Brett Gary Receives NYU’s Distinguished Teaching Award

MCC Associate Professor Brett Gary has received New York University's Distinguished Teaching Award, given to faculty who have contributed significantly to the intellectual life of the University through their teaching. This recognition is awarded annually to only a handful of professors.

A media historian whose research specialities include American propaganda and censorship, Gary is particularly admired by students for the quality of his mentorship. Numerous students and alumni submitted letters attesting to his pivotal influence on their academic and professional lives.

In referring to Gary's teaching style, one alumna writes, "the intellectual environment he created both in the classroom and in one-on-one meetings was such that he was able to challenge my own deeply held beliefs and assumptions. I didn’t just write a paper in his class, I approached my project critically and with more rigor than anything I had previously attempted."

A recent graduate of the doctoral program referred to Gary "as mentor, editor, and intellectual guide...He provided insightful comments on draft after draft of my proposal, never telling me what to focus on, rather helping me to ask the correct kinds of questions of my topic."

Another marveled at Professor Gary's attentive editing of his thesis chapters: "Because of [his] deliberate nature, Brett excels at thoughtful, considered reading of a kind that the vast majority of graduate professors simply do not make time for…Brett reads carefully, deeply, generously, and respectfully."

Students describe Gary's mentorship as lasting long after leaving NYU. "He continues to serve as my chief intellectual advocate and advisor," writes a former student. "Gary remains a powerful mentor and champion of my work. He has been keenly involved in my entry into the job market, and helped me successfully negotiate a career trajectory from graduate work at NYU to a postdoctoral position at Princeton and now as a faculty member."

Always eager to introduce new material in the classroom, Professor Gary secured a teaching grant this spring from the NYU Humanities Initiative to design and co-teach a new seminar entitled American Splendor: The Possibilities and Problems of American Life in Hollywood Films. The course will be taught with Tisch Film Professor Yemane Demissie. In their proposal for the course, they write:

"We imagine students engaging with the present historical moment, where new pressures and technologies redefine and challenge on American Splendor as an ideal. The course is designed to enhance students encountering and exploring iconic New York spaces – Ellis Island, Coney Island, the Empire State Building, Central Park, the World Trade Center memorial/museum, Yankee Stadium, Times Square, the Brooklyn Bridge, the A train, the West Village, the Lower East Side, and others – to reflect on how those spaces and institutions have been deployed in American films to interrogate the mythologies of American Splendor and its discontents. They might; however, find taxi stands and halal restaurants, the transformed meat-packing district, Hunts Point, the city’s courtrooms, the remnants of Occupy Wall Street, cricket pitches in Queens, ongoing protests at Union Square, the African Burial Grounds, or the ethnic enclaves, restaurants and businesses of Queens more compelling sites of engagement with American Splendor as an ideal. Working collaboratively they will undoubtedly conjure up powerful visual essays about how American Splendor needs revisiting and reexamination in the second decade of the 21st century."