Straub photo

Senior Academic Advisor and Graduate Program Coordinator Patricia Straub

Patricia Straub, who has served as the Senior Academic Advisor and Graduate Program Coordinator for nearly seven years, is the first staff person to receive the Department of Art Outstanding Service Award.

During the past three years of pandemic in particular, Patricia Straub has been at the nexus of students, faculty, and staff to address a constantly changing academic environment and to work to find support for students within the University of Minnesota system. She has gone above and beyond her responsibilities to connect students and faculty with resources, and to problem-solve complex situations. She has led on important changes to our degree requirements and curriculum and has been an active member on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. 

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