Boileau Named 2011 Faculty Member of the Year

Posted: April 18, 2011 at 1:02 am, Last Updated: April 15, 2011 at 9:02 pm

By Jason Jacks

Don Boileau. Creative Services photo

As a veteran professor, Don Boileau could focus solely on mentoring graduate students and pursuing his own research interests. But not one to forget his own undergraduate days, Boileau chooses instead to dedicate his energy to those just starting their educational journey: underclassmen.

Boileau, a professor of communication who began his career at Mason in 1981, was recognized by the Mason Alumni Association at the association’s annual Celebration of Distinction as Faculty Member of the Year. Boileau had the opportunity to address alumni, including many former students, at the Mason Inn on April 13 and talk about what this award means to him.

Boileau began his days at Mason teaching general education courses to undergraduates. In 1987, he was named chair of the Communication Department, a position he would hold for 13 years. During that time, he continued teaching freshmen, a rarity for department heads.

Today, Boileau still directs some of his department’s general education courses. He attributes his strong interest in general education to his own underclassman years at Stanford University. One of his professors there told him of the importance Harvard professors place on teaching basic courses. “That stuck with me,” he says.

But Boileau is not only dedicated to teaching basic courses, he’s also good at it. As a teacher, Boileau regularly receives high praise from his students, according to Gary Kreps, current department chair.

“He has been elected several times as the outstanding department faculty member by communication students,” Kreps points out, adding, “Don is also a very warm, caring and supportive teacher and colleague, who does everything he can to help members of the Mason community.”

Boileau, who attended graduate school at the University of Oregon, focuses his research on instructional communication. He has published more than 35 articles on teaching communication and helped develop the nation’s first doctorate in community college education at Mason.

Before becoming a professor, Boileau spent two years in the Peace Corps, an experience that made a lasting impression on him and affects his teaching to this day. In his intercultural communication class, he has each student spend eight hours with a person whose language and culture differ from theirs.

“They gain an appreciation for another culture,” he says of his students’ experiences. “Others say they now have a friend for life.”

Boileau also has a devoted following.

“I could go on at length about his kindness and supportiveness,” wrote Mason alumna Katherine Rowan, BA English ’75 and Mason communication professor, in her letter nominating Boileau.

While a professor at Purdue University in the 1990s, Rowan once applied to do work at Mason during a sabbatical. At the time, Boileau offered his office to her.

“My story is one of many. There are hundreds of similar stories that demonstrate Dr. Boileau’s kindness, generosity, hard work, high standards and vision of excellence for instruction in communication.”

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