Keith Brown, teaching professor of film/media, has been awarded the 2023 URI Foundation & Alumni Engagement Excellence Award for Teaching Excellence. Brown’s dedication to his students and exceptional teaching abilities are recognized through this award.
He attributes his success in the classroom to his hands-on and interactive teaching style, which inspires students to excel in their studies.
“On day one of those freshman classes, I talk for maybe 20 minutes, and then I put cameras in their hands, and we’re out and about on campus shooting,” Brown said. “I think that really gets them excited about the class.”
Brown believes in starting his classes with hands-on activities, which allows his students to feel comfortable and excited about his classes from day one. According to him, this teaching style also helps familiarize them with the equipment and encourages experimentation.
Brown’s individualized teaching approach is centered around connecting with each student and meeting their unique needs. He encourages collaboration, which creates a mentorship relationship with his students.
“When you’re teaching a class of 16 students, and they’re all presenting their ideas, their projects, and their thoughts about filmmaking, it’s really easier to get to know them,” Brown said. “In a lot of the class shooting exercises, you’re sort of working with them and guiding them in that way. So I think that collaboration creates more of a mentorship relationship as well.”
According to Aidan Farrell, a junior film/media major, Brown has a unique teaching style that makes everyone feel like his favorite student. Farrell took two classes with Brown and worked as his teaching assistant.
“I think what truly makes Keith stand out is that he’s not afraid to give you honest feedback and make it feel welcome,” he said. “I feel like it’s easy to just be like, ‘That’s really good,’ and move on. Keith takes the time to assess your project and sit down with you and try to help you make it the best that it could possibly be.”
Brown goes beyond the classroom as well by providing opportunities for his students to engage with film in exciting ways. He leads a trip to Austin, Texas, for the film festival South by Southwest every spring break and has taken students to a taping of “The View,” where they met Joe Biden.
Despite the pandemic restrictions, Brown continued to engage with his students outside the classroom.
“There have been so many moments where we have worked on film sets, and he’s arrived on his own whims to be a positive influence for everyone,” Senior Film/Media major Robert Hehn said. “And I think it’s just really pushed all of us to be the best that we can be. His expectations are high for us because he cares that much about each and every student.”
According to Hehn, Brown’s dedication to his students has created a positive and supportive environment where students feel comfortable expressing their creativity and experimenting with their projects.
Receiving the award is exciting for Brown, especially after the challenging year he faced during the pandemic when he had to rethink how courses would work and adapt to the changing circumstances.
“During and right after COVID, it was really hard to do this job,” he said. “All the production faculty figured out the best way [to teach courses] with each other. I think it’s a testament to the department that I’m in and how everybody is very collaborative. It’s not all about me. I couldn’t really do this without the support of the Film department, Rebecca [Romanow] as chair, and all the other faculty that are involved here too.”
Brown’s hands-on and interactive approach to teaching, individualized attention to each student, and support for students inside and outside the classroom have created an environment of collaboration and mentorship, inspiring his students to succeed in their studies and beyond.