UW-Waukesha will recognize David Gunkel, as its outstanding alumnus of the year at the Honors & Achievement Banquet on October 19. A professor in the Department of Communication at Northern Illinois University, Gunkel is also a scholar and author, specializing in ethics with a focus on emerging technology.
With a career goal of becoming an astronaut, Gunkel started his college education at the US Naval Academy in the summer of 1981. A medical exam during the final months of that first semester, however, turned up a mitral valve prolapse. Severely disappointed, he left the academy and returned to his parents’ home in Waukesha. In Gunkel’s words, “I landed at UW-Waukesha as a necessity – after my dreams to become an astronaut crashed and burned. But once there, I found a really supportive learning community with incredible opportunities, so I decided to stay as long as possible before transferring to UW-Madison,” he explained.
Gunkel’s academic path is impressive. His experience at UW-Waukesha “did a great job preparing me for the work that I would do at UW-Madison and beyond,” he said. That “beyond” included a double major in philosophy and communication from UW-Madison (1985), a MA in Philosophy from Loyola University (1989) and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from DePaul University (1996).
In the classroom at Northern Illinois, Gunkel is busy designing and teaching upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses in web design and programming, along with information and communication technology (ICT) and computer law and ethics. His teaching has been recognized with numerous awards, including NIU’s Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the prestigious Presidential Teaching Professor. His goal is to “move students beyond memorizing information, to developing sophisticated skills in critical thinking and information literacy, productive collaboration and creative problem solving.” He believes this content + skills approach is “essential for educating critically engaged scholars and technology professionals for lifelong success in the 21st century.”
Also impressive is Gunkel as an author. He has written and published seven influential books (including Hacking Cyberspace and The Machine Question), as well as more than 50 scholarly articles, book reviews and book chapters in various scholarly journals and anthologies. He is also managing editor and co-founder of the International Journal of Žižek Studies and co-editor of the Indiana University Press series in Digital Game Studies.
Gunkel notes that “one of the defining experiences at UW Waukesha was my involvement in the student radio station WYRE. I helped establish the station as one of the first (if not the first) cable distributed radio stations in the U.S. (something that is now common place with Internet radio), and I served as its first program director. Influential instructors and courses included Jim Cheney's philosophy classes in environmental ethics, something I use every day in my work with technology ethics; John Knight's involvement as faculty adviser of WYRE; and the work I did as a tutor for Janet Brown in the learning resource center. This experience was crucial to helping me decide to pursue a career in higher education,” he said.
David and his wife, Ann live in Chicago with their 16-year old son. In his spare time, he enjoys music and has played the drums in “numerous bands since his time at UW-Waukesha.” In 1988, when he was with the rock group, ‘Too Much Education’ with Abe Glazer, they released their first album (with the same name).