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UC’s 2010 Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Award: Leslie Blade

Through her successful leadership of an innovative course sequence required of more than 500 first-year students in DAAP, adjunct Leslie Blade provides the fundamentals that allow students to succeed in UC’s nationally and internationally ranked programs in design, architecture, art and planning.

Date: 5/4/2010 12:00:00 AM
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Dottie Stover

UC ingot   Before the incoming first-year students arriving to the University of Cincinnati’s top-ranked College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) can be taught the principles associated with their respective majors, they must first learn to use sophisticated technology tools common in their disciplines.
Leslie Blade
Leslie Blade

And that’s where UC adjunct assistant professor Leslie Blade has changed the academic landscape within the college and already touched the lives of hundreds of students. And for her efforts, Blade is UC’s 2010 Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Award winner.

While Blade has taught School of Design courses for 20 years, she last year accepted a vital – but almost overwhelming challenge – for the entire college: That of organizing and managing the digital fundamentals sequence of courses for DAAP, a task that requires her to prepare lecture materials, grade weekly assignments for more than 500 students, devise a strategy for teaching up to a dozen lab sections per week and organize an army of teaching assistants.

The digital foundation courses are vital because incoming students have varying levels of familiarity with the technology required in DAAP’s disciplines. They will all need a very broad set of technology skills cutting across many applications, including PhotoShop, Illustrator, Excel, Dreamweaver, Flash, Cinema 4D and more in order to manipulate images, perform 3-D modeling and animation, and other processes.

Blade organizes and teaches all of the digital foundation studios in addition to teaching the design studios related to color, composition and form that she has led for years.
Leslie Blade
Leslie Blade teaches in UC's School of Design.

Ironically, she admits, “I never imagined I would be a teacher when I was pursuing my DAAP degrees myself.”

She adds, “And when I began teaching 20 years ago, I was scared out of my mind. Our students are smart, and they can smell fear a mile away. They are not afraid to challenge you. I think that during that first year of teaching, I relied upon my ability to lie with authority.”

Blade laughs that her extremely load basically means that “I’m raising other people’s children by the hundreds. Our first-year students are dealing with so many experiences: time management, money management, independence, challenging workloads, homesickness and real sickness.”

However, that’s also the best part of her teaching role, too.
Leslie Blade with student
Leslie Blade works one-on-one with students in a UC design studio.

“I get to watch our first-year students grow into professional adults. Many go from being quiet but able to do strong work to being able to not only defend their ideas and articulate a vision but to teach their classmates as well,” she says.

DAAP student Noel Leon Gauthier agrees, “When I was first signing up for classes as a very intimidated industrial design freshman, I’ll never forget running through my choices of professors. It appeared as though I would enter this world-class design school being taught by Blade and Wolf. Wonderful. With names like those for my professors, I was sure I was going to be skinned and eaten.”

And while Blade indeed set high expectations for the class, Gauthier recalls that she also took time to get to know him and his classmates personally.

States Gauthier, “When we students had troubles, she spoke to us first as people, with an incredible sense of empathy. It was often that human touch that gave students, myself included, that extra bit of strength to make it through a very stressful first year.”

And now that Gauthier, currently a design graduate student, has worked with Blade as a teaching assistant in DAAP’s digital foundation courses, he adds, “Over the years, Leslie Blade has become my own measure of success. I’ve watched her manage an army of TAs across multiple sections and schools, as well as coordinating the program. All the while, she has applied the same stringent demands for quality on her own work that she requires from us. It was and still is impressive.”
Leslie Blade

For Blade, the 2010 Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Award marks an important milestone in the almost 30 years she has been either a UC student or teacher.

She says, “The award is like a shot of adrenalin. It’s given me energy. I felt it physically when I read the e-mail about winning the award. I remember I opened that e-mail on a Sunday morning, and I had to read it three or four times to make sure it said what it said.”