Stacie Rohrbach, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design, was recently award the Henry Hornbostel Teaching Award. The Hornbostel Award, which is the College of Fine Arts' annual recognition for teaching excellence, is named after Henry Hornbostel (1867 – 1961), the first Dean of the College of Fine Arts and the architect and designer of several Carnegie Mellon University buildings including the College of Fine Arts Building, Baker Hall, Doherty Hall, Hammerschlag Hall and Margaret Morrison Carnegie Hall.
“I was honored and humbled to receive the Hornbostel Teaching Award this year,” said Rohrbach. “It is particularly meaningful to me because I take my responsibility as an educator very seriously and I do my best to support my students any way I can. Teaching isn’t just my profession for me it’s a key part of who I am. I feel very fortunate to be in the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon, where I get to work on interesting and important projects with truly incredible students and colleagues every day.
“I also feel an immense responsibility to do my job well, helping students question and define their personal paths, just as many of the amazing teachers I have had have done for me. Certainly, this has been a challenging year in academia,” added Rohrbach. “However, I've also found it quite invigorating and inspiring. From seeing my students and colleagues going ‘all in’ on their classes and projects when faced with immense adversities, to lending a hand to each other when we need it, the past year has set the stage for many innovative approaches to teaching and learning in various contexts that I believe will have a positive impact on the future of education for many years to come.”
Along with her responsibilities as the Director of Graduate Studies, Rohrbach co-teaches Survey of Design for First Year students with Stephen Stadelmeier, the MDes/MPS Communication Design Studio, and Designing Experiences for Learning, which is an outgrowth of her research and practice.
“Through exposure to a range of learning theories, students uncover their relevance to design and use them to inform their work,” said Rohrbach about Designing Experiences for Learning. “They address complex challenges by designing experience that facilitate engaging and meaningful learning and understanding among their audiences.
“I truly love teaching these courses and others that I’ve taught during my tenure in the School of Design, including undergraduate communication design studios and senior projects.”
“Stacie Rohrbach is an outstanding teacher by any measure, long overdue for recognition,” said Bruce Hanington, Head of the School of Design. “Even while dedicating herself to administrative duties running the School of Design graduate programs, and communication design track before that, Stacie manages to earn the highest FCE scores of our faculty, reinforced by consistent vocal praise from her students. Moreover, her teaching success spans the entirety of our student body, from first year undergrad where she has taught a large studio class for most of her nearly two-decade career here, communication design studios at both the undergraduate and masters levels, and PhD seminars.
“Anyone who has ever had the privilege of co-teaching with Stacie will agree that they have benefited from her preparedness, classroom presence, sharp organizational skills and fairness in providing students with meaningful feedback,” added Hanington. “Stacie’s influence in advancing creative work and design careers is confirmed long after graduation by our alumni community.”
“Teaching well is no small feat, nor is being a student, particularly during the pandemic,” said Rohrbach on teaching during this past year. “That said, I do my best to practice what I preach. I put a great deal of time into organizing my courses in a manner that students can easily navigate. I also develop and integrate into my courses, a range of learning activities that are well-aligned to learning goals and help students practice concepts that we cover, always emphasizing the relevance of what we’re doing to their interests. Beyond logistical preparations, I also try to create a safe space for students, where they feel welcome to participate, ask questions, collaborate with their peers, and take chances that excite them and advance their learning. I genuinely care about each and every one of them and I want to engage them in learning experiences that resonate with them as individuals and support them as lifelong learners and community leaders. Lastly, I strive to work with my students, who are brilliant, rather than talk at them. I often think of myself as a ‘cruise director.’
“I set the stage for learning but the magic happens when we all come together.”
In regards to the near future, Rohrbach went on to say that she’s really looking forward to enjoying sounds emanating from the hallways while working, digging into communal snacks in the School of Design office, and even seeing how tall all of her students are in person.
“In all seriousness, as fantastic as all of those things will be, I’m truly looking forward to continuing to work with students and colleagues in whatever form that may take,” said Rohrbach. “Sure it will be wonderful to have impromptu conversations with everyone again, to eavesdrop on group conversations and chime in where warranted, to come across interesting things being designed and crafted while walking through Margaret Morrison, and to collaborate on research projects alongside my students and colleagues.
“Nonetheless, this year has proven to me that regardless of where we teach and learn, our tenacity, ingenuity, and resilience create a force to be reckoned with and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of our community.”
The School of Design wants to extend our deep and heartfelt congratulations to Stacie Rohrbach and all of the recipients of Carnegie Mellon University’s College Teaching Awards.