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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Seven SU faculty members to be honored April 6 for teaching excellence; Doerr and Himley named Meredith Professors

Arts and Sciences faculty honored

April 5, 2010, by Sara Miller

Syracuse University has named Helen M. Doerr, dual professor of teaching and leadership programs and mathematics in The College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Education, and Margaret Himley, professor of writing and rhetoric and co-director of the LGBT Studies Program and minor in Arts and Sciences, as this year’s Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professors.

Doerr and Himley will be recognized at a Tuesday, April 6, reception, along with the 2010 recipients of the Teaching Recognition Awards and Theodore L. Brown, associate professor in the School of Architecture, who will receive the 2010 University Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award. The recognition reception will begin at 3:30 p.m. in the Goldstein Alumni and Faculty Center.

2010 Meredith Professors

A substantial bequest from the estate of Dr. L. Douglas Meredith, a 1926 graduate of The College of Arts and Sciences, allowed for the creation of the Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professorships in 1995 to recognize and reward outstanding teaching at the University.  The awards recognize and reward excellence in teaching, encourage faculty members to look upon the many dimensions of teaching as manifold opportunities for constant improvement, emphasize the great importance the University places upon teaching, and improve the teaching and learning processes on campus. The Meredith Professors receive a supplementary salary award and an additional fund for professional development for each year of their appointment.

Helen M. Doerr
Helen Doerr is a dual professor of teaching and leadership programs and mathematics in The College of Arts and Sciences, and studies secondary mathematics education, with particular interests in mathematical communication, teachers’ learning and mathematical modeling.

She is recognized as an extraordinary teacher, well known for her availability and willingness to work with students during office hours and review sessions until they understand the mathematical ideas involved in her coursework. She is passionate about teaching and it’s common that colleagues in the Department of Mathematics who are teaching the same course as Doerr during a particular semester will regularly seek her out to discuss ways to teach a particular topic and to assist students who are struggling.

“It is my fundamental belief that all students have the right to learn mathematics at a deep and powerful level and that all students can be successful at learning mathematics,” says Doerr. “As a researcher and teacher, the challenge for me is to draw on the best research of the last few decades in mathematics education and to apply that in my teaching.”

“Helen has unquestioningly done more than any other faculty member in the Department of Mathematics to engage students in actively learning mathematics at the pre-calculus and calculus level, and also to engage graduate students who are teaching assistants in thinking deeply about issues of teaching and learning,” says Joanna O. Masingila, Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor in the Department of Mathematics. “She has done this through her instructional approaches that invite and require students to be active agents in their own learning.

Doerr is internationally recognized for her teaching expertise.  In 2007, she was invited to give the plenary address at the New Zealand Association of Mathematics Teachers Conference, where she spoke on learning to support students as mathematical readers and writers. Additionally, she serves on two advisory boards that address issues of teaching and learning: the Advisory Board for the National Science Foundation-funded Preparing to Teach Mathematics with Technology project at North Carolina State University and the International Advisory Board for the Florida Center for Research in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Doerr’s Meredith project proposal will use seminars and a colloquium series to create a model for mentoring graduate students who are learning to teach in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines. Doerr points out that most teaching assistants begin their teaching careers with little more than their years of experiences as successful students in their classrooms, which do not provide them with a solid understanding of the difficulties that students encounter in their learning, nor with strategies for addressing those difficulties. According to Doerr, supporting teaching assistants in their efforts to help students overcome barriers encountered in introductory-level courses will contribute to the University’s efforts to build a more diverse and inclusive community of learners in the STEM disciplines.

This project will draw on the substantial bodies of research on how students learn mathematics and science—particularly at the introductory levels of collegiate coursework—and how technology can be used effectively to support student learning. The mentoring activities will engage teaching assistants in using instructional approaches that draw on this research base.

Margaret Himley
Students who have taken an introductory or upper-level class with Margaret Himley, professor of writing and rhetoric and co-director of the LGBT Studies Program and minor, know the same thing: every course is challenging and rigorous. And they also recognize that through Himley’s dynamic teaching and thoughtful mentoring, they have been able to push beyond their own comfort boundaries to engage in new perspectives through critical thinking and writing.

