April 21-27, 2000
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Lynch, Sabato win top teaching awards

Luann LynchLuann Lynch -- "A legend in the making"

By Nancy Hurrelbrinck

Though she's only been here for two years, assistant professor of business administration Luann Lynch has made a tsunami-sized splash among Darden students and faculty.

"Luann is an excellent professor who shows genuine enthusiasm for the course she teaches," a student wrote in her evaluation of Lynch's accounting course. "She has an amazing ability to keep the class focused on and interested in a potentially boring topic."

Professor of business administration E. Richard Brownlee II, who acted as Lynch's mentor in his accounting teaching team, wrote that it's been "an absolute joy" to work with her in his letter recommending her for the Alumni Board of Trustees Teaching Award. Given to an assistant professor for demonstrated skill in teaching, the award carries a $1,000 prize, with $1,500 in additional support, and offers a semester's research assignment.

"Her combination of keen intellect, thorough preparation, thoughtful insights and suggestions, good humor and charismatic personality set her apart," he wrote, adding that he frequently found himself modifying his own teaching plans based on suggestions she made.

Lynch goes to great lengths to prepare for classes, observing other professors' accounting courses whenever possible, "not to better understand the material, but to better understand the students," she wrote in a statement about her teaching.

"I strive to create a supportive environment in which students are encouraged to share their ideas and in which they feel safe in doing so," she wrote. "Into that environment, I introduce opportunities for students to practice decision-making, which will be central to their future success as managers."

Students repeatedly expressed gratitude for her willingness to let them figure out problems for themselves, her "waiting for the light bulb to come on rather than simply providing answers," as one wrote.

Student Scott Walsh said her obvious concern about students' learning inspires them to work harder, less because they're worried about their grades than because they want to make her proud of them.

Lynch, who has written three academic papers since coming to U.Va. that are currently being reviewed by prestigious accounting journals, usually begins class by sharing a story about her 2-year-old twin boys, which she then links to the day's accounting lesson.

Student Kerry S. Davenport said students found these stories relaxing and engaging, adding, "Luann made accounting seem easy by breaking each concept into manageable parts and emphasizing underlying themes throughout the course, such as the premise that accounting is about Śreaching the truth' where everything must balance."

Dean Edward A. Snyder cited Lynch's teaching evaluation ratings, which place her in the top 10 percent of Darden's faculty, and called her "a legend in the making."

The votes are in -- Sabato selected

By Charlotte Crystal

Larry SabatoLarry J. Sabato does it all. He's a prolific scholar, a quotable academic, an effective administrator and a gifted teacher. For those reasons and more, Sabato has received this year's Alumni Association Distinguished Professor Award.

The annual award, which includes a $2,500 honorarium, recognizes a faculty member who has excelled as a teacher, shown unusual concern for students and made significant contributions to University life for at least a decade.

A professor of government and foreign affairs since 1978, Sabato has taught more than 13,000 students and was recently named by the U.Va. Alumni Magazine as one of the alumni's 10 most memorable and inspirational teachers.

When Sabato recently established his Center for Governmental Studies, alumni sent contributions to support the project, along with letters describing his influence on their understanding of politics and on the development of their critical thinking skills, noted James Sofka, a lecturer in the government department.

Year after year, students rank Sabato as the best teacher in the department, said government chair Robert Fatton Jr. Sabato's classes are intellectually rigorous, he noted, and his lectures meticulously prepared and delivered with "style, rhetorical skill and a wonderful sense of humor."

Sabato's high profile in state and national politics also enable him to bring an impressive roster of guest speakers -- top government officials, senators, congressmen, governors, political pundits and journalists -- to his American Politics 101 class. Fatton believes that Sabato's 101 class could double its enrollment of more than 500 students if a larger room were available.

Howard Ernst, a graduate government student who has been a teaching assistant for Sabato, pointed to two reasons for Sabato's popularity with students: his teaching style and his personal interest in students. "Even in his large Government 101 course, students are called on to participate in a lively exchange of ideas."

On a personal basis, Sabato has helped myriad students. He has spent long hours with Ernst, though not his designated adviser, offering "sincere and indispensable academic counseling," according to Ernst. Sabato also made a number of phone calls on Ernst's behalf during the student's successful search for a tenure-track teaching position.

As director both of the undergraduate program and the Honors Program, Sabato has had a huge impact on the popularity of the government major at U.Va. and on the achievements of the handful of students accepted annually into the Honors program.

As director of the undergraduate program, Sabato "has succeeded not only in servicing and advising our students with unflagging dedication, he has also improved the undergraduate program itself," Fatton wrote. "His directorship of the Honors Program has been an unqualified success; students in that program have won a disproportionate share of the University's major national awards ­ Marshall, Rhodes and Truman fellowships."

Jonathan Carr, a member of the Government and Foreign Affairs Honors Program, summed up his professor's many contributions best: "the University of Virginia is a better place because of Larry Sabato."


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