April 19-25, 2002
Back Issues
New board members tapped
U.Va. to develop state-of-the-art teacher ed program
U.Va. honoring great teaching
Is the Middle East conflict past the point of no return?
Athletics to host faculty, staff

Restored West Pavilion Gardens turn 50

Historic Bolivar artifacts donated in honor of Jefferson-era connection
Hot Links -- Garden Week
Rotunda detail
Photo by Rebecca Arrington

U.Va. honoring great teaching

By Robert Brickhouse

An inspiring group of U.Va. professors and graduate teaching assistants, all at different stages of their careers but sharing an extraordinary dedication to their students’ learning, has been chosen to receive this year’s University-wide awards celebrating outstanding teaching. “Insightful”, “stimulating” and “demanding” were among the traits often cited by students and colleagues to describe them.

The honorees, selected by a committee from numerous well-crafted nominations with supporting testimonials, will be honored April 23 in the Rotunda at the University’s 11th annual “In Celebration of Teaching” banquet. Vice President and Provost Gene D. Block and Teaching Resource Center Director Marva A. Barnett will present the awards.

The award winners include:

Barbara M. Brodie, professor of nursing: The Alumni Association Distinguished Professor Award. The annual award is given to 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. The winner receives a $2,500 prize.

Eugene Kolomeisky, assistant professor of physics: The Alumni Board of Trustees Teaching Award. The award is given to an assistant professor for demonstrated skill in teaching and carries a $1,000 prize, with $1,500 in additional support, and offers a semester’s research assignment.

Winners of All-University Teaching Awards, each carrying a $2,000 prize and recognizing ability to inspire and motivate students, are:

Robert E. Davis, associate professor of environmental sciences

Sherwood C. Frey Jr., professor, Darden Graduate School of Business Administration

Adria LaViolette, associate professor of anthropology

J.E. (Ted) Lendon, associate professor of history

Michael J. Smith, associate professor of politics

John Sullivan, associate professor of English

Peter D. Waldman, professor of architecture

Barbara H. Wixom, assistant professor, McIntire School of Commerce

Brad Brown, professor of commerce, was named winner of the USEMs Outstanding Teaching Award, given to a faculty member who has taught especially successfully in the University Seminars program of intensive classes for first-year students. The award recognizes outstanding efforts to promote critical thinking skills and carries a $1,500 prize.

Also honored at the banquet will be:

Daniel P. Hallahan, professor of education, chosen to receive the Cavaliers’ Distinguished Teaching Professorship. The rotating endowed professorship that recognizes excellent teaching is partly supported by football bowl earnings.

Cristina Della Coletta, associate professor of Italian, this year’s recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities/Horace W. Goldsmith Distinguished Teaching Professorship. The three-year rotating endowed professorship rewards excellent teaching in the humanities and enables recipients to undertake projects to share expertise with colleagues.

Brodie’s students see ‘big picture’

Barbara BrodieFor many students in the School of Nursing, their first impression probably is their most lasting.

Credit Dr. Barbara Brodie and her Introduction to Nursing class.

“Beginning with our students’ first day in McLeod [Hall], she shares her enthusiasm for nursing. She inspires students to see the ‘big picture’ of the nursing profession while never losing sight of the individual interactions that are the heart of nursing,” said Dr. V.L. Brashers, associate professor of nursing and clinical assistant professor of medicine.

A few years ago, former students helped vote Brodie one of the university’s top 10 favorite professors in a U.Va. alumni magazine. Alumni also in 1988 established the Barbara Brodie Scholars Award, the first endowment created on behalf of a female faculty member.

Although she has become a self-assured leader over the course of 30 years at the University, Brodie’s first day in front of a class made its own impression.

“It was the most frightening, challenging and exhilarating experience in my life,” she recalled. Conveying facts, she learned, was not enough. “More essential is the students’ ability to learn to think critically about new information and its uses.”
That dedication to critical thinking – along with Brodie’s passion, integrity and personal caring – has made a profound impact on her students.

“[She] certainly challenged me to develop critical thinking skills to examine nursing issues, and she encouraged each of us to not assume anything and always ask questions,” said one former student.

Melissa Briggs, another student, said, “I feel that Dr. Brodie is genuinely concerned about students at the University of Virginia.”

— By Lee Graves

Go to top

Davis’ work as natural as blue skies

Robert E. DavisResearch and teaching don’t always go hand in hand, but for Robert E. Davis, they are as natural as blue skies and white clouds. A climatologist by training, he teaches students about the weather and atmosphere — complex and dynamic subjects. Since coming to the University in 1989, he has consistently earned excellent ratings from his students.

