Oct. 1-7, 1999
$10 million Harrison gift to establish history institute at library
Melvin Tolson's Harlem Gallery and other works gathered in new collection
Groundswalk takes step forward; committe OKs Darden expansion

Gies to students: "It's cool to be smart"

Proffit rewarded for superb teaching
150th anniversary of Poe's death
Poet Gwendolyn Brooks and others to celebrate African-American poetry
Virginia 2020 conference to be held Oct. 14-15
Used book sale to be held Oct. 6-8
Hot Links - Virginia State Climatology Office
New scholarly journal offers forum on contemporary culture
Notable - faculty and staff

In Memoriam

Stephanie Gross
Classmates watch while fourth-year undergraduate Jeb Sophia walks on a treadmill for an experiment in Psychology professor Dennis Proffitt's (left front) course on perceptions.

Proffitt rewarded for superb teaching

By Ida Lee Wootten

Psychology professor Dennis R. Proffitt, who began a two-year term as Cavalier Distinguished Teaching Chair this fall, wants to use his new position to raise public awareness of how research enhances teaching.

Well-known for his studies on visual perception, Profitt believes that top research universities such as U.Va. give faculty an opportunity to illustrate basic concepts through their own laboratory studies and to directly involve students in their ongoing research. He is leading a number of research programs that employ virtual reality technology. One study is examining the relationship between vision and motor skills, and another is investigating spatial updating, or the ability to locate an object that has gone out of sight.

Faculty awarded the Cavalier professorships are expected to work closely with the Teaching Resource Center on ways to enhance teaching at the University. Proffitt, who will likely lead a University Seminar related to his virtual reality studies, sees the award as a way to promote the value of research in teaching.

"To effectively teach students about the significance of research findings, faculty need to make connections between the laboratory and the real world, said Proffitt, founding director of the cognitive science degree program, who received an All-University Outstanding Teaching Award in 1997. "The ability to explain these connections is an important component of teaching.

Established in 1991 with a $200,000 gift from the Athletics department's proceeds from the 1990 Sugar Bowl and supplemented since with receipts from three other Bowl games, the Cavalier chair recognizes eminent scholars who excel in teaching undergraduates. Honorees are awarded an additional two-ninths of their annual salary plus a $2,000 research fund.

Economics professor Kenneth G. Elzinga was the first to be appointed to the endowed chair. Chemistry professor Dean Harmon was the second to receive the honor, and English professor Karen S. Chase was named chair last year.

Deans nominate candidates for the chair each spring. The nominations are reviewed by a committee appointed by Vice President and Provost Peter Low, who makes the two-year-long appointments. The process assures that there are two chair holders every academic year.

"Our hope over time is that we can develop a culture in which our best teachers exert University-wide influence on the quality of teaching by others," Low said.


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