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UMSL poet earns Gerald and Deanne Gitner Excellence in Teaching Award

Shane Seely, assistant professor of English at UMSL, will receive the 2014 Gerald and Deanne Gitner Excellence in Teaching Award Sept. 17 at the State of the University Address. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Innovative and inspiring. Demanding but sympathetic. An award-winning poet.

All of these were used to describe Shane Seely, who has had a profound impact on students and colleagues after just two years of teaching at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. That strong early impression helped Seely earn the 2014 Gerald and Deanne Gitner Excellence in Teaching Award, which he’ll receive Sept. 17 during the annual State of the University Address in the J.C. Penney Building at UMSL.

Each year, the Gerald and Deanne Gitner Excellence in Teaching Award is given to a faculty member who is in the early stages of his or her career and demonstrates outstanding and innovative teaching abilities. Seely, assistant professor of English at UMSL, began his career at the university in August 2012.

“He has distinguished himself as a popular, innovative and demanding instructor in poetry and poetry writing, while building a national reputation as an excellent poet,” said Richard Cook, professor of English at UMSL.

John Dalton, associate professor of English at UMSL, said MFA in Creative Writing students praise Seely for his classroom demeanor and dedication to reading, editing and refining their work.

“He has proved himself to be an exceptional presence in the classroom – astute, rigorous, considerate and inspiring,” Dalton said.

Seely tailors all of his classes to best fit each student’s creativity and vision. He avoids using a single set of priorities for making blanket assessments of his students’ art. Instead, he works to ensure they have the tools to develop each individual vision.

“My courses don’t aim to show students how they should write,” Seely said. “My courses encourage risk-taking and experimentation; they challenge students’ own ideas about how and what they can write. Only with a broad knowledge of what is possible can a poet truly find her voice.”

Stacey Walker credits Seely’s high standards, hard work and candid constructive criticism for helping to hone her craft. She has taken Seely-led courses and workshops and considers him a mentor.

“I do not know where my writing would be without his constant words of encouragement floating in my head,” Walker said. “He has increased the quality of my education at UMSL, and I know he has done the same for the other MFA students, in both poetry and fiction.”

The Snowbound House,” a collection of poems by Seely, received the 2008 Philip Levine Prize in Poetry and was published in 2009 by Anhinga Press. A new collection of Seely’s work, “The Surface of the Lit World,” received the Hollis Summers Prize in Poetry from Ohio University Press, which will publish the book in the spring. His poems have appeared in numerous top-tier national literary journals such as Antioch Review, Southern Poetry Review and The Florida Review.

Seely earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa., a master’s degree in English from Kansas State University in Manhattan, and an MFA in poetry from Syracuse University in New York.

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Tags: College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of EnglishGerald and Deanne Gitner Excellence in Teaching awardJohn DaltonMFA in Creative Writing ProgramRichard CookShane SeelyStacey WalkerState of the University AddressThe Snowbound HouseThe Surface of the Lit WorldThe UMSL Experience