“Bob [Davis] does not separate his pedagogy from his scholarship,” said environmental sciences Chair Bruce Hayden in his letter of nomination. “He takes great pride in his teaching and gets the emotional return that all excellent teachers find in the classroom. The seamless merger of teaching and research at all levels of instruction is, in my view, the hallmark of great research universities.”

Robert Dolan, professor of environmental sciences, wrote, “It all starts with his love of his subject and the great pleasure and personal pride he takes in presenting excellent lectures.”

Michelle L’Heureux, a fourth-year environmental sciences major, said,

“Mr. Davis has a touch for making a somewhat mundane phenomenon, the weather, into one of the most interesting courses within the undergraduate curricula. He shuns PowerPoint, a common sleep aid, rolls up his sleeves, picks up a piece of chalk and uses his engaging lecture skills to communicate a subject he clearly loves.”

She adds that Davis sets aside extra time for explaining difficult concepts to his students. “It is obvious that the education of his students is a top priority,” she said.

— By Fariss Samarrai

Go to top

Frey is ‘outstanding educator, mentor and community member’

Sherwood C. Frey Jr.“When he begins a class, I cannot help but sit up straight in my chair, clear my mind and smile,” said Darden School student Kerry Feldmann of professor Sherwood C. Frey Jr.

“One of Darden’s pedagogical mantras is ‘student-centered learning,’” Feldmann noted. “The case method relies on student participation, but it is a blunt instrument in the wrong hands. With Sherwood, it is an art form.”

Fellow student Lee Fiedler said, “Dr. Frey has encouraged me and countless others to use the tools he gives us to approach the world creatively and make it a better place.” He demonstrates his commitment to this idea by traveling to the Middle East to teach, working with student organizations like Darden Outreach and the Black Business Student Forum, which he helped found, and by his involvement in local philanthropic organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Fiedler said.

“No Darden faculty member has ever done more to develop others to be outstanding teachers” at Darden and elsewhere, noted James R. Freeland, professor and associate dean for faculty at Darden.

“Much of who I am today as a teacher has been shaped by Sherwood,” said colleague Marc Modica. His “love of teaching is obvious and infectious. You can tell when he’s on his way to class from a distance: his walk is deliberate, his attention focused — he’s on a mission. …As a result, [classroom] discussions are full of spontaneity, creativity, humor and all-around fun.”

Of his teaching philosophy, Frey said, “I am guided by several simple tenets: accentuate the need to learn; walk in the students’ shoes; question more than answer; trust the process; and share the joys of success and the disappointments of failure.”

—By Rebecca Arrington

Go to top

Kolomeisky teaches beauty of physics

Eugene B. KolomeiskyEugene B. Kolomeisky wants his physics students to see beyond equations and particles.

“An important point is to convince students that physics (and science generally) is beautiful, even though it presents its artwork in a rather foreign language,” he wrote in responding to his nomination for a University-wide teaching award. “Equally, they should be convinced that it is possible for them to master the subject and see the beauty.”

Kolomeisky’s ability to translate that “foreign language” for his students is apparent in the kudos he has received since coming to U.Va. in 1997.

“Prof. Kolomeisky embodies the three essential traits which make a teacher outstanding: a detailed knowledge of the subject matter, a true desire to see his students succeed and the ability to present the material in a way that the students are able to understand,” wrote David Williams, one of his graduate students.

Kolomeisky, a native of Ukraine who studied in Moscow before coming to the United States and becoming a naturalized citizen, also won the physics department’s teaching award in 2000.

“Prof. Kolomeisky excels in that he is able to walk that line between professionalism and humanity without any sense of awkwardness,” wrote Jessica Reeves, another of his students.

The mathematics necessary to grasp graduate-level physics courses can leave students in “utter confusion” if not taught properly, noted Thomas F. Gallagher, department chair and Jesse W. Beams Professor of Physics. But Kolomeisky’s ability to synthesize material and present it clearly as a coherent whole make him stand out.

“His excellent teaching has played a significant part in the improving morale of graduate students,” Gallagher wrote in his nominating letter.

— By Lee Graves

Go to top

Lendon: ‘High standards teach’

J.E. LendonFirst day of class in intro history course, Ancient Greece. Professor seems nice, energetic, fascinating with his lecture, almost as if he knows some kind of classical oratory. Then comes the warning: There will be much hard reading of Greek authors, facts to be memorized. And, “my favorite letter in the alphabet is F.”

