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2009 Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Award: Cindy Damschroder

UC’s Cindy Damschroder is an art history adjunct who loves to teach engineers. Because, sometimes, it’s non-majors who surprise her the most.

Date: 5/21/2009 12:00:00 AM
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Dottie Stover

UC ingot   When asked about her most memorable students, the University of Cincinnati’s Cindy Damschroder – one of two 2009 Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Award winners – is a typical teacher. She has built close bonds with so many that it’s a challenge to list them all.
Cindy Damschroder
Cindy Damschroder

But ask her to talk about her most surprising students, and Damschroder recalled the non-majors in her art history courses, the ones attending in order to fulfill their humanities requirements.

“They are often nervous about the art history courses because they don’t want to ‘do’ art. One panicky mechanical engineering student was in my Honors art history course. He came up to me at the end of the first class and wanted to drop the class. He just couldn’t see any way he could complete the final project,” she recollected.

The final project requires students to study the work of two artists and integrate their styles, characteristics and philosophies into a creative, cohesive whole.

“When he approached me at the end of the first class, the student said he only knew of one artist – Andy Warhol and his ‘soup can’ painting. I told him we would work it out and to stick with the class. After all, learning isn’t learning if you’re only repeating what you already know,” said Damschroder, adjunct associate professor in UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP).
Cindy Damschroder and students
UC's Cindy Damschroder and students in one of her art history courses.

During the course, the student discovered a kinetic sculptor that he truly appreciated, and he decided to integrate Warhol’s style with that of the sculptor.

Damschroder went on, “In the end he took a Campbell’s soup can, and inside of the can, he created a working clock in the spirit of the sculptor. The top of the can became a clock face. He even incorporated music into the piece. He was as proud as a peacock. All the other students asked him if the clock worked, and he just said, ‘Heck, yes!’ They then asked him what he was going to do with it.”

Damschroder laughed that he should have given it to his teacher, but better yet, she quickly added, he kept it for himself and claimed it for his own. “He said, ‘It’s mine. It’s an artistic working object integrated into popular culture and popular art.’ He said he’d keep it on his nightstand where he’d see it every day.”

Such classroom breakthroughs are not unusual for Damschroder, and it’s why she is being recognized for her teaching and the care she brings to her craft.

“In the first-year History of Art survey courses I teach, I’m aware that I’m the first face – maybe even the only face – a lot of people will see from the humanities. These classes not only have art- and design-oriented students from DAAP but engineering, nursing and business majors. Some of them look at me like they’re deer caught in the headlights. They feel so out of place. They tell me they speak only ‘spreadsheet,’” stated Damschroder.
Cindy Damschroder and students
UC's Cindy Damschroder with some of her students.

However, with Damschroder as their teacher, hundreds of students each year end up learning how art is part of a larger historical context. They learn to pose questions and to think about the answers and form opinions. “What I like best,” said Damschroder, “is when they then never want to leave the humanities.”

When it comes to history, that’s what happened to Damschroder when she was a student, and, perhaps, it’s why she identifies so well with those in her classes.

She was a UC undergraduate interior design student in the late 1980s when she “fell in love with history” during an interior design history course taught by Patrick Snadon, associate professor in DAAP’s School of Architecture and Interior Design.

“For me, it was a life-changing course. I could have sat and studied history for hours. For a while, I even tried to double-major in interior design and art history,” she recalled.

And, now, Damschroder has that same effect on her own students. Of Damschroder, graphic design junior Kendall Adkins of Circleville, Ohio, said, “She has mastered the art of making lectures interesting and somehow found a way of making me want to read the mammoth text chosen for her course. It was literally over 1,300 pages.”

Marketing student Finn McKenty, who operates a graphic design business, agreed, saying, “Before the art history class, I always disregarded abstract and non-representational art, but I gained a huge appreciation for it. Now, I find a lot more inspiration in painting and architecture from the earlier part of the century, and my work is ten times better. Cindy Damschroder does a fantastic job of presenting a lot of material to a bunch of 19 year olds with other things on their minds.”

Cindy Damschroder

  • Bachelor of Science in Design from UC, 1989
  • Master of Arts in Art History from UC, 1996
  • Master of Science in Architecture from UC, 1998
  • Began teaching at UC as an adjunct in 1997
  • Most recent published article: "Beautiful and Useful: The Book as a Learning Object. Using an Honors Seminar as a Forum to Explore Information Literacy and Critical Thinking," in the March 2009 issue of College & Research Libraries News. Co-author with Jane Carlin, director, Collins Memorial Library, University of Puget Sound.