Ashland University Honors Professor with Taylor Teaching Award

Ashland University Honors Professor with Taylor Teaching Award

4/24/13 ASHLAND, Ohio – Ashland University faculty member Fabio Polanco is the recipient of AU’s 2013 Taylor Excellence in Teaching Award. AU Provost Dr. Frank Pettigrew presented the award at AU’s Academic Honors Convocation on Sunday (April 21) in the Jack and Deb Miller Chapel.

The award, first presented in 1997, was endowed by former Jeromesville residents the late Edward and Louaine Taylor as a way of supporting high quality teaching at Ashland University.

An assistant professor of theatre, Polanco joined the Ashland University faculty in 2007. He received his Master of Fine Arts degree from Case Western Reserve University and his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Temple University.

Polanco’s research interests include acting, music theatre and Shakespeare performance and he has made numerous stage, film, network television and radio appearances, including roles at Great Lakes Theatre, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, the Broadway national tour of Les Miserables, and the films The Next Three Days and The Lifeguard.

Pettigrew praised the selection of Polanco as the 2013 Taylor Teaching Award recipient.

“Fabio Polanco is someone who is indicative of the high quality of the faculty at Ashland University,” Pettigrew said. “He is unique in that he is actively acting in shows all across Ohio, which then he translates back to his students in a real world approach that helps them become more successful in the industry. He is a wonderful actor, great instructor and a talented director, the students benefit from all areas of his expertise.”

Following the award presentation, Polanco presented an address titled “The Courage to Search, Accept and Give.”

“Nothing you could fabricate is ever going to be as interesting or valuable as who you are at your core, and your job as an artist, and as a person, is to have the courage to seek, acknowledge, free, accept and give, without shame, of your personal thoughts, feelings and values to others,” Polanco said.

Polanco said that may mean letting people know what you think, feel and care about and letting people see all of your flaws, foibles and fears.

“You have to. Aside from being healthy, in the arts, and I might argue all fields, it’s a pragmatic necessity. It is what will separate you from someone who is technically masterful, but not truly present. It’s what makes you unique,” he said. “If you allow yourself to be honest, truthful and vulnerable, it’s an extraordinarily fulfilling and powerful way to approach your work and live your life.”

Polanco said the challenge is that it is scary to expose yourself in that way.

“It takes courage to search within yourself, accept what you find and give of it freely,” he said. “Luckily, most artists, as well as individuals in all disciplines and walks of life, have an innate desire to understand themselves and the world around them.”

Polanco said that September 11, 2001, was a turning point for him.

“The profundity of September 11, 2001, that stark reminder of the unpredictable and temporal reality of life, which we were all unfortunately reminded of again with Monday’s terrible events in Boston, made me search myself in order to evaluate who I was, what I truly valued, and what I, not they, wanted,” he said.

Polanco said he came to realize that for his career, all he really wanted was to do quality work that he cared about with people he liked. “That is it. It also became clear that I did not need to be in New York to do that. That was part of what I had to accept,” he said.

He said he realized he could do quality work in Cleveland with people he liked and that living in Cleveland would afford him the opportunity to have the other things he wanted, most importantly a family. So, after seven years in New York City, he moved back to Cleveland.

“Suddenly everything I was doing meant so much more, because I was not doing things to fulfill anyone else’s expectations, to fit some norm, but because I wanted to, because it mattered to me, because I had set myself on the path of searching myself, accepting myself and finally having the courage not to be ashamed of what was there and to give freely of what I found,” he said.

The irony of all of this, Polanco said, is that the minute he started on this new path, the quality of his work and his career increased significantly.

“Suddenly I became a much stronger actor, I was having fun through my work and that joy was reflected in its quality, and incredibly, my phone would not stop ringing, even New York came searching for me all the way in Cleveland,” he said.

Polanco said this taught him that while he had spent years trying to please people, what people wanted all along was not some fabrication of himself, but who he was as an authentic creative individual.  

“As a teacher it is my job to encourage my students to have the courage to set themselves on this road to searching, accepting and giving freely of their authentic selves, of their creative individuality,” he said. I take many routes to his end.”

Polanco said he works hard to find the strategies that will help each of them reach their goals, especially because what works for one student may not work for another.

“I try to meet my students wherever they are on their journey and help them progress along the path that they have set, the path that will hopefully bring them closer to the happiness, sense of purpose and fulfillment they desire,” he said.

Polanco said he was honored by his selection as the Taylor Teaching Award recipient. “I’d like to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for this honor. I can’t tell you how much it means to me,” he said.

The Taylor Teaching Award Committee, whose purpose is to select the award recipient, reviews submitted materials of faculty members who are nominated by students, faculty or department chairs. The committee, comprised of former Taylor Award winners, also observed classroom sessions of those who were nominated.

All full-time faculty with a minimum of three years of teaching experience at AU are eligible for the award. Recipients of the award cannot repeat for three years and no faculty member may win the award more than twice. The recipients receive a medal to be worn with academic regalia and a stipend of $5,000.

Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2013, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.