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Associate professor of Art earns top undergraduate teaching award

Associate Professor of Art Chloe Watson Irla ’07 has earned the Ira G. Zepp Distinguished Teaching Award for her dedication to teaching and scholarship, awarded at McDaniel’s 154th Commencement ceremony.

Professor Chloe Irla with student

Associate Professor of Art Chloe Watson Irla ’07 has earned the Ira G. Zepp Distinguished Teaching Award for her dedication to teaching and scholarship, awarded at McDaniel’s 154th Commencement ceremony.

2024 Ira G. Zepp Distinguished Teaching Award

Chloe Irla

The Ira G. Zepp Distinguished Teaching Award recognizes inspired classroom work and dedication to students. Established in 1995 through the generosity of Charles E. Moore Jr. ’71 and Carol Hoerichs Moore ’70, the award memorializes the beloved faculty member Ira G. Zepp ’52, Hon. L.H.D. ’15, who taught in the Department of Religious Studies until his retirement in 1994.

Chloe Watson Irla ’07, associate professor of Art, began her artistic journey on the Hill as an undergraduate student. She graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Studio Art and a minor in Art History in 2007. She went on to obtain a Master of Fine Arts and certificates in Studio Art and College Teaching of Art at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Irla returned to McDaniel as a visiting assistant professor of Art in 2016, was hired full time as an assistant professor of Art in 2017, and was promoted to associate professor in 2022. She is currently the chair of the Art Department and has been serving as a special advisor to the provost on well-being initiatives.

Her dedication to teaching has been honored repeatedly during her eight years on the Hill, including earning the Faculty Creativity Award each year from 2017 through 2023; the Nora Roberts Foundation Community Engagement Award and the Faculty Development Grant in 2018; and the Ira G. Zepp Teaching Enhancement Grant and Charles A. Boehlke Jr. Engaged Faculty Fellow Award in 2020.

During her time as a faculty member at McDaniel, she has worked collaboratively across disciplines with other faculty and students. Irla has worked closely with Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Elly Engle on student internship experiences that were dedicated to branding projects for Engle’s Seed Library Project and the campus garden and had her Graphic Design II class work on a group project to create brand and product guides for the forest garden program at the McDaniel Environmental Center.

Each year, Irla’s students participate in the Carroll Arts Center’s PEEPshow, submitting entries that not only represent McDaniel but also elevate awareness of a local organization and/or important community issue.

Irla is known for living the idea of “students first” and values the perspectives that her students bring to the classroom, as evidenced by her participation in McDaniel’s Student-Faculty Collaborative Summer Research program in 2019, 2020, and 2021. She is dedicated to providing every student with quality feedback that aides their learning; making art and design courses accessible to all students; using heuristic methods and active learning strategies; and authentically presenting herself to her students.

Gia K. with professor Chloe Irla at the new little free library on Charles Street.

Professor Irla (right) with Gia Koutsokostas '23, who designed a Little Free Library with a local grant as part of Irla's Graphic Design II course. Irla had previously established a network of Little Free Libraries in the Westminster community.

“I’ve challenged myself to include all of my students in dynamic, collaborative projects because I believe that students will invest more in the work if they see that everyone is involved,” said Irla.

Outside of her work at McDaniel, Irla runs irladen, a design studio producing limited-edition collections of books, patterns, clothing, accessories, and home goods. She is also a member of the board of directors of the Carroll County Arts Council and volunteers for MTBMD, advocating for shared trail use and outdoor recreation at the Hashawha Environmental Center. She previously served on the board of Rape Crisis Intervention Services of Carroll County, now CARE Healing Center, and is an advisory board member for the Carroll Community College Art Department. She has also served as an advisory board member for Westminster’s Recreation & Parks Public Art Projects, a juror for several exhibitions, and is a member of several associations and organizations including the Design Justice Network, the Data Visualization Society, the American Institute of Graphic Arts, Foundations in Art: Theory and Education, and the College Art Association.