Honors College Welcomes Inaugural Cohort of Tarkow Teaching Fellows

Interested in supporting future Tarkow Teaching Fellows? Contact Melia Douglass (mdouglass@missouri.edu) for more information!

For 50-plus years, Ted Tarkow has shared his passion for philosophy, literature and art with thousands of University of Missouri students. Tarkow, a professor emeritus of classical studies, has held a variety of roles during his Mizzou tenure, including several within the Honors College. Currently an affiliate faculty member, Tarkow served as director of the Honors College for a handful of years and has been a regular professor in the Humanities Sequence.

Ted Tarkow laughing while talking with a colleague.
Ted Tarkow has made a lasting impression on thousands of Mizzou students. To honor his teaching legacy, the Honors College announced the development of the Tarkow Teaching Fellows late last year. Funded, in part, through an endowed gift in honor of Ted and Marjorie Tarkow, the Teaching Fellows will form a collaborative cohort that will work with Honors faculty and administrators to develop and teach the 1-credit Extended One Read course. Photo by Logan Jackson.

To honor Tarkow’s incredible teaching legacy, the Honors College announced the development of the Tarkow Teaching Fellows late last year. Funded, in part, through an endowed gift in honor of Ted and Marjorie Tarkow, the Teaching Fellows will form a collaborative cohort that will work with Honors faculty and administrators to develop and teach the 1-credit Extended One Read course. The gift was specifically designed to support faculty as they mentor students in smaller classroom settings.

Now, the Honors College is excited to welcome its inaugural class of Tarkow Teaching Fellows – Amanda Durbak, Les Gray and Christopher Josey.

“When I speak with Honors alumni across the country, some of the most enduring memories they describe are the small Honors Seminars where they discussed, dissected and debated topics with their classmates and developed lasting connections with their professor,” said Catherine Rymph, dean of the Honors College. “We want to make that opportunity available to more students and to honor Ted Tarkow, who is truly a master teacher and forged enduring bonds with his students.

“We’re thrilled to bring in this first group of Teaching Fellows. They are all experts in their respective fields, and I know they are going to bring outstanding perspectives to our One Read course. It’s going to be exciting to brainstorm with them and increase our academic offerings to Honors students.”

The Extended One Read class dives deeply into the Honors One Read book with a small group of students. The course also incorporates several student, faculty and staff panels throughout the semester that serve as an “introduction to Honors.” Currently, only a fraction of the incoming students can take the course. The Tarkow Teaching Fellows program will allow more students to have this experience.

The trio of Tarkow Teaching Fellows will serve two-year terms and teach two sections of the Extended One Read class. They will participate in discussions about the One Read selections and help with syllabus development, too.

“Choosing our One Read book is incredible rewarding, so it’s great to bring in more faculty to discuss potential selections and talk about the creative ways we can share this information with our students,” Rymph said.

Amanda Durbak

Durbak is an associate teaching professor of biological sciences. She joined Mizzou in 2011 as a postdoctoral fellow after finishing her Ph.D. at the University of Arizona. She began teaching at MU in 2015. With research interests in plant molecular genetics and development, her teaching focus is on both genetics and cell biology.

Amanda Durbak

Durbak said the opportunity to add to her teaching experiences, especially through a program honoring Tarkow, is an exciting one.

“I met Dr. Tarkow when I first started teaching in 2015; he was associate dean of the College of Arts and Science at the time,” Durbak said. “I’ve always admired his passion for students, fostering their creativity and inspiring them to think big. I think this program will embody a lot of these ideas, and it’s an honor to be part of it.”

Durbak was awarded the 2018 Provost’s Outstanding Junior Faculty Teaching Award and earned the Dr. Abraham Einsenstark Faculty Fellowship Award in Biological Sciences in 2021.

She said the collaborative nature of the program is something she is looking forward to exploring.

“It’s always exciting to be a part of something new and collaboration has always been something close to my heart,” Durbak said. “I teach in my classes that the best work, innovation and creativity comes from diverse collaboration, and that’s how I see this Fellowship working. It’s going to be a great learning experience for me, and I’m excited to help others – faculty and students – learn as well!

Les Gray

Gray joined Mizzou in 2020 and currently serves as an assistant professor of theatre. Gray’s research looks at the intersections of trauma, terror and Black cultural production with an orientation to outcomes of joy, solidarity, healing and resistance.

Les Gray
Les Gray

While Gray’s teaching career at Mizzou is just getting started, they are ready to jump into a new challenge as a Fellow.

“It is a massive honor to be named as a Tarkow Teaching Fellow!” Gray said. “As a junior faculty member who still feels quite new to Mizzou, I am constantly in awe of the pedagogical shoulders on which I stand. It is an honor to be working within the scholarly lineage of Dr. Tarkow, who has had such meaningful impact on students, scholarship and the institution as a whole.”

Gray received a Ph.D. in theatre and performance studies from the University of Maryland. They teach a variety of theatre courses at Mizzou, including “Introduction to Theatre History” and “Problems in Theatre.” The Tarkow Teaching Fellows program will allow Gray to get their first taste of what the Honors College has to offer.

“I am stoked – and a wee bit nervous – to be joining this inaugural cohort,” Gray said. “I feel like I have been offered such a rich opportunity to not only participate more fully in all that Mizzou has to offer, but to also alacritously tend to this exciting new plot where intellectual and interpersonal growth will occur. I am excited to encounter new novel landscapes for belonging to the community being constructed by the Honors College through this fellowship. For me, becoming an inaugural Tarkow Fellow is inherently an invitation to critically shape and sustain the nuances of the future that relentlessly fascinates me. I look forward to activating and being activated by the relationships I get to build with the college, my cohort and collaborators, and most importantly, our students.”

Christopher Josey

An associate teaching professor of communication, Josey received his Ph.D. in speech communication from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He serves as the director of undergraduate research and director of honors program within the Department of Communication. Josey is a long-time affiliate faculty member in the Honors College and has served in a variety of ways over the years.

Christopher Josey

“One of the things that brings me joy is building and reshaping things; this is why teaching and woodworking both appeal to me,” Josey said. “The opportunity to work collaboratively with the inaugural cohort of Fellows is exciting! I cannot wait to get to work building a lasting legacy with my peers through this fellowship that will make Dr. Tarkow proud.”

Josey helps lead the Minority Focused News as a Locus of Empowerment undergraduate research team, which is part of the ASH Scholars Program, a unique collaboration between the Mizzou Office of Undergraduate Research and the Honors College. The primary goal of Josey’s team is to document and analyze how persons of color are portrayed by minority-focused news outlets. 

The chance to mentor more Mizzou students as a Tarkow Teaching Fellow was incredibly appealing to Josey.

“When I think back to the most welcoming people I met at MU during my early days on campus, Ted Tarkow comes to mind almost immediately,” Josey said. “His service to our campus and student body is remarkable. I am exceptionally honored to be one of the first recipients of a fellowship named in his honor. As a teaching professor, it is among highest honors I have achieved in my professional career.”