Carnegie Mellon University
April 26, 2024

Gang Liu Receives Elliott Dunlap Smith Award

By Stefanie Johndrow

Gang Liu, a teaching professor of Chinese studies and director of undergraduate studies, has been named the 2024 recipient of the Elliott Dunlap Smith Award for Distinguished Teaching and Educational Service at Carnegie Mellon University’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. The award recognizes excellence and distinction in faculty members as both teachers and educators.

Liu joined CMU in 2010 as an assistant professor in the Department of Languages, Cultures & Applied Linguistics (LCAL). His research and teaching are centered around classical and contemporary Chinese language, literature and culture, as well as Chinese as a foreign language pedagogy, cross-cultural communication and education and technology-enhanced language learning.

“Receiving this prestigious award is an incredible honor and a pleasant surprise that validates my lifelong passion for teaching and student mentoring. At the same time, I am also deeply humbled, as there are so many other exceptional educators who pour their hearts into nurturing students' growth and deserve this recognition just as much for their unwavering dedication to education,” said Liu, who is also the director of undergraduate studies in LCAL.  “I know this achievement would not have been possible without the support of my colleagues, the engagement of my students and an institutional culture that values exceptional teaching and educational service.” 

As an educator, Liu is innovative and thought-provoking.

“My role as an educator goes beyond simply imparting knowledge — it is also about cultivating a mindset of deep curiosity, critical thinking and cross-cultural understanding that will serve them well in an increasingly interconnected world,” Liu said. “I strive to help students develop an appreciation and understanding of Chinese language and culture that transcends mere academics. When I see the spark of wonder in students’ eyes as they share an ‘aha’ moment of intellectual connection with the learning materials, I am reminded of why teaching is such a rewarding vocation. In my view, learning and teaching are a circle that mutually enrich and complement each other. As I guide students on their journey of discovery, I, too, am continually learning from their unique perspectives, questions and insights. Their enthusiasm motivates me and pushes me to explore new approaches that make the classroom an engaging, dynamic space for intellectual growth.”

Vivian Lin, a junior in the Department of Psychology, was captivated by Liu’s range of teaching methods during one of his Chinese language courses.

“Dr. Liu goes beyond conventional techniques, seamlessly integrating individual and group exercises in class, as well as incorporating elements from popular Chinese memes, shows and games. His creativity extends to exploring Chinese celebrity culture through internet searches, offering a refreshing and immersive perspective on Mandarin learning,” Lin said. “Unlike my previous experiences with more traditional language courses, Dr. Liu's classes stand out for their exceptional and meaningful methodology.”

During her time as a graduate student in LCAL, Zhe Gao’s abilities as an instructor were strengthened by Liu’s guidance.

“Dr. Liu nurtured me as a future independent Chinese instructor. He observed my teaching every semester and provided tons of suggestions and tips to improve my teaching skills. Covering all the aspects of teaching, his suggestions are detailed, specific and clear, and they are based on his own experience, my experience and my teaching style,” said Gao, who received her Ph.D. in Second Language Acquisition in 2022. “Dr. Liu guided me to understand my students’ expectations and needs, so as to improve my communication with my students. Dr. Liu was always willing to meet with me and discuss these communication challenges case by case. He was very responsive and patient to my specific questions as well, such as how to respond to students’ inquiries.”