Andersen, Ramsey named as 2002 Meredith Professors
Andersen, Ramsey named as 2002 Meredith ProfessorsMarch 22, 2002Cynthia J. Moritzcjmoritz@syr.edu
Kristi J. Andersen, professor and former chair in the political science department in The College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School, and Sarah H. Ramsey, professor in the College of Law, have been named as Syracuse University’s 2002 Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professors for Teaching Excellence.
A substantial bequest from the Meredith estate allowed Syracuse University to create the Meredith Professorships in 1995 to recognize and reward outstanding teaching. The professorship encourages further research and discussions on teaching and excellence. Meredith professors engage in investigations of teaching and learning and are enrolled for life in the Meredith Symposium as a signal of honor and to provide an ongoing forum for the discussion of teaching excellence. Two Meredith Professors are named each year.
Each recipient of the honor is designated a Meredith Professor for a period of three years. Meredith Professors receive a supplementary salary award of $22,000 and an exp ense fund of $5,000 for professional development, plus an additional $5,000 to assist their academic unit.
Kristi J. Andersen
Kristi Andersen says she doesn’t have a flashy lecturing style.
“I’m not the kind of lecturer anyone’s going to videotape and sell,” she says. She thinks her strength as a teacher lies instead in helping students to develop their thinking, writing and analytical skills. This kind of coaching got her named a Maxwell Professor of Teaching Excellence in September 1999.
Andersen’s Meredith project will be an investigation of methods of evaluating teaching in addition to student evaluations. “If you believe, as I do, that there are lots of valid teaching styles, and lots of aspects of teaching-including advising, curriculum development and other activities-then we’re only picking up a small slice of teaching through student evaluations,” she says.
Student evaluations give some important information, Andersen says, but they don’t paint the whole picture. Research has shown that student evaluations are colored by such factors as gender expectations and whether the student likes the teacher personally.
Ten years ago, Andersen and her colleagues in the political science department started to develop ways of evaluating teaching using multiple indicators, such as course syllabi and vita updates, in addition to student evaluations. She wants to extend that work for her Meredith project, developing a manual or handbook on teacher evaluation. Such a manual could be useful as a tool for individuals and committees who are making decisions on promotion, tenure and salary increases, she says.
“There is lots of information in course syllabi,” she says. “Syllabi can show whether there are clear expectations of the students and how varied are the student experiences, among other things. Vita updates can show how much advising the professor does, along with how much work he or she does with graduate students.”
The movement toward developing teaching portfolios can also help in evaluations, Andersen says. As part of such portfolios, teachers assess their own strengths and weaknesses.
“I want to talk about different ways for good teaching to happen, and ways to evaluate it and to help teachers do better,” she says.
Andersen’s teaching and research interests are in the areas of women and politics, political parties, public opinion, and political behavior. She is the author of “The Creation of a Democratic Majority, 1928-1936” (1979) and “After Suffrage: Women in Partisan and Electoral Politics Before the New Deal” (1996), which won the American Political Science Association’s Victoria Schuck Award for the best book published on women and politics in 1996. Andersen has published in the Journal of Politics, Public Opinion Quarterly, American Journal of Political Science, and Political Psychology, on topics including candidate evaluation, the effect of working outside the home on women’s political behaviors and attitudes, and the changing meaning of elections.
Sarah H. Ramsey
Sarah H. Ramsey isn’t fond of the popular image of law schools-where the professor stands in front of the class, grilling students on arcane facts and humiliating those who are caught in a mistake. Instead, she tries to make her classroom a place where students feel comfortable expressing their views and are open to new ways of looking at things.
“I have tried to be demanding but not demeaning,” she says, “tolerant and accepting of different views, rather than authoritarian. I challenge my students, but in a way that is supportive.” One of her goals is to help students to examine their own values and recognize that others’ values may be very different. She feels this is especially important in her area, family law.
Ramsey is the director of the Family Law and Social Policy Center and teaches courses in children and the law and family law. She is a member of the Committee on Children and the Law of the New York State Bar Association and is a member of the Members Consultative Group on the Law of Family Dissolution of the prestigious American Law Institute.
Ramsey’s goal of providing a welcoming environment for students was formed in part as a reaction to her own law school experience, she says. In the early 1970s, law schools tended to be male-dominated environments that were openly hostile to women. “The law school placement office, for example, still posted ‘men only need apply’ job ads,” she says.
When she first started teaching, Ramsey was the rare female professor among mostly men. “I could have responded to this challenge by taking a dictatorial approach to assert my authority, but this would have been counter to my desire to develop a different climate,” she says.
Ramsey’s Meredith project will focus on creating interdisciplinary experiences for students, especially in the area of children and families. She would like to foster interdisciplinary work that would draw on a variety of skills and interdisciplinary strengths by having students from different disciplines work together on problems at an individual, community and macro level. Students could work together at the individual case level by doing a negotiation exercise or other case-specific problem, for example. For a second project, students would come together to work on a community issue, including people from the community in their efforts. In the third, students could work on a policy analysis or law formation project at a national or international level.
“Part of my project will be identifying barriers to interdisciplinary study,” she says. “I want to see what goes wrong with these efforts and how we can fix it.”
Ramsey has experience in interdisciplinary, empirical research in law. She was a senior researcher with the Interdisciplinary Project on Child Abuse and Neglect at the Child Advocacy Clinic, University of Michigan, and was a National Institute of Mental Health Research Fellow in law and policy studies at Duke University’s Institute of Policy Studies. She was in private practice in North Carolina and was a visiting professor at Stanford Law School. She has written articles on representing children in protection proceedings and on the law and stepfamilies. Her casebook (co-authored with Douglas Abrams), “Children and the Law: Doctrine, Policy, and Practice” was published during the spring of 2000.