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National Employers Say This Teacher Makes the Grade

Gerry Michaud, associate professor of design, is one of four UC design faculty named by the nation’s employers to a prestigious list of America’s Most Admired design teachers.

Date: 3/17/2006
By: Mary Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Andrew Higley
UC ingot For Gerry Michaud of the University of Cincinnati’s top-ranked industrial design program, teaching is – literally – a dirty job.

First of all, industrial designers – the people who design and fashion all of the products we use daily, from toothbrushes to trucks – get dirty. Their design tools include everything from computers, laser cutters and milling machines to sketching pens, clay, foam core, wood, glue, oil and paint. Their creativity is definitely not the clean, quiet kind.

Gerry, at right, with students

Similarly, according to Gerry, teaching isn’t necessary tidy and neat but rather “an awesome responsibility of earning trust.” He explains that students have to trust in the experiences of the teacher, have to trust that the processes they are asked to complete come together over time to serve as the best professional formation. “Unless they trust you, students can’t follow you into difficult subject areas and take risks. And if they don’t trust you, they think, ‘He’s a crazy, old guy’…pretty much like I thought of my teachers when I was a student. But then later, they come to realize that the processes they were asked to go through really do work in the profession. It was that way for me,” says Gerry.

Well, while Gerry might still be working on earning the trust of his current students, it’s obvious that he has succeeded in earning the trust of the nation’s architecture, engineering and design employers. He is one of four design faculty from UC’s top-ranked College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning named to a short list of America’s Most Admired Industrial Design Educators in 2006. That list appeared in the December 2005 issue of DesignIntelligence magazine, a design industry publication of the Design Futures Council. Every December, the magazine publishes the results of its annual survey of design and engineering employers regarding the nation’s best design programs. UC again made that list this past year with the nation’s:

  • Number one undergraduate interior design program (for the 7th straight year)
  • Number one architecture program among the magazine’s Top Ten Most Innovative Architecture Programs
  • Number two architecture program in terms of overall quality
  • Number two industrial design program

In the rankings, UC beat out such East Coast rivals as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia and Cornell on the strengths of its Top Ten co-op program (ranked among the nation’s elite by U.S. News & World Report), the challenging curriculum at DAAP and the excellence of its design faculty.

For the first time this year, the 2006 blue-ribbon rankings also included a listing of the nation’s best design faculty. UC had four faculty members on that list – Tony Kawanari, Gerry Michaud, Dale Murray and Craig Vogel. Only one other school in the nation (Art Center in California) had as many.

Gerry was a little bit surprised that he “made the grade” because he clearly worries about helping each and every student. “Design is a gift, and the trick and the challenge in teaching it is most difficult when you as the teacher don’t see that gift manifesting itself in the student. But,” he adds, “that doesn’t mean the gift isn’t there. The best teachers are those who humbly know their own blindness.”

He also worries about being at his best for each and every class. That being the case, Gerry rips up his lecture notes at the end of every quarter. “I put myself on a new tight rope with every class. I put myself under pressure. I want everything to be fresh for every student,” he explains. “Then, it feels like were just playing.”

And, in a way, Gerry is playing – but for very high stakes: the future of his students. 

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