But the courses that associate professor J.E. (Ted) Lendon teaches in classical civilization continue to draw streams of students and lead them to take more.

Always clear, mixing rhetoric with humor, “he knows the art of making his points in ways that one is unlikely to forget,” says a colleague, Joseph Kett. In his classical warfare class, he organizes armies on the Lawn and leads them in full Roman military attire.

His students’ evaluations are consistently “euphoric,” “rhapsodic,” said Michael Holt, former chair of the history department. “They also repeatedly grouse that his courses are the most rigorous and demanding in terms of work-load, expectations and stringent grading that they have taken at the University.”

“There is never a wasted class, never a useless assignment, and never a pointless digression,” said Arts & Sciences undergraduate Carolynn Roncaglia.

Lendon, who joined the faculty in 1997 after teaching at MIT, says that the traditional approach to teaching classical civilization emphasizes how much the ancients are us. “I emphasize just as much how utterly different they are. When we come to know people unlike ourselves, we grow.”

As for his famously tough approach: “High standards teach. Students must be asked to learn a great deal, have what they must learn laid out for them with a terrible glaring clarity, and then they must be compelled actually to learn by making them display their knowledge.”

— By Robert Brickhouse

Go to top

Students dig LaViolette’s courses

Adria LaViolettePerhaps the most striking thing about Adria LaViolette’s teaching is her ability to span areas that appear disparate.

As an associate professor of anthropology, her primary research interest is the archaeology of Swahili villages in Tanzania dating from the eighth to the 16th centuries A.D., yet she also teaches courses on early European archaeology, as well as a popular course on modern-day Peoples and Cultures of Africa.

Students laud her passion for the past — and her ability to apply its lessons to the present. “I was admittedly skeptical about the interest and excitement potential of a subject such as African archaeology. It was something of a revelation to me, then, when she brought such knowledge to life by making it immediately relevant to my own insular life,” wrote fourth-year student Katherine Grillo, who now plans to pursue African archaeology in graduate school.

Likewise, graduate students such as Donald Gaylord say they learn as much from her classes as undergrads. “Making the material neither too simple for graduate students, nor too hard for undergraduates, she … make[s] sure that each student has fully grasped the material at hand.”

Her passion and dynamism in the classroom are complemented by her accessibility outside it. “I feel it is particularly important to help students keep their academic and personal lives integrated in the university setting, and to provide advice about how to take their academic interests into life after college,” she wrote.

Many follow her path. She regularly takes U.Va. undergraduates and grad students along to her Tanzanian digs, and she notes that over the years as many as a dozen former students have gone on to study-abroad programs in Africa and even into the Peace Corps.

— By Dan Heuchert

Go to top

Smith motivates his students to work harder

Michael Smith“Prof. Smith possesses that rare ability and courage to push students to the limits of their academic capabilities – and this is why the best students at U.Va. seek him out to be their teacher,”said Irene Oh, a Ph.D .candidate in the Department of Religious Studies. “Thought becomes disciplined in Prof. Smith’s seminars.”

Smith, Thomas C. Sorensen Professor of Political and Social Thought and director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Political and Social Thought, has taught at U.Va. since 1988 and has led the Program of Political and Social Thought for the past three years.

“I try to help all students, from undergraduates to Ph.D. supervisees, find their own, most effective, voice; when they succeed, nothing provides me with greater satisfaction,” Smith said. “Not all students learn in the same way; and thus to engage them as individual learners one has to listen and observe. Teaching should not be a standard shtick, one routine for all. I try to vary my responses to students according to my judgment of what they may need.”

Smith is rigorous in his approach to the written language, denouncing passive voice in students’ papers and fixing citation formats.

“Mr. Smith taught me more about writing than all my English courses have, combined,” said Bryan G. Maxwell, a student. “When I leave U.Va., the A’s I finally earned on papers for Mr. Smith … will be the academic achievement of which I am most proud.”

Hollingsworth Professor of Ethics James F. Childress, director of the Institute for Practical Ethics, was among Smith’s peers who praised him. Childress, who participated in several seminars and panels with Smith, cited his leadership skills.

“Michael Smith is one of the U.Va.’s real treasures,” Childress said.

— By Matt Kelly

Go to top

Sullivan closes gap between past and ‘read-about past’

John SullivanTo say John Sullivan’s office is cluttered might be an understatement.
“His office never fails to look like a hurricane hit,” said one student who took several courses from Sullivan.