According to her colleagues, Himley is an invaluable resource who exemplifies a rare combination of exceptional qualities and whose hard work far exceeds her required job duties. Having worked at SU for more than 25 years, Himley is recognized both for her continuous innovation in teaching and creation of academic programs that have introduced vibrant new areas of scholarship to the University. Beginning in 2002, she co-chaired the University Senate Committee on LGBT concerns, providing guidance and direction in integrating LGBT knowledge and perspective into the curriculum.  One of the milestones of this effort was the creation of the LGBT minor in 2006, introducing students from all schools and colleges to the interdisciplinary field of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies. Today, the minor, and LGBT Studies Program, offer students a sustained opportunity to learn about LGBT experience, history and scholarship, and explore fundamental questions about sexualities, bodies, identities, communities, social movements and liberation politics. Himley continues to serve as a mentor, advocates for campus support of the LGBT population, and leads multiple initiatives to help SU address diverse issues within its community.

“It is clear that Margaret is not just creating classes, but rather she is creating learning experiences,” says Gwendolyn D. Pough, associate professor of writing, rhetoric, women’s and gender studies. “The evaluations for her classes show that she is the kind of teacher that is always paying attention to teaching moments and ready to make the most of those pedagogical moments for her students.”

Himley’s Meredith project proposal is aimed at addressing the challenges of engaged reading by creating a new interdisciplinary undergraduate course focused on the activist histories of Syracuse and Syracuse University, and immersing students in the process of archival research and critical, engaged, analytical reading. Himley envisions that students would produce texts—both written and visual—that represent these histories and ultimately contribute to a digital archive of this work for other faculty and perhaps local school teachers to both draw upon and extend.

“Many scholars in many disciplines have returned to the archives with a new attitude, no longer seeing the archives as a means to an end or a static repository of materials, but as a site of epistemological experiment and knowledge production,” says Himley. “Working with archival materials is an excellent way to develop critical reading skills, because these unfamiliar knowledges, diverse voices and new historical references and lines of argument create the challenge of connecting the dots.”

2010 Teaching Recognition Awards

The Teaching Recognition Awards program was established in 2001 through an expansion of the Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professorship Program. The Meredith Professors themselves proposed that the Teaching Recognition Award program recognize excellence in teaching by non-tenured faculty and adjunct and part-time instructors. Recipients are selected for teaching innovation, effectiveness in communicating with students, and the lasting value of courses.

To be eligible, candidates must have completed two years of service to the University and not yet received tenure. Each recipient is given $3,000 to further his or her professional development.

Duncan A. Brown

Duncan Brown, assistant professor of physics in The College of Arts and Sciences, started a tenure-track position in fall 2007. Brown is recognized for his unprecedented success in teaching “Introduction to Astronomy” and demonstrated excellent teaching in “Computers and Science II,” an advanced class where students are taught how to solve scientific problems using custom-written computer programs. His achievement is seen through his course evaluations, his interaction with students and his outgoing enthusiasm for teaching.

He frequently lectures to undergraduate students on his studies and involves them in his research, which is focused on gravitational waves—ripples in the curvature of spacetime that carry information about the changing gravitational fields of distant sources.

Brown is dedicated to constant improvement in his teaching and student learning, seeking advice from other faculty and attending lectures and national workshops, such as the NASA Center for Astronomy Education.

Anna Chernobai
Anna Chernobai, assistant professor of finance in the Whitman School of Management, joined SU in summer 2006 and is honored for her successful teaching of “Introduction to Statistics for Management,” among other finance, statistics and economics courses. “Introductory Statistics” is a traditionally formidable class for undergraduates, and Chernobai effectively uses real-life examples and applications—such as YouTube videos, newspaper articles and Web resources—as teaching tools and creates lively in-class discussions to actively involve students and help them achieve a deeper understanding of how statistics material is embedded in everyday life.

Chernobai also integrates a variety of modern tools and technology into her teaching, and emphasizes to her students the crucial importance of computer programming and statistics software. Her teaching abilities span a variety of disciplines, from statistics to financial risk management and macroeconomics.

Chernobai’s primary research areas include operational risk, credit risk, default risk, Value-at-Risk, applied probability and statistics, stochastic processes, economics of risk and uncertainty. She effectively mixes her research with her teaching, in particular in her graduate classes. In 2007, she published a book on risk management in financial institutions, with the primary audience being practitioners and graduate students. She now uses this book when teaching the graduate level “Risk Management: Operational Risk” at the Whitman School.

Anne Demo
Anne Demo, assistant professor of communication and rhetorical studies in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, began teaching at SU in January 2007 and is recognized as a passionate and innovative teacher and a renowned and award-winning scholar of political and visual rhetoric. Demo teaches courses at a variety of levels—including graduate seminars— and receives high ratings and glowing comments consistently from her students, who speak to her enthusiasm, knowledge and genuine concern for student development.

