April 25-May 8, 2003
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Following the rules pays off
The Right Stuff -- U.Va. teachers honored for inspirational work
Graduate teaching assistants honored by Seven Society
Sundberg open house May 7
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The Right Stuff
U.Va. teachers honored for inspirational work

They have the “right stuff,” and they are everywhere. Year after year, U.Va.students and faculty testify to the special ability of teachers in their midst who help students grow, both personally and intellectually.

Extraordinary dedication and caring characterize the faculty nominated for University-wide awards. The 2003 winners, selected by a committee from nominations backed by numerous testimonials, will be honored May 1 in the Rotunda at the 13th annual “In Celebration of Teaching” banquet. Honorees include:

Claire Cronmiller, associate professor of biology: the Cavaliers’ Distinguished Teaching Professorship. The endowed two-year chair, honoring excellent teaching, is partly supported by athletic bowl earnings.

Kenneth Schwartz, associate professor of architecture: 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.

Paul Freedman, assistant professor of politics: the Alumni Board of Trustees Teaching Award. The award is made 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.

Pamela Kulbok, associate professor of nursing: the USEMS Outstanding Teaching Award. The award goes to a faculty member who has taught with unusual success in the University Seminars program for first-year students. The award recognizes outstanding efforts to promote critical thinking skills and carries a $1,500 prize.

Winners of All-University Teaching Awards, each carrying a $2,000 prize and recognizing ability to inspire and motivate students, appear on the following pages.
Winners of University Teaching Fellowships, assistant professors chosen for their promise of becoming eminent researchers and inspiring teachers, also appear at the bottom of this page.

Claire CronmillerCronmiller brings caring to classroom

“This class rocked!!!” one student said.
A genetics class? Absolutely - when taught by Claire Cronmiller, associate professor of biology.

Cronmiller’s genetics lecture class, required of all biology majors, is exceedingly difficult and often dreaded by students, until they hear through the rumor mill that she cares while expecting the best from her students.

“They won’t care what we know until they know that we care,” is the teaching philosophy Cronmiller lives by. Once she began following that dictum, she said, “the rigid façade of the dispassionate lecturer came down.” She searches for ways to bring concepts and facts “‘to life,’ as well as for opportunities to make learning those concepts and facts personal.”

The method works. Cronmiller receives uniformly high praise from her students, not only for presenting difficult material clearly and interestingly, but also for showing she cares by offering extended office hours , extensive responses to student e-mails and a personable, approachable style.

Cronmiller demonstrates her love for genetics, and her students, by creative teaching that includes introducing her pet Himalayan rabbit to illustrate “the concept of conditional gene expression,” to writing and performing a rap song on genetics.

Literally, Cronmiller rocks!

— Fariss Samarrai

Paul FreedmanFreedman shows the fun of juggling

“Teaching is like juggling,” says Paul Freedman.
“It’s difficult and requires a good deal of practice, patience and concentration,” he says. “But when done well, it can be exciting, rewarding and — like juggling knives or balls of fire — even a little bit dangerous.”

An assistant professor of politics, Freedman has juggled courses in American government at U.Va. since 1997. He takes risks in his courses, trying to challenge the best students while not abandoning the others.

“[He] always answered questions respectfully, no matter how dumb the question was,” one student noted in his evaluation.

Freedman tries to show students how political theory plays out in the circus of real politics. Described as a rising star in American politics by Robert Fatton Jr., chairman of the politics departments, Freedman has a reputation as a dynamic and generous teacher.

He believes the ultimate challenge is to communicate the “dirty little secret” of education: “that learning - engaging with ideas, making connections, formulating and testing hypothesis, gathering data, seeing how it all fits together, reveling in new insights - is a joyous endeavor.

“It’s important for students to see that the juggler loves what he does, that he is having fun.”

— Charlotte Crystal

Pamela KulbokKulbok prepares students for challenges

Pamela Kulbok is the kind of teacher who changes students’ lives.

Former student Lorena S. Yoon struggled with English as a second language, but the tide turned when she received positive comments from Kulbok. “I have so much more confidence ... that I am equipped to do a good job because a teacher saw potential in my abilities.”

Kulbok, who teaches in the University seminars program for first-year students, has a strong commitment to building confidence in her students. Her supportive style of teaching is particularly helpful to students who have come from an under-privileged background or are struggling with English as a second language.

Always seeking ways to engage students to become passionate about health, she used one of her courses so students could examine their own health risks, including risky behaviors such as smoking.

Kulbok, who came to U.Va. in 1991, teaches courses in community and home health nursing and health promotion.

“When I am a successful as a teacher,” said Kulbok, “my students are prepared to face the mounting challenges to public health. ... The potential of this type of success is the ultimate motivation and thrill of teaching.”

— Katherine Thompson Jackson

Schwartz links architecture ed and profession

Kenneth SchwartzFrom introductory design classes to advanced courses on ethics and professional issues, architecture design students praise Kenneth Schwartz for his impact on their educations.

