About the Award
The Horace T. Morse-University of Minnesota Alumni Association Award recognizes excellence in contributing directly and indirectly to student learning through teaching, research, and creative activities; advising; academic program development; and educational leadership.
Michael Sommers received this award at the Distinguished Teaching Awards ceremony on April 27, 2017.
Each year, the Alumni Association is proud to join the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost in supporting the Distinguished Teaching Awards, which recognize the outstanding work of U of M educators. Recipients of the awards are inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Teachers.
About Michael Sommers
- Associate Professor
- Department of Theatre Arts and Dance
- College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Michael Sommers joined what he calls the “newly imagined” B.A. program in the Department of Theatre (now Theatre Arts and Dance) in 2002. Since then, his imagination, creative genius, and teaching acumen have transformed the curriculum and ignited the passions of hundreds of appreciative students.
Of the 21 courses Sommers has taught since his hire, he designed and developed 19—from a freshman seminar on The Art of Collaboration to the graduate course Puppetry Techniques and Practice in Contemporary Theatre. An esteemed creator across a range of arts, he has designed and developed more than 50 performances, at venues from Minneapolis driveways to Indonesian streets.
Students laud his creative and collaborative approach to learning, noting that he “has a way of igniting imagination and creativity.” One former student and current industry professional says that Sommers “proved masterful at providing feedback that would challenge but not overwhelm, provoke but still inspire.” In everything he teaches, he finds unique ways to structure the craft of play.
Sommers also excels at connecting academic learning to professional development, and he exposes students to the performance world at his Open Eye Figure Theater, offering internships and employing graduates as actors, puppeteers, and technicians. He is clearly an educator and mentor who is dedicated to his students. Adds one alum: “No other professor was as supportive or invested in my education.”
“My classes have the atmosphere of serious and focused play combined with rigorous investigation that fosters the growth of each student as an individual and the class as a collective.”
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