Terence Burlij, another student, recalled his first visit. “I had to watch my step walking in, as the floor was covered with old-time radio programs on cassette tape and sheet music from vaudeville, minstrel and other variety theater shows,” he wrote in a nominating letter.

The artifacts Sullivan collects for his Radio Made America, Mass Media, American Studies and other courses aren’t just for show and tell. They’re to bring the past – and his students – alive.

“The longer I have taught, the more artifact-centered my classes have become,” Sullivan said. “I want to try to close the distance between the read-about past and the past.”

Sullivan, an associate professor in the English Department, has been praised not only for spicing up the past, but also for requiring Web-based research from students, for helping faculty develop the American Studies program and for being an effective administrator.

His peers see a colleague who takes learning far beyond the classroom.
“I regularly return to my own office to find several students milling about in the hallway, waiting their turns while another student is spending half an hour or more in John’s office. I envy him both the attraction students feel to him and the good-natured patience with which he handles it,” wrote English professor Raymond Nelson.

Sullivan came to the English Department in 1995 after having served in the Rhetoric and Communication Studies program since 1967. “A change in departments meant retooling, redesigning and rediscovering content,” he wrote.
That was both exhilarating and frustrating, he said, but the result has been classes and relationships students don’t forget.

“I have never felt more fulfilled as a student,” Burlij wrote.

— By Lee Graves

Go to top

Waldman gives students solid footing in architecture

Peter WaldmanPeter Waldman teaches new ways to see and think.

Known as an award-winning designer and teacher, he is also a mentor and guide who brings all his life experiences to the understanding of architecture and inspires his students to do the same. After a class with him, students say, they never think about the world the same way again.

Waldman, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Architecture, challenges his students to see not just the architecture of a place, but the spirit of it as well.
“Peter teaches whether behind a lectern or across a dining table,” said graduate student Andrew Burdick. “His ability to teach in such a myriad of locations is due to his ability to learn alongside his students.”

He touches students’ lives whether teaching first-year architecture courses or graduate design studios. In “Lessons on the Lawn,” a University-wide class Waldman created two years ago, he introduces views of architecture that go beyond bricks, mortar and columns.

“He presents architecture as a profoundly cultural event, one of civic and artistic nature, similar to literature and art, but also an event that is grounded in ethics and inspires citizenship, similar to philosophy,” said another graduate student, Roxi J. Thoren.

On the first day of class in Architecture 101, Waldman asks students: “Where do you come from?” and “Where do you now find yourself?”

On their last day, graduating students meet him on the Lawn for a sunrise barefoot walk. “Out of the darkness comes reorientation and we walk away, stained for life by the literal turf of Common Ground as a lingering response to Mr. Jefferson’s visceral and ethical project,” Waldman wrote in his statement to the nominating committee.

— By Jane Ford

Go to top

Data warehousing whiz, Wixom, makes learning ‘fun’

Barbara WixomBarbara Wixom believes that most good business ideas can be explained in a hurry. In her data warehousing class, the assistant professor at the McIntire School of Commerce has her students act out a 45-second elevator ride with a corporate chief during which they have to explain a business concept.

“Two years later, I still feel comfortable verbalizing the concepts that she teaches,” wrote Zachary Zimet, a former student who described her class as the toughest and best management information systems class he took at McIntire.
Wixom’s enthusiasm fires up her students in a field not generally linked with wild excitement.

“I think that any person who can take a subject like database management and turn it into something fun and interesting possesses a great gift,” wrote April Perera, another former student.

Perera is not alone in her assessment. In their course evaluations, students rave about her teaching: “Very enthusiastic – good at explaining difficult concepts in an exciting manner.” “Her enthusiasm and knowledge were really inspiring.” “Genuine concern for students.” “One of the best teachers I’ve ever had.”

“Barbara Wixom is not only a superb teacher, but she is also an exemplary scholar,” noted Carl P. Zeithaml, dean of the McIntire School of Commerce, in his letter of recommendation. “She is recognized internationally as an expert on data warehousing” and has been published in the top journals in the field of Management Information Systems. In 1999, the Society for Information Management recognized Wixom as having written the best paper of the year.

An Echols scholar, Wixom graduated from the University in 1991 and returned o teach in 1998.

“There are days when I honestly can’t wait to get into the classroom and share a wonderful finding that I know my students will appreciate,” Wixom writes. “What a blessing it is to be a teacher.”

— By Charlotte Crystal

Go to top


© Copyright 2002 by the Rector and Visitors
of the University of Virginia

UVa Home Page UVa Events Calendar Top News UVa Home Page