The Epitome of an Educator
Dave Junker wins College of Communication's Teaching Excellence Award
Since the fifth grade, when he had an outstanding teacher named Mr. Oberg, Dave Junker has aspired to become an exceptional teacher.
So when the College of Communication named him 2012-2013 recipient of the College's Teaching Excellence Award, Junker said he was humbled and grateful. A College faculty member since 2006, Junker teaches writing courses for public relations majors and special topics courses in communication and culture.
"This award means a lot to me because teaching means a lot to me," said Junker, a lecturer in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations. "To win this award from the College of Communication, which is so full of first-class researchers and amazing teachers, is a sign that maybe I've become that teacher I always thought I could be."
Junker will officially accept the award at the College's Dec. 8 commencement ceremony.
When selecting an awardee, the judging committee noted several student letters recommending Junker.
"Students overwhelmingly said that he not only enhanced their understanding of the topic matter, but that he inspired them to want to learn more," said Roderick P. Hart, dean of the College of Communication. "Another running theme was the selflessness and humility that he brings to the classroom."
Meg Weiss, junior public relations major, appreciates Junker for his respectful, down-to-earth and approachable demeanor.
"He exhibits the qualities of your big brother and earns the respect a father demands when you sit in his class," Weiss said. "He seems so at peace, and it’s contagious in class to feel at ease just as he does."
Junker's public relations writing course teaches students practical skills they can use whether or not they pursue public relations careers. His public relations service-learning course teams students with local nonprofits, helping organizations to solve a communications problem.
"The public relations service-learning project was not simply an assignment; it was a practical application of our skills that could benefit an organization," said Laura Beth Williams, senior public relations major. "At the end of the semester, the entire class agreed that it had been a very fulfilling and useful project."
Rachael Sperling, senior public relations major, said she has learned more from Junker than from any other professor.
As a musician and music publicist, Junker is looking forward to teaching a new class titled "Popular Music as Social Advocacy" (ADV 378) in the spring of 2013. The course will explore how songs, which often accompany significant events, shape people, affecting social consciousness and political advocacy.
Junker said he loves teaching because of the joy of mutual discovery.
"It's kind of like when you become a parent and you see things again from a child's eyes," Junker said. "That's a gift that teaching also gives me. When I'm teaching students a new skill or explaining a concept, and they get it, I feel like I'm getting it, too. I hope I never lose that sensation because it means I would have lost a level of empathy that is essential to the process of understanding."
Junker also serves as director of the College’s Senior Fellows Honors Program, a highly selective program designed to complement students' undergraduate coursework. As director, Junker teaches the program's introductory symposium class each year. This fall, the symposium focused on American folk singer Woody Guthrie, who would be celebrating his 100th birthday if he were alive.
"My favorite thing about this class is being able to challenge students to think in new ways and not be afraid of where honest critical dialogue can take us," Junker said.
"These students are smart and motivated; they're leaders here and they'll be leaders wherever they end up," Junker said. "It's a privilege to know them and be a part of their journey."
Before joining the University of Texas at Austin, Junker taught at Huston-Tillotson University, St. Edward's University, Concordia University, The University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
He also has worked as a journalist and has regularly contributed to The Onion, including its best-selling books "Our Dumb Century" and "The Onion's Finest News Reporting." With a master's degree in Afro-American studies and doctorate in English, he also writes about literature, popular music and public relations writing.
Laura Byerley, (512) 471-2182