Lauren Vilchik, professor and assistant dean of graduate studies in the School of Filmmaking at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA), is the recipient of a UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching. She is one of 17 faculty members — one from each of the UNC campuses — chosen to receive a $12,500 stipend, a commemorative bronze medallion and recognition at their institutions at a later date.
Recipients were announced today by Board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey during the board’s meeting in Chapel Hill.
The Excellence in Teaching Awards were established by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors in 1993 to encourage, identify, recognize, reward and support good teaching at each of its 17 constituent institutions. Annually, each UNC campus honors several members of its faculty with campus-based Excellence in Teaching Awards and then forwards one name to the Board of Governors for the systemwide awards. Vilchik was among six faculty members who received UNCSA campus teaching awards, as announced in February.
“I’m proud today to recognize the diligent work of our faculty members,” said Randy Ramsey, chair of the Board of Governors. “These professors are a shining example of the world-class education and public service that is provided across our System every day. I offer sincerest gratitude and congratulations to our award winners.”
UNCSA Chancellor Brian Cole said, “Lauren Vilchik models everything that we value in our faculty. She has a wealth of experience and close ties in the film industry, combined with a passion for teaching and mentoring creative entrepreneurs. We appreciate everything she brings to our campus community, and we congratulate her on this well-deserved honor.”
A film producer and production attorney specializing in independent film finance, Vilchik joined the UNCSA faculty in 2010. She was inspired to teach when helping a friend secure investors for his first feature film. She describes student learning outcomes of her course in creative deal-making: “I am thrilled when the students express a sense of empowerment over their newly found command for the subject matter, or their gratitude as they approach graduation with a completed business plan for the first project they intend to produce as a working professional,” she said. “Sending them off into the world with the skills to harness their entrepreneurial spirit is a rewarding experience that fills me with a sense of pride when I experience their work in the marketplace.”
Lauren Vilchik models everything that we value in our faculty. She has a wealth of experience and close ties in the film industry, combined with a passion for teaching and mentoring creative entrepreneurs. We appreciate everything she brings to our campus community, and we congratulate her on this well-deserved honor.Chancellor Brian Cole
Vilchik said a concept by gifted education expert Janice Szabos — “‘a bright student knows the answer and a gifted learner asks the question” — is the basis for her teaching strategy. “I believe in that whole-heartedly. Asking the question sparks creativity and sets the student off on a quest for originality. It is a gifted learner’s unique and nuanced manipulation of the material that sets that student apart from the herd,” Vilchik said.
“In an effort to cultivate gifted learning in all my students, I have developed a four-part strategy: endeavor to inspire every student to take interest in the subject matter; break down the crutch of dependency to instill self-reflection and self-reliance; encourage risk-taking by creating a safe environment for failure; and communicate thorough assessment of a student’s work to foster high achievement,” she added.
In nominating Vilchik for the UNCSA Excellence in Teaching Award, a student wrote, “Not only does she excel in the classroom, she’s able to motivate students like no professor I’ve ever seen on a personal level. She remembers your insecurities, your personal problems, your goals, and she goes out of her way to help you develop as a creative. Not only has she made me into the filmmaker I am today, she’s made me into the person I never thought I could be at 20 years old. UNCSA is tough, it asks so much more of you than you feel prepared to give, but Lauren has continuously inspired me to dig deeper, and push harder, all while helping me avoid burnout. I can say with full confidence that she deserves this award.”
Vilchik is an independent film producer acknowledged by the Independent Spirit Awards for “Outstanding Achievement for a Body of Work,” and honored in 2004 as one of Variety’s “Top 10 Producers to Watch.” In 1999 she started her own company, Tonic Films, LLC, based in Los Angeles. At the helm of Tonic Films, she has produced 10 feature films, including the 2003 venerated horror hit “Cabin Fever,” purchased by Lionsgate in one of the largest bidding wars in the history of the Toronto Film Festival.
Additional film credits include “Briar Patch,” nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at Slamdance Film Festival in 2003; “Amy’s O,” winner of the Audience Choice Award at both the Santa Barbara and Long Beach film festivals in 2001; and “Shifting Gears,” a family film centered around dirt track racing and produced in partnership with Alderman Company in High Point, North Carolina.
Vilchik has served as a juror, mentor, speaker and panelist at several film festivals including Cannes, SXSW, the Los Angeles Film Festival, and at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s “Movers and Shakers Producer’s Panel."
Vilchik earned a Juris Doctor from Southwestern University School of Law and a B.A. in psychology and philosophy from Tulane University. She has been a member of the California Bar Association for more than two decades.
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April 22, 2021