By Tris Lashea ’22
Evelyn Chiang, an associate professor of over 12 years in the Psychology Department was awarded Distinguished Teacher of the Year at UNC Asheville in spring 2019.
Kevin Riordan, one of the students that recommended Chiang for the award, graduated from UNC Asheville in 2018.
“I am now a first-year doctoral student in the counseling psychology Ph.D. program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I would never have felt qualified to reach for such academic heights until I worked with Dr. Chiang. It was through her guidance and encouragement, along with the other outstanding faculty members in the UNCA psych department, that I gained an entirely new level of confidence in my academic potential. I do not believe it is an exaggeration to say that I would not be where I am today without the exemplary mentorship I received from Dr. Chiang,” Riordan said.
“I have never known another teacher to be so dedicated to her students’ learning and personal growth, and because she is such an engaging, inspiring and skillful faculty member — both as a teacher and as an advisor,” said Riordan in his letter of recommendation for Chiang.
“I love the liberal arts environment,” Chiang said. “I really love my students…. I really love the whole liberal arts approach to education and I really appreciate that we have a teacher licensure
Chiang specializes in educational psychology, focusing on the psychology of teaching and learning as the brain develops.
“Being able to work with folks who plan to teach at the K-12 level is a big passion of mine,” said Chiang, “teaching them about developmentally appropriate practice, understanding children and adolescents. And just understanding the science of learning how to structure a class period or a presentation to maximize attention.”
Chiang teaches four classes on campus: educational psychology, the psychology of exceptional children, the psychology of adolescence and senior seminar.
“I love every single one of them,” said Chiang, who noted that she especially enjoyed her class on the psychology of exceptional children. “In my class, we focus on disability as an aspect of human diversity. I really like teaching this course where it’s about understanding the human differences, and not just making a list of how people don’t measure up or how they should be fixed or cured or how they’re basically deficient compared to others.”
Chiang is also one of the founders behind the Disability Cultural Center at UNC Asheville.
The Disability Cultural Center was proposed in 2016 by student Christa Mullis, who came to Chiang with the idea of having a center. Chiang worked with Mullis to get the center started.
The Disability Cultural Center works to include, educate, advocate and create a safe space for students with a disability. The center hosts events around and on-campus and brings in speakers, as well as co-hosting Disability is Diversity Week with the Office of Academic Accessibility.
“I think the most recent [national] statistic is in 2015, 19% of college undergraduates reported having a disability,” Chiang said. “That’s an enormous number of students with disabilities. Yet a lot of campus folks don’t see how disability is relevant to themselves. And so we focused on intersectionality.”
Having her work recognized by her community was very meaningful, Chiang said. The Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award is based on student nominations and awarded by a committee.
“It’s a real honor,” Chiang said. “I appreciate the students who wrote letters, the nominations, the faculty support. It means a lot to have this recognition. I really love teaching.”
For more information on the Psychology Department, visit their webpage.