School of Art Design and Art History

Dr. Sarah Brooks Named 2020-21 CVPA Distinguished Teacher


brooks200-221.jpgProfessor Sarah Brooks (Ph.D., art history) has won the 2020-2021 CVPA Distinguished Teaching Award for her commitment to student success through her excellence in teaching, advising and curriculum development.

In 2008 she joined the JMU faculty as an Assistant Professor of Art History, where her teaching is consistently rated as exceptional. Dr. Brooks’ commitment to our students and programs is further demonstrated by her current service as a First-Year and Transfer Advisor in SADAH. She is also a past CFI Faculty Associate for Academic Culture (2016-2018); and Advisor and Coordinator for the Art History B.A. Program, and for the Art History Minor (2016-2019). Dr. Brooks also now serves as the Cluster One Coordinator for General Education, the academic program serving all First-Year students across the University. 

Since her arrival at JMU, Dr. Brooks has developed a record number—nine—new courses in Museum Studies, Art History, Honors, and General Education. Her expertise in curatorial work has greatly expanded SADAH’s professional training of students, with a large number of graduates landing successful positions in museums and galleries, including at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Museums, the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, and the Gagosian Gallery. Dr. Brooks’ newly created Museum Studies courses include: ARTH 301 Institutions and Professions in Art History; the CGE domestic, on-site program, NYC Global Arts, led in 2017-2019; and the Exhibition Seminar: Exhibiting Islam. Exhibiting Arab Culture. Through her teaching in the art and architecture of the Middle East, Dr. Brooks has greatly expanded our new offerings in Global art history, including in: the exhibition seminar, noted above; ARTH 302 Cultural Heritage & The Islamic World; ARTH 205 Islamic Culture of the Ottoman Court; ARTH 439/539 The City of Jerusalem; HON 300 Art and Religion in Renaissance Europe & the Islamic East; and ARTH 446 Renaissance Art and the East.

With her students, Dr. Brooks has developed two unique online resources employing the JMU WordPress platform. The first was created for her Museum Studies exhibition seminar and is now available publicly. The site features student research, including the exhibition gallery brochure and essays on highlighted themes; as well as the digital catalogue, a biography of the artist, and a record of public programming and press coverage. 

Dr. Brooks converted the annual in-person student research conference, the Art History Forum, to a digital platform during the pandemic. This successful public event held on April 17, 2020, was attended by more than 300 participants via Zoom and through the JMU Art History Facebook page that Dr. Brooks founded and has maintained since 2013. Before the pandemic, Dr. Brooks completed 80-hours of online professional development training to further develop her skills in online and hybrid teaching. As the pandemic first disrupted teaching across the university nearly overnight on March 12, 2020, Dr. Brooks launched the Canvas site “SADAH Online Education: Resources and Faculty Sharing.” More than 40 SADAH faculty and graduate students joined this site and contributed to our first community discussions on the emergency turn to online education, sharing resources and early faculty experiences across the arts disciplines and areas.

Dr. Brooks developed the cohort course for all SADAH First-Year students in 2017 to encourage community building and a common major experience for all SADAH incoming freshmen. Previously, First-Year students developed friendships primarily with students in their respective majors: Art History, Architectural Design, Graphic Design, Art-Studio, and Industrial Design. By working together in Dr. Brook’s class, students have formed many friendships outside of their major, contributing to positive school morale. We believe this approach prepares all First-Year students for success, no matter which of our programs they select. Attendance is up at all school events, and it is not unusual to see Design students supporting their friends in Studio shows, or Art History students minoring in Studio Art. In addition, the entire school benefits when the First-Year students are collectively introduced to University-wide resources for advising, career and professional development, and internships. There is more efficiency and less confusion as students begin to understand how the programs are interrelated. Dr. Brooks deserves the credit for the success of this large cohort class, and she brings the same level of excellence and enthusiasm to all of her teaching

The time and energy that Dr. Brooks devotes to her teaching is reflected in her positive course evaluations, and also in her tremendously appreciative and successful students. Letters from a current student and from two recent alumni share their very personal stories, but we could easily provide 100 more testimonies to support her inspirational teaching. Dr. Brooks demonstrates best practices for teaching and research by taking advantage of every opportunity to extend her own knowledge, perfect her teaching strategies, and collaborate with others to provide the best possible learning opportunities for her students. For example, Dr. Brooks recently joined one of SCHEV’s faculty learning communities, where she worked with a team of faculty from other Virginia higher education institutions to research and further develop Equity-Driven Teaching Strategies.

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Published: Friday, January 8, 2021

Last Updated: Monday, May 17, 2021

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