Performing Arts Professor Rafael Jaen Wins Manning Prize

Nahalia Carless, Communications Correspondent | July 07, 2017
Rafael Jaen (far right) gives a tour of the costume shop to Chancellor Barry Mills, President Marty Meehan and UMass Board of Trustees Chairman Rob Manning.

Rafael Jaen (far right) gives a tour of the costume shop to Chancellor Barry Mills, President Marty Meehan and UMass Board of Trustees Chairman Rob Manning.
Image by: Harry Brett

Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts Rafael Jaen was recently honored as one of five University of Massachusetts faculty to receive the 2017 Manning Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

The faculty members—one from each UMass campus—will receive $10,000 awards in recognition of their commitment to exemplary teaching and dedication to students.

Jaen, a practicing costume designer and technician, joined UMass Boston in 2013. He is credited with his work in creating an entirely new program in costume design and technology in UMass Boston’s Performing Arts Department, training students in the best practices of the profession. He also assumed a leading role in the development of state-of-the-art costume studio spaces in University Hall.

The award committee found Jaen’s innovative approach was matched by his passion and dedication to student success. Under Jaen’s guidance, his students have learned the in and outs of costume history, design, and construction. They have been recognized with awards for theater technology and have received a plethora of paid internships in professional theaters.

“There are always opportunities for students,” Jaen said. “So if I get an offer for a job, I always talk to the providers to see if there is funding for my students who I am vetting. I’ll advocate for our students. I root for them.”

Professor Rafael Jaen with his students

The Manning Prize was established in 2016 by UMass Board of Trustees Chairman Rob Manning and his wife Donna — both UMass Lowell alumni — to honor UMass professors who excel in teaching and service.

“I’m thrilled to recognize these five faculty members, who go above and beyond every day to help make UMass an extraordinary university,” said Manning, pictured below with Jaen and President Marty Meehan and Chancellor Barry Mills. “Faculty are the heart and soul of this institution, and they have the power to transform lives. I know firsthand the impact that great teachers have, so it’s very important to Donna and me that we support faculty members who give so much of themselves.”

Professor Rafael Jaen with the Manning Award, Chancellor Barry Mills, Rob Manning, President Marty Meehan, and others

Jaen said he felt honored to be selected for the Manning Prize. The week after receiving his award, Jaen provided Manning, Meehan, and Mills with a tour of his costume shop, the theatre and recital hall, and the performing arts teaching and practice spaces.

Barry Mills, Marty Meehan, Rafael Jaen, and Rob Manning in University Hall

“It kind of makes you feel humble,” Jaen said. “I felt very privileged that I could go to class and work with UMass students every day. They have grit. They work extra hard. You have to keep the bar high and they always meet that bar.”

Jaen has created costumes for productions at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston, the Huntington Theatre Company, the American Repertory Theater, and numerous other local theater companies.

“I think we need to have the arts, I think theater is an integral part to that,” Jaen said. “I believe in our program, I believe in what we are doing here, and I believe in the facility.”

All tenure-track junior faculty members undergoing tenure review during the same academic year are eligible for the Manning Prize.

Other awardees include Nora Ganim Barnes, a chancellor professor of marketing at UMass Dartmouth, David S. Hatem, a professor of medicine at UMass Medical School, Haivan V. Hoang, an associate professor of English at UMass Amherst, and Donald G. Leitch, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UMass Lowell. Visit the UMass System website for information about the Manning Prize winners on other campuses.

About UMass Boston
The University of Massachusetts Boston is deeply rooted in the city's history, yet poised to address the challenges of the future. Recognized for innovative research, metropolitan Boston’s public university offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s 11 colleges and graduate schools serve nearly 17,000 students while engaging local and global constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service. To learn more, visit

Tags: faculty , manning award , performing arts

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