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Teaching Recognition Awards announced
Six Syracuse University faculty members have been named the 2003 recipients of Teaching Recognition Awards sponsored by the Meredith Professors. The award winners are:
- Melvin Coffee, assistant professor of broadcast journalism in the S.I. Newhouse School for Public Communications;
- Ravi Dharwadkar, assistant professor of strategy and human resources in the School of Management;
- Deborah Dohne, assistant professor of art and design in the College of Visual and Performing Arts;
- Dixie Shipp Evatt, assistant professor of public relations in the Newhouse School;
- Amy Falkner, assistant professor of advertising in the Newhouse School; and
- Jeremy Shiffman, assistant professor of public administration in the Maxwell School.
The 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 program recognize excellence in teaching by non-tenured faculty and adjunct and part-time instructors. Teaching Award 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 will receive an expense account of $3,000 for one year to be used for professional development.
Coffee came to the Newhouse School as a visiting professor following a distinguished career in television journalism, most recently in Philadelphia. When he joined SU, Coffee’s teaching experience was minimal, but his skills and potential for instruction were anything but. Coffee quickly became known for his energetic and insightful teaching methods and just two years after joining the faculty, he was named winner of the Newhouse Award for Teaching Excellence, a prized honor bestowed by the school’s seniors.
Coffee is known for his unwavering integrity, high standards and dedication. “Students are amazed at the hours Mel will spend with them individually,” says Dona Hayes, chair of the broadcast journalism department. “If Mel isn’t in class or in lab, it is almost a given that his office door is open and he is spending time with a student who needs the time spent.” Hayes notes that Coffee’s enthusiastic and innovative approach can be seen not only in the classroom but in the production of the department’s daily newscasts.
Coffee says that enthusiasm comes naturally. “I absolutely love the subject matter,” he says. “This is not a profession of default for me. I am teaching because I know that journalists are charged with a daunting and enormous public responsibility. Too often in newsrooms I have seen journalists who are not well grounded and who are tenuous or misguided about the duties they hold. I’m teaching because I want to help make a change in the professional industry by turning out leaders with solid foundations.”
Dharwadkar believes it is important for students to get practical experience to validate and expand their classroom activities. In the case of international business students, that experience includes studying abroad. With that in mind, he arranges for Division of International Programs Abroad recruiter Michael Calo to speak each semester to his Managing in a Global Setting class.
“Before taking [Dharwadkar’s] class I had never even considered studying in another country,” says junior Stephen Madsen. “But in what came to be the most rewarding experience of my life, I did go to Hong Kong last semester. Had I not taken Ravi’s class, I would have missed out on an amazing opportunity.”
According to Calo, Dharwadkar “is precisely the kind of faculty member who inspires students to think about their education in ways that will prepare them to become citizens of the world.”
Dharwadkar has taught Managing in a Global Setting for the past three years. “Unlike most other required classes, which are department-specific, this course cuts across disciplines and calls for teachers who have depth of knowledge of international business issues and at the same time can integrate ideas from the specific management disciplines, such as finance, marketing and so on,” says School of Management Senior Associate Dean S.P. Raj. “This adds to the challenge faced by the instructor. Ravi has stepped up to the challenge with great success.”
Students appreciate Dharwadkar’s effort, as reflected in the fact that, as junior Leah Tanner recalls, more than half of her class showed up for a non-compulsory class. “I do not believe that a teacher who was anything but exceptional could get college students out of bed on a Friday with no motivation other than to learn.”
During a recent critique day in Dohne’s freshman-level “Three-Dimensional Problem Solving” class, several students popped in and out of Dohne’s office before class with last-minute questions and issues to be addressed: “I forgot my poem” or “Can I borrow the tool box?”
Dohne makes it a habit to be in her office about an hour before class, with the door open and advice freely and cheerfully given. Teaching freshman artists is not for everyone, but the opportunity to do so is the reason Dohne came to SU.
“I really enjoy working with freshman art students,” Dohne says. “They are very eager to learn. There is a collective sense of rawness, urgency or importance that stems, I suppose, from a lack of experience and vulnerability. The students require a lot of energy, but they also give me energy. The personal growth and achievement I witness in these young students is truly inspiring.”
Dohne’s students describe her course as progressively challenging, fun and inspiring. “Deborah went beyond sharing her knowledge and experiences,” writes Christine Bowdler, a sophomore sculpture major. “She nurtured our personal and artistic growth by encouraging individual problem solving and experimentation. I gained confidence in my artistic ability and sensibility.”
The students especially value the critiques that follow the completion of each assignment. Dohne’s philosophy is to use the critiques as opportunities to encourage students to talk about their projects before interjecting her own assessment. Every work is discussed.
