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‘Great Teacher’ Jordan Brower empowers students to pursue their passions

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 16, 2024) — In March, the University of Kentucky Alumni Association honored six recipients of this year’s Great Teacher Awards.

Launched in 1961, they are the longest-running UK award recognizing accomplished and passionate educators.

In order to receive the honor, teachers must first be nominated by a student. The UK Alumni Association Great Teacher Award Committee, in cooperation with the student organization Omicron Delta Kappa, then makes the final selection. Recipients receive a commemorative award and stipend.

Jordan Brower, Ph.D., assistant professor of English in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Kentucky, is one of the distinguished Great Teacher Award recipients who strives to help his students discover their passions.

“I treat every semester as a blank slate,” he said. “I look at the size of the class, I look at the material I’m teaching, and I try to figure out the best way to get the material across.”

“Professor Brower is really student oriented. He’s also as kind and personable as he is knowledgeable,” Jessica Miller, an English student, added. “He always treats each student as an individual, and he’s very generous with his time.”

Brower earned his bachelor’s degree in English at Amherst College and his Ph.D. in English and film and media studies from Yale University.

Before coming to UK in 2019, Brower taught as a lecturer in the interdisciplinary history and literature program at Harvard University and, as a graduate student and then adjunct, at Yale University.

In his research, Brower studies the ways artists — writers of fiction and screenplays, directors, actors, etc. — understand their positions within the increasingly complex and chaotic media industries in which they work.

His first book, “Classical Hollywood, American Modernism: A Literary History of the Studio System” (Cambridge University Press, 2024), charts the entwined trajectories of the Hollywood studio system and literary modernism in the United States.

Brower is also working on research surrounding contemporary Hollywood’s responses to crises of various scales (data breaches, technological shifts, climate change, etc.). Portions of the project are forthcoming in JCMS: The Journal of Cinema and Media Studies.

“There’s a self-reflection involved in the way I teach the humanities. I insist to my students that you don’t learn vocabulary merely for academic purposes, so you can pass a test,” Brower explained. “You learn the basics to make finer observations and better interpretations. Ultimately, I’m trying to teach students how to be more interesting viewers.”

In addition to conducting research and teaching, Brower also feels he’s been called to be a mentor — to guide students as they discover their place and purpose. 

“Obviously, I’m incredibly gratified by the award. But I want to resist this idea of ‘Great Teacher,’” Brower said. “I want to keep working. I want to keep getting better. This award is nice — it feels great. But it’s not the end of the job. It’s a point at the beginning.”

To learn more about what makes Brower a “Great Teacher,” check out the video above. 

In the coming weeks, UKNow will continue to share videos featuring this year’s Great Teacher Award winners.

Photo of Jordan Brower in the Classroom
Jordan Brower, Ph.D., assistant professor of English in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Kentucky, is one of the distinguished Great Teacher Award recipients who strives to help his students discover their passions.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.