Michael Cacciatore interacting with students during class. Photo: Dorothy Kozlowski
Richard B. Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching: Michael Cacciatore
Michael Cacciatore, assistant professor of public relations, was one of three UGA faculty members awarded the Richard B. Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate in April 2018. The following provides background if his teaching style and impact on students.
The old adage “That’s the way we’ve always done it” is not part of Michael Cacciatore’s philosophy.
Instead, he thrives on constantly tweaking his curriculum to bring current, relevant examples to his classes while engaging and connecting with his students. This is no easy task considering that he teaches Introduction to Public Relations, which has nearly 300 students this semester, and Public Relations Research, a smaller class averaging about 40 students. Cacciatore also has restructured the curriculum for his large lecture class, placing an increased emphasis on writing, based on feedback received from industry professionals.
“Dr. Cacciatore has a commitment to assuring that student engagement is maintained through interaction within the classroom, through engagement with current issues and practices within the industry and with his own keen intellectual interest in the intersection of teaching and scholarship,” said Charles N. Davis, dean of Grady College.
Cacciatore is always thinking about what is best for his students, whether it is coming in on a Saturday to catch up with them on concepts or accepting a fellowship to spend time in the field and bring real-world applications back to his class. He assumed additional teaching responsibilities when another faculty member fell ill and added a Maymester course to help students who needed the class to graduate.
Cacciatore credits his teaching drive to his colleagues at Grady College.
“If it wasn’t for the kind of people who I see around me doing it right, and the emphasis that was placed on teaching when I interviewed here, I wouldn’t be receiving an award like this,” he said.
The respect is mutual.
He has been a faculty member at Grady College since 2013, and during that short time, he has won Teacher of the Year honors, based on a faculty vote, three times. In addition to his ability to engage students, Cacciatore is adept at making his students energized about a class like Public Relations Research that may seem daunting at the beginning. He does this by relating core concepts to everyday topics.
In addition to the education, it is Cacciatore’s character and ability to connect that earn him praise from current and former students.
Leila Knox, a former student, said, “Professor Cacciatore has an unparalleled commitment to his students’ learning. His distinct teaching style incorporates different learning methods so that every single student has the opportunity to excel.”
Former student Skyler Horne summed up feelings that many students share: “Professor Cacciatore is a great educator. He already has won this award in the hearts and minds of his students.”