“I learned a lot about my work and the work of others during our critiques,” writes Alison Fredericks, a sophomore art education major . “As a future teacher, I will look back and think of Deborah as one of my role models. I hope to be as knowledgeable and effective with my students as she was with me.”
Dixie Shipp Evatt
When Evatt came to the Newhouse School five years ago she wondered how she would measure her success as a teacher. In her work as an award-winning public affairs officer and lobbyist she had counted success in numbers: the number of bills that she “shepherded” through legislature, the number of her proposals that were adopted, and the dollar increase in agency appropriations.
Evatt has found that the measures of successful teaching may not be as quantitative, but they are just as clear. “This job required me to rethink what I considered success,” Evatt says. “When students grow more confident and able because of what you’ve taught them, that’s success; when what you teach has enough value that those who you teach want to share it, that’s success. Success is the way students are changed for the better by what you teach them.”
It’s that student-centered approach that has earned Evatt a reputation for developing the potential of every class member. “She treats students with respect and realizes that with specific guidance they can achieve much,” says Dennis Kinsey, associate professor of public relations and Evatt’s colleague. “She never gives up on a student and never rests on her successes — she is always exploring ways to make her classes better.”
Evatt’s students describe her as dedicated, energetic, caring and professional. She’s known for her ability to explain complicated methodology and to make sometimes-dry theory interesting. Evatt’s classes provide students with more than one way to master material by including multiple components, such as mock news conferences, and real-life campaign design efforts. She also integrates real world experiences-both her own and that of guest lecturers-into the curriculum. “I want to help students see the relevance of the foundation principles and theories they learn,” Evatt says. “That’s why I work to infuse assignments with more than just a ‘how to’ but also a ‘why.’ “
Falkner “fell” into teaching in 1998. Now she can’t imagine doing anything else. As an assistant professor in the Newhouse School’s advertising department, the former ad executive and reporter has a reputation as a tough grader who leads time-consuming, challenging classes – and as an amicable, inspiring, hardworking and caring instructor. “Students clamor to take her course,” says Carla Lloyd, department chair. “They know that it will be difficult, but they also know they will get so much out of it.”
Falkner received the Newhouse Award for Teaching Excellence in 2001, after being a finalist for the 200 award. In addition to classroom excellence, the award recognizes professors who “go the extra mile,” something Falkner does often. She is the advisor to SU’s Ad Club and works with club officers to organize a yearly trip to New York City advertising agencies. She also reinstated the school’s participation at the American Advertising Federation’s National Student Competition. “Amy’s work with students-both in and outside of the classroom-gives them the proficiencies to become lifelong learners-something today’s turbulent marketplace demands,” Lloyd says.
Falkner is the author of groundbreaking research in the area of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered marketing and gives presentations on the subject to her own students, and others across campus. “I hope everyone can grow and learn from the research,” Falkner says. “The work I put into my teaching has been amply reciprocated. The greatest reward comes from the students themselves; their friendship while in school and the letters and e-mails that continue to arrive long after they’ve left my classroom.”
“Where does expertise lie?” asks Shiffman on the first day of his class on policy and administration in developing countries. He then shows a film demonstrating that, while some people have technical expertise, others have expertise in such areas as leadership, communications and cultural practices. He brings this view of expertise to teaching also.
“I take expertise to be dispersed across students and educators, not concentrated in educators alone,” says Shiffman, an assistant professor of public administration in the Maxwell School. “And I take teaching effectiveness to be contingent upon tapping into this dispersed expertise by stimulating and sparking enthusiasm for critical analysis.”
Shiffman structures his classes to spark a great deal of discussion to tap into the students’ expertise. Students and faculty members also praise the global issues symposium he organizes each semester to allow his students and others to share the research they have done on international issues.
“Jeremy is a talented young teacher who has the clear potential to be among the department ‘s teaching stars,” says Jeffrey D. Straussman, associate dean and chair of the Department of Public Administration, who nominated Shiffman for the award.
Students agree. “Jeremy is actively involved in all his students’ scholarship, research and lives,” says C. Cora True-Frost G’01. “He utilizes varying teaching styles and technology in the classroom; tolerates diverse views; fosters and atmosphere of collaboration among students – and engenders in all his students a feeling of genuine respect, gratitude and admiration.”
Indeed, Shiffman uses feedback from mid-term evaluation forms to make immediate changes in his classes. “Merely a week after submitting our evaluations, it was evident that Jeremy had not only read our comments, but had begun to incorporate many suggestions,” says Marti Ann Reinfeld, currently Shiffman’s graduate assistant.
The Meredith Professorships were created to recognize and reward excellence in teaching, to encourage faculty members to look upon the various dimensions of teaching as opportunities for constant improvement, to emphasize the importance that the University places on teaching, and to improve the teaching and learning environment on campus. The Meredith Professors believe that the Teaching Recognition Awards assist in reaching these goals.