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Prof. Ellen Rowe honored as Arthur F. Thurnau Professor

Ellen Rowe, professor of jazz and contemporary improvisation, is among four faculty members who have been recognized for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education as this year’s Arthur F. Thurnau Professors.

Rowe was cited for fostering distinguished recording, performing, and teaching careers for numerous students. The first female chair of a major university jazz department in the world, and one of the only female conductors of a top-ranked jazz ensemble, her commitment to making the performance, study, and teaching of jazz more inclusive and diverse has bolstered female students’ confidence and persistence in a largely male-dominated field.

Interim Dean Melody Racine lauds Rowe’s “concrete and repeated steps to build a sense of teamwork, mutual support, and collegiality within the department.” Under Rowe’s guidance, SMTD has recruited more female jazz students than any other comparable program in the nation due in large part to her tireless outreach efforts.

Rowe has also been an innovator at the curricular level. She developed six new courses and created a new Bachelor of Fine Arts degree—one of the first of a handful nationally—that enables students to major in jazz and gain teacher certification.

Criteria for Thurnau professorships include a strong commitment to students and to teaching and learning, excellence in teaching, innovations in teaching and learning, a strong commitment to working effectively with a diverse student body, a demonstrable impact on students’ intellectual or artistic development and on their lives, and contributions to undergraduate education beyond the classroom, studio or lab.

The professorships are named after alumnus Arthur F. Thurnau and supported by the Thurnau Charitable Trust. Recipients receive $20,000 to support teaching activities, including travel, books, equipment and graduate student support. The appointments are titles the four will retain throughout their U-M careers.

The other Thurnau professors that were named are Eric F. Bell, professor of astronomy; Jason P. De León, associate professor of anthropology; and Jason P. McCormick, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.