May 4, 2006
By Dru Riley Evarts
Honoring five newly selected teachers with the University Professor Award for this academic year will round out the Center for Teaching Excellence's 12th year of working with faculty to improve the quality of teaching throughout the university, one of Vision OHIO's goals. This year's reception to honor the new university professors will be held at 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 18, in the Elizabeth Baker Room of Baker Center. Other interested faculty members are welcome to attend, according to Tim Vickers, assistant director of CTE.
This year's University Professor honorees are Benita Blessing, assistant professor of history; David H. Holben, associate professor of human and consumer sciences; Chao-Yang Lee, assistant professor of hearing, speech and language sciences; Linda J. Rice, assistant professor of English; and Jane Z. Sojka, associate professor of marketing.
Out of the hundreds of teachers originally named by students as their favorites, a group of 10 semifinalists is determined by CTE after weighing the number of votes by the number of students each teacher had in class over the preceding four quarters. Then members of the University Professor Selection Committee, made up entirely of undergraduate students interview those 10, visit as many of their classes as they can and talk to the nominees about the courses they would choose to teach anew if they would receive this award. These UPSC students then choose the five winners.
Each of the new university professors will receive a $2,000 cash award for professional development and the opportunity to introduce and teach two courses of their own choosing and design during the 2006-07 academic year.
Although the University Professor Award itself predates both the Center for Teaching Excellence and Vision OHIO, this recognition embodies the goals of both -- to help develop college teachers and thereby to advance the learning of students, as well as to reward teachers who are recognized by students and peers as being exceptional and effective.
The fact that such awards to professors serve the interests of students is obvious from the history of this award. Although the first recorded winners were three professors in 1970-71, the award really has its origins in 1967 when students took the initiative in getting nominees and votes for teachers they and other students wanted to recognize.
With the goal of developing young teachers, CTE also administers another award -- the Graduate Associate Outstanding Teaching Award. This year four such awards will be given to graduate teaching associates. That list is not available at this writing, but the fact of its existence testifies to CTE's goal of developing teachers for the future.
After founder Karin Sandell's early retirement last spring, CTE has been without a director, but one will be in place after a national search, according to Provost Kathy Krendl. Assistant Director Tim Vickers has continued the work of developing graduate students into successful college teachers. One current seminar is on "Creating a Teaching Portfolio for Future Faculty." This involves meetings and discussions with students who presently have graduate teaching associate positions so that they can exchange ideas, find solutions to problems they face, and prepare their portfolios for the time when they will be applying for full-time faculty positions in a wide range of colleges and universities.
Another seminar CTE offers in association with support from Michael Mumper, associate provost for graduate studies, is College Teaching 101, the purpose of which is to help develop graduate students into effective college teachers. CTE also manages the New Teaching Associates Orientation at the beginning of every academic year.
CTE sponsors workshops throughout the year. Sample topics include teaching the large lecture class, creating a teaching portfolio, understanding learning styles and strategies for creating an engaged and active learning environment. It also sponsors a book reading and discussion group for those teachers looking for such things as good new teaching ideas, wanting to learn more about how students really learn or the newest research on the brain and how emotion enters into learning. Participants can either buy the books or reserve them through CTE long enough to read them and participate in the discussion group. Two recent books were Maryellen Weimer's "Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice" and James Zull's "The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning."
CTE is not just for budding teachers nor even for those relatively new to college teaching. Many very experienced professors decide to attend a seminar for a quarter or two to refresh themselves, learn from colleagues in other fields and generally recharge their batteries. Seminars on various topics offered by CTE have been popular, as attested by faculty members who attended the Vision OHIO focus groups in April. Some had availed themselves of various offerings of CTE, and praise for these experiences was solid.
Undoubtedly, new programs will be made available as a new director comes in next fall, not to supplant offerings of the past, but to build upon them to continue achieving Vision OHIO goals. CTE is already involved in the design of a Faculty Commons for Alden Library, and it will continue to be involved, along with the Center for Writing Excellence and the Center for Innovations in Technology for Learning.
CTE is presently located in Scott 022. Assistant Director Vickers can be reached at 593-2681 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Persons wishing to attend the University Professor recognition on May 18 should let Vickers know by e-mail or phone so sufficient refreshments can be ordered.
Dru Riley Evarts is a longtime E.W. Scripps School of Journalism faculty member and was recently appointed university editor.