Demo’s teaching excellence is in part the translation of her scholarly achievements. At this early point in her career, she has already won the most prestigious essay award in the field of communication arts and sciences, the 2008 National Communication Association’s Golden Anniversary Monograph Award.

Among the academic program enhancements to which she has contributed, the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies is creating the McAuliffe Week in D.C. This project began as a Maymester class, created by Demo, that evolved into a Washington, D.C., session for students to meet with numerous politicians,  as well as SU and CRS alumni. Supported by Richard M. McAuliffe Jr. ‘90, McAuliffe Week is now a unique signature program for the department and a unique educational experience for students interested in political communication.

Christina Feikes
Christina Feikes, instructor in The Writing Program in The College of Arts and Sciences, teaches both undergraduate and advanced writing and editing courses and is noted for her ability to balance strategic pedagogical methods and carefully structured class sessions, with flexibility that encourages students to take responsibility for their learning.

One of her signature achievements in The Writing Program has been her encouragement of service learning among her students, offering classes that engage them to make a difference in their local community. In a civic writing course she taught, she arranged for students to become involved in a local Sudanese refugee project, working with children at after-school care facilities. The students’ thoughtful presentations at the end of the semester demonstrated their understanding of issues surrounding the communities where they worked and their ability to work alongside residents of those communities in ways that were both productive and respectful. These type of classes allow Feikes to create expectations in not only critical writing, but also research and community engagement.

Amanda G. Nicholson
Since joining SU in 1996, Amanda Nicholson, assistant professor of retail management practice at the Whitman School of Management, has taught a variety of courses on the fundamental components of the U.S. and global retail industries.  Joining the faculty with a significant retail industry background, Nicholson has also developed courses, such as “E-Tailing as a Marketing Tool” in an ongoing strategy to keep the curriculum relevant and current for students.

Nicholson is also very notably behind the success of SU’s Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team, guiding a 70-member chapter—which began with two members as she became faculty advisor to the group in 2005—toward making a difference in the world through a dedicated mission. The SU-SIFE project groups organize to take on humanitarian work at the global and local levels, such as working with three cooperatives of impoverished Mayan women in Guatemala to help them expand their product mix and markets by organizing the sale of their merchandise in SU’s and three other university bookstores, and working with local Syracuse senior citizens to educate them on the dangers of Internet scams. Because of Nicholson’s dedication to the SIFE program, the SU team has consistently earned national recognition every year, last year being named as one of the top 12 SIFE programs in the country.

Nicholson’s other contributions to student learning are exemplified through her efforts beyond the classroom. On a daily basis, she is meeting with students to speak about their cares and careers, and she coordinates the National Retail Advisory Board at SU to assist students in networking with professional retail executives for careers after graduation.

Bruce Strong
Bruce Strong, associate professor of visual and interactive communication in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, joined the Newhouse faculty as a noted multimedia storyteller, cutting-edge producer of the newest digital sound and video technology, and an extraordinary teacher. He is recognized by his students for both his enthusiasm in the classroom and his demanding standards and rigorous classes.

In addition to his teaching, he serves as a mentor and coach to photography students to help them take their work to extraordinary levels of professionalism, most notably working with students in the international Alexia Competition. He is also a leader in Newhouse’s  News 21 project, guiding students to successful projects for this prestigious Carnegie-sponsored program.

At Newhouse, Strong is recognized for reshaping the character of the photojournalism graduate and undergraduate programs through his redesign of the school’s two major photojournalism courses.

University Scholar/Teacher of the Year

Theodore L. Brown

Ted Brown, associate professor in SU’s School of Architecture, is recipient of this year’s United Methodist Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award.  For more than 20 years, Brown’s high level of work, as well as his dedication to both the school and the University, has been reflected in his teaching, practice and research.  

Brown teaches courses ranging from “Introduction to Contemporary Architectural Discourse” to a graduate design studio examining urban waterfronts. He was chair of the graduate programs in the School of Architecture from 2002-05 and has served as the director of the Syracuse University Architecture Program in Florence, Italy.

In addition to his exemplary instruction, Brown has served as studio coordinator, overseeing the activities, budget and curriculum within a studio year.  He has had an impact on the programming of the school, including coordinating the first year of the new real estate course.

“Professor Brown’s scholarship and research, which includes the areas of sustainable design, material research and design practice, is incorporated into his design studio teaching, reinforcing both his creative activities and his teaching,” says School of Architecture Dean Mark Robbins.