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Beavers receives the Richard S. Howe Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award

June 23, 2021
Beavers receives the Richard S. Howe Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award

Profile photo of Jennifer Beavers

Associate Professor in the Department of Music, Jennifer Beavers, has received the Richard S. Howe Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award Award for her dedication to creating project-based learning experiences that fully engage her students beyond the classroom. 

"I am so honored to be recognized for my work with undergraduates. Receiving the Howe Teaching Award reinvigorates me as a teacher, especially during such challenging times," says Beavers. "It also provides me an opportunity to express gratitude to the many remarkable students and colleagues who value my effort and to UTSA for prioritizing and celebrating this type of work!"

Beavers inspires her students to explore their curiosities about music by delving into the theories behind the notes. Though music theory is not a major or concentration at UTSA, it is a critical aspect of the curriculum for all music majors and minors. Realizing some of her students would benefit from additional music theory education and exposure, Beavers created the revolutionary Music Theory Club (MTC) in 2014. 

Under Beavers’ mentorship, the MTC provides individual and group projects for students to explore aspects of music theory. For students looking to continue their education in music, the MTC offers research-focused projects. Beavers is active in securing funding to ensure her students can travel and attend a variety of conferences to present their research, helping students build a network of academic professionals while exposing them to different audiences. 

“Prof. Beavers was undoubtedly the most influential professor I had during my undergraduate studies at UTSA, and it is because of her mentorship that I am currently pursuing a doctoral degree at Northwestern in music theory in hopes of becoming a professor of music myself,” says Stefan Greenfield-Casas, a Ph.D. Candidate of Music Theory and Cognition at Northwestern University and former student of Beavers’.

The MTC’s research has been showcased at four regional and two national conferences, the COLFA Research Competition and UTSA’s Undergraduate Creative Inquiry and Showcase conferences, where one research project won the “Best in College Research Award” in 2019. Beavers received the Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor Award for non-STEM disciplines in 2019 as a result of her commitment to student research. 

For music education and performance majors, the MTC provides outreach projects. From tutoring in music theory at UTSA to outreach for high school students, MTC members build their confidence in teaching music and advance their professional development to gain a competitive edge in the job market.   

As the first of its kind club in music theory, the MTC helped inspire the Public Music Theory movement, a movement that encourages students to teach music theory concepts to the public and spark community engagement. That other universities are now basing their own music theory clubs off of the UTSA MTC is a testament of the success of the MTC and the passion Beavers brings to creating engaging learning opportunities for her students.  

"My UTSA students constantly renew my teaching ambitions and help me reach new pedagogical goals," says Beavers. "Interacting with so many inspiring and creative music majors has supplied me with countless opportunities to grow into a more student- and community-oriented teacher." 

As a first-generation music scholar, Beavers is highly concerned with diversifying the academic pipeline. She helped arrange the Composers of Color Analysis-a-thon in 2020, helping to address diversity issues in the field of music. Beavers also coordinates opportunities for her MTC members to work with underserved high school students for their outreach projects. 

Beavers advises 26 “familia” music members through UTSA’s First to Go and Graduate program as a First-Gen Faculty Mentor. She has been a member of nine undergraduate recital committees and 14 graduate recital and document committees where she provides personalized and inciteful feedback. Beavers also supports her students by frequently attending their recitals. 

“Whether it is through the new knowledge that is contributed by the undergraduate researchers, the increase in public understanding of our discipline through public exhibitions or press mentions, or the inspiration for other faculty to pursue initiatives that provide signature learning experiences for students, the accomplishments of Dr. Beavers in fostering the MTC and other opportunities are worthy of a high honor such as the Richard S. Howe Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award,” says Tracy Cowden, chair and Roland K. Blumberg Endowed Professor in the Department of Music. 

The Richard S. Howe Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award recognizes faculty members who have shown sustained excellence in working with undergraduate students in signature experiences beyond the traditional classroom environment.