Heather Gumbert, associate professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, received the university's 2015 Diggs Teaching Scholars Award.

Sponsored by the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research, the Diggs Teaching Scholars Award was established in 1992 and is presented annually to up to three Virginia Tech faculty members to recognize exceptional contributions to the teaching program and learning environment. A cash award is given to each recipient and their academic department. Diggs Teaching Scholars are invited to lead the Diggs Roundtable — a series of presentations and a discussion of their innovative teaching — a year after receiving the award.

The award is supported by an endowed fund from an estate gift by the late Edward S. and Hattie Wilson Diggs. Edward Diggs was a 1914 graduate of Virginia Tech.

The Diggs selection committee recognized Gumbert’s teaching-enhancement project that explores the possibilities of educational technology for developing collaborative, inquiry-based courses with interdisciplinary application. She is using the open-source data visualization application Timeline JS in an upper-division course to collaboratively construct a timeline of World War II.

In the course, students publish one “moment” on the timeline each week that is inspired by the reading. The resulting timeline entry includes temporal data and text written by the students, as well as images, videos, sound clips, maps, and other data that they link to demonstrate their point. The project builds important skills of liberal learning, such as critical thinking and analytical rigor, and it asks students to work collaboratively to consider the possibilities of historical storytelling and presentation. It also cultivates 21st-century skills in media literacy and digital citizenship.

A member of the Virginia Tech community since 2003, Gumbert is affiliated faculty in the interdisciplinary Ph.D. program Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought and teaches in the University Honors program.

She was one of the founding principals of the Honors Residential College, established at Virginia Tech in 2011 and continues to serve as a Senior Fellow.

Gumbert also is the executive editor of the Virginia Tech Undergraduate Historical Review, which publishes undergraduate research on historical topics.

In 2014, Gumbert published her first book, "Envisioning Socialism: Television and the Cold War in the German Democratic Republic," about the role of television in shaping East German political culture in the 1950s and 1960s. Her current work is a comparative and transnational history of television that seeks to relocate the medium as a defining institution of the postwar Western world.  

Gumbert received her bachelor’s degree from Trent University (Canada) and her master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was awarded the Barnes Lathrop Prize for Best Dissertation in history in 2007.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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