Fourth-year student Rebecca L. Garnett said, “He taught me to think about the actual people, how their lives will be affected, and then how they can affect the life of a place.”

Schwartz has spearheaded the development of a curriculum that championed a liberal arts education while providing a foundation for entry into the profession. He also has increased the number of women and minority faculty and students.

“As an African-American female within the field of architecture, I am particularly proud of Professor Schwartz’s commitment to diversity,” said Susan Carpenter, an alumna and lecturer in the School of Architecture.

Outside academic spheres, Schwartz is committed to civic work at local and national levels. In Charlottesville, he has served on various boards and is the founding director of the Design Resources Center.

“Ken is the embodiment of the enlightened professional who puts his indefatigable energy, enormous skill and profound expertise to work in the service of a better society,” said architecture professor William Sherman.

— Jane Ford

Teachers who help students grow

Gerard AlexanderAlexander finds formula that inspires

As a graduate student, Gerard Alexander’s ideas for his teaching came from his research.

Now, it’s the opposite.

“When my first book neared completion and I began to think systematically about new subjects, I found that many of my new thoughts were coming from my teaching: My work in the classroom was becoming generative instead of derivative,” said Alexander, who has taught comparative politics for the department since 1996. “That has remained the case ever since.”

Alexander says the change in approach has affected the way he teaches, and students have taken notice.

“Of all the courses that I’ve taken while here, it has stimulated me to think the most,” wrote one student.

Robert Fatton Jr., chairman of the politics department, describes Alexander as a gifted and enthusiastic teacher who is also a demanding instructor.

“Simply put, he is a great teacher, and while he is very popular with students, he does not sacrifice substance in the name of style or popularity,” Fatton said.

Joshua Dienstag, associate chairman, adds, “He has held the line on grades while basically being wildly popular with students: That’s as sound an indication as you can have of his excellence.”

— Charlotte Crystal

Barry Cushman‘Perfect balance’ characterizes Cushman

“Trusts and Estates” is a subject you need to take to be a lawyer. It deals with the technical points of wills and probate, a field with its own difficult terminology and rules. At U.Va., this basic course is often taught by one of the country’s leading legal historians, Barry Cushman.

Some might think the subject dry. But Cushman teaches it “with such verve and humor that it quickly became my favorite course that term,” one student recalled.
Such raves are not unusual. Cushman’s student evaluations “are perennially among the highest in the Law School,” said Dean John Jeffries.

He is also known for the total commitment he brings to everything he undertakes, said his colleague Michael Klarman. His scholarship has changed thinking about modern constitutional history, and his joint-degree program in legal history has produced four recent U.S. Supreme Court clerks.

Cushman “has achieved the perfect balance of being, at the same time, relentlessly demanding, enormously popular and genuinely caring,” wrote Amanda Biles, a recent graduate.

Cushman’s own teachers inspired him. “Concern for one’s students requires a teacher to find and highlight ways of looking at the material that will inspire their interest and curiosity,” he said.

— Robert Brickhouse

Dean DassDass creates community through art

For Dean Dass, professor of studio art and internationally exhibited printmaker, teaching creativity is more than nurturing talent and conveying technique — it’s all about an artistic community.

“What makes Dean’s teaching so exceptional is that he engages with students as fellow artists and collaborators. He believes in his students and in their talents and intelligence and actively works to help them achieve great things,” said Rob Walker, a studio art distinguished major.

Dass encourages students to incorporate an art history, philosophy or political context into their studio work. He challenges and inspires them while being critical and supportive, and provides links to the professional world.

Since arriving at U.Va. in 1985, Dass has led an expansion of the studio art program to include visiting artists who exhibit their work and interact with students in studio. He is also primarily responsible for creating the Aunspaugh Fifth-Year Program, when talented art majors can create portfolios before applying to M.F.A. programs.

Lawrence O. Goedde, professor of art history and chairman of the department, said, “Perhaps Dean’s greatest achievement has been in his creating within the studio program as a whole an artistic community embracing students, faculty and alumni in a common creative endeavor.”

— Jane Ford

Jonathan HaidtHaidt helps students find meaning

Jonathan Haidt makes a bold offer to his 550 or so students on the first day of his Psychology 101 class. He offers to help them find the meaning of life by the last lecture.

“Sure enough,” one student said, “every lecture built up to a grand finale holding the possible meaning of life.”

Though each person has to find that meaning on his or her own, Haidt helps.

“Students learn not just that psychology is powerful, but that it is powerful in their own hands,” he said. “College students are actively trying to figure out who they want to be, and psychology can show them how to get there.”

There is always a long waiting list for Haidt’s introductory psychology class. One first-year student actually found a future there.

“I called my mother to tell her I had chosen a major, and possibly a career, in psychology. Through his eloquence of speech and dynamic