Harrington Meyer and Rodriguez to be honored as Meredith Professors April 9
Harrington Meyer and Rodriguez to be honored as Meredith Professors April 9March 30, 2007Sara Millersemortim@syr.edu
At an April 9 reception celebrating one of Syracuse University’s highest teaching honors, Chancellor Nancy Cantor will name Madonna Harrington Meyer, professor of sociology in the Maxwell School, and Amardo Rodriguez, associate professor of communication and rhetorical studies in the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), as SU’s 2007 Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professors for Teaching Excellence.
The reception honoring Harrington Meyer and Rodriguez will be held at 3 p.m. in the Maxwell Public Events Room.
The Meredith Professorships were created in 1995 with a substantial bequest from the Meredith estate. The program seeks to recognize and reward outstanding teaching, and fosters research and dialogue on teaching excellence. Two Meredith Professors are named each year to engage in investigations of teaching and learning. They are enrolled for life in the Meredith Symposium as a sign of honor and to provide an ongoing forum for the discussion of teaching excellence.
Each recipient of the honor is designated a Meredith Professor for a period of three years. For each of the three years, they receive a supplementary salary award, a fund to support their research, and additional money to be used in developing their academic unit.
Madonna Harrington Meyer
As both a researcher and teacher, Harrington Meyer has dedicated her career to examining gender, race and class inequality, mainly in the United States. Her teaching emphasizes helping students to become future researchers on these issues by engaging them in real-world cases of social inequality outside the classroom. Harrington Meyer is professor of sociology, director of the University Gerontology Center and senior research associate at the Center for Policy Research. The Gerontology Center includes 30 faculty who are engaged in aging research, education and policy making. The center hosts scholarly conferences, oversees an undergraduate and graduate certificate in gerontology, and works to coordinate and foster interdisciplinary activities relating to gerontology across campus.
“My teaching philosophy is to create an environment in which students are able to both learn from the scholars who have preceded them and become scholars themselves,” says Harrington Meyer. “In providing opportunities for my students to do original research that has real-world applications, my hope is to bring existing scholarship to life, while simultaneously training students to conduct and disseminate scholarship of their own.” As part of this philosophy, Harrington Meyer often asks students to compare socio-economic characteristics in different settings. For example, students compare schools with disparate school spending on such factors as graduation rates, college preparation classes, music programs, sports facilities and other factors that shape student learning. The aim is to understand how a wide variety of structural factors shape the quality of individual lives. Often, student papers are compiled in a working paper series made available throughout the community.
“She is able to draw students into an idea and helps them have those `a-ha!’ moments in class,” says Christine Himes, professor and chair of the Department of Sociology. “She is actively engaged in teaching, involves students in her classes in creative ways, and works to create opportunities for students to put their skills and understandings into practice.”
Her own research focuses on the old age welfare state in the United States. Her writings explore the impact of Medicare, Social Security and other program policies on inequality among the aged. She co-authored recently a series of papers with SU colleagues on the impact of declining marital rates — particularly among African American women — on access to Social Security spouse and widow benefits. She has also examined the impact of Medicaid reimbursement rates — which often fall well below private pay rates — on discrimination in admission to nursing homes. She worked with colleagues on a lengthy scholarly project that brought greater national attention to the care work performed by families of the frail elderly.
Harrington Meyer’s proposed Meredith project is two-fold, aimed at greater integration of real-world research cases into her graduate quantitative methods courses and helping other faculty members at SU identify and create effective Scholarship in Action learning opportunities for their students. The main focus will be to fully implement the existing Nottingham Syracuse Education Project into her graduate quantitative methods class. Harrington Meyer has been working with high school officials to define an annual survey of high school students. The project provides much-needed information to the high school staff while providing her graduate students with the opportunity to develop all aspects of their research skills on a real-world project. Students work closely with school administrators to define the research questions, develop the survey and collect the data. Applying skills they have learned in their graduate seminar, students then analyze the data and present a final report to school officials.
Harrington Meyer will also offer a seminar for SU faculty on best strategies for incorporating real-world research projects into their curriculum. These efforts will further build on Scholarship in Action programs. Contributing to the content of this seminar will be information from her own — and many others’ — experiences in developing similar programs for students. The aim is to develop best practices by identifying what does and does not work well in community-based learning experiences.
In 1997, Harrington Meyer joined SU as an associate professor of sociology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She received a bachelor’s degree from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota and a Ph.D. from Florida State University.
She is editor of “Care Work: Gender, Labor and the Welfare State” (Routledge 2000). Another book, forthcoming with Pamela Herd, “Market Friendly or Family Friendly? The State and Gender Inequality in Old Age,” will be published by Russell Sage this summer.
Rodriguez’s research and teaching interests focus on how communication theory can and should evolve to improve the human experience at many levels. In his communications studies courses, such as Intercultural Communication and Communication in Organizations, Rodriguez helps his students to understand how new and different views can make for more expansive and inclusive models of community, communication, citizenship, identity and ethics.
“In my teaching, I am trying to change worlds by disrupting the forces that shape lives,” says Rodriguez. “I believe that in reckoning with the forces that shape how we experience, embody and understand the world, we gain a better understanding of what it means to be human by recognizing how our beliefs, fears, anxieties, insecurities and paranoia shape our relations to the world and each other. I am always trying to help my students be less afraid of the world and each other.”
As associate professor in the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies, Rodriguez is widely recognized for his scholarship on communication and diversity. He has authored several books, including his most recent, “Communication, Space, and Design: The integral relation between communication and design” (Hamilton Books, 2005). His classes are noted for being writing — and rewriting — intensive, helping students to develop narratives and arguments connecting different course concepts and preparing students to take these concepts into the future and embody the rigors of presenting thoughtful, new perspectives and ideas.
According to Arthur Jensen, senior associate dean for academic affairs in VPA, Rodriguez has provided valuable input for the redesign of the undergraduate curriculum in the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies and has developed eight original courses, each of which “speaks in one way or another to the centrality of communication theory and practices in creating and sustaining moral lives, both individually and collectively.
“There is little, if any, divide between his scholarship and his teaching, as one so clearly and seamlessly leads to the other,” says Jensen. “He finds ways in his teaching to connect the global and the personal by focusing on the riches of meaning packed into the smallest routines or the taken-for-granted ways that we organize the spaces around us and among us.”
Rodriguez proposes a Meredith project that involves the creation of a new Innovation and Design minor in VPA in order to “introduce students to the study of innovation and the theoretical, conceptual and experiential challenges that attend to it in its historical, social, political, geographical and communicational contexts.” The project would also include the development of a new course, Innovation as Communication, geared to help students understand the kinds of communication and rhetorical practices that promote innovation and, ultimately, help students develop theoretically rigorous models of communication that promote innovation.
Prior to coming to SU in 2001, Rodriguez was an assistant professor at Purdue University, a research associate at Howard University’s Research and Training Center for Access to Rehabilitation and Economic Opportunity, and a public relations officer with the Public Transport Service Corp. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of the District of Columbia, a master’s degree from Bowie State University and a Ph.D. from Howard University’s School of Communications.