May 14, 2010
By Heather Farr
How can a person determine if a professor is a “good teacher” or not? According to the class of 1950, it is simple as asking the individuals who come in contact with him or her every day: the students.
Endowed by the class of 1950, the Class of 1950 Faculty Excellence Award is given to one faculty member a year and focuses on rewarding professors based solely on excellence in teaching, rather than on research. 2009 recipient Lawrence Wood, an assistant professor in the McClure School of Information and Telecommunication Systems, said that winning the award has been one of the highlights of his professional career.
“I was particularly flattered, and, in fact, surprised, to find out that I had even been nominated for the award,” Wood said, “I very much appreciated that my teaching was being valued and recognized in such a way.”
Candidates are nominated by the dean of their college and accept their nomination by submitting materials such as their teaching philosophy, their curriculum vitae, student evaluations and anything else the professor thinks might be helpful in making a decision.
“After we receive their nomination materials, we review their applications and set up a one-on-one interview with each professor,” Student Alumni Board (SAB) President and Faculty Excellence Award Committee Chair Matt Denhart said, “Then we schedule a time to visit each professor in their class and talk with some of their students.”
During the interview, each professor is asked a series of questions regarding his or her assignments, teaching style and thoughts on his or her own teaching, among other things. The students in each of the candidates’ classes are given an “extended answer” survey to provide more specific details to the selection committee.
Another distinctive aspect of this award is that nomination materials are reviewed and a winner is ultimately chosen exclusively by students. This year, Denhart will lead a committee composed of fellow SAB members in selecting a winner.
“What we are looking for is someone who really connects with students, really affects students’ lives and is willing to become involved on a deeper level than just showing up and giving a lecture.” Denhart said, “We want to select a teacher that really cares about the students and how he or she can help them succeed both here at Ohio University and with further life goals.”
According to Gwen Hubach, former Faculty Excellence Award Committee Chair and member of this year’s selection committee, the main criteria for receiving the award and for being a good professor is “passion and love for their job.”
“The passion is evident in their interview, their application packet and mostly watching them when they are at their best during the classroom visit,” Hubach said, “The evaluation feedback we get is beneficial to see the students’ point of view, and the survey allows them to share specific stories about their interaction with the professor.”
Recipients of this award receive a cash prize of up to $1,000 and a crystal apple, funded by the endowment that supports the Class of 1950 Faculty Excellence Award. Denhart and his committee are currently in the process of reviewing applications and setting up interviews.
“Past recipients of the award always say that the award means so much to them precisely because students lead the process and make the selection,” University College Dean David Descutner said, “It is just one more example of how Ohio University values students and empowers them to make important decisions.”