Spencer Barnes wins Student Undergraduate Teaching Award

UNC Hussman Associate Professor Spencer Barnes, who teaches coursework in graphic design, information design and 3D animation and visual explanations, has been awarded the prestigious Student Undergraduate Teaching Award.

Recipients are nominated and selected by members of UNC’s undergraduate population.

“I find it very meaningful to receive this award. As an instructor, the most significant constituency that you serve is your students. They need you, and you need them,” Barnes said. “I sincerely appreciate being recognized by students as someone that has made a significant contribution to their experiences at the university.”

Student Undergraduate Teaching Award recipients are selected based on demonstrated and consistent excellence in undergraduate teaching, creation of a dynamic intellectual environment, respect for intellectual diversity and success in positively affecting a broad spectrum of students both in and outside the classroom. 

“Hussman offers the opportunity for camaraderie to be established between professors and students. This ethos has enabled me to get to know my students and their ambitions and produce meaningful and fulfilling classroom experiences for them,” Barnes said.

Barnes has taught at Hussman for nine years, with a focus on visual communications classes. Barnes teaches MEJO 182 “Foundations of Graphic Design,” MEJO 585 “3-D Design Studio” and MEJO 704 “Statistics for Social Science Research.”

“My research and teaching focuses on the design and evaluation of dynamic visual communication products. Specifically, I research how visual explanations, or explanatory animations, make complex phenomena comprehensible and help people to understand topics and events that would otherwise require subject matter expertise to be understood,” Barnes said. “I also explore how visual explanations can be efficiently structured and effectively integrated into other media such as television news stories, digital news packages and 360 video.”

Barnes’ courses are project-based and require perseverance and discipline from the students, part of why Barnes likes to stay accessible to his students, maintaining several contact hours per week with his students outside of class and encouraging open communication.

“I provide students with guidance that is directed towards helping them fulfill their academic and professional goals,” Barnes said.

Now a proud Tar Heel, Barnes is also a triple alumnus of North Carolina State University, with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, a master’s in industrial design and a doctorate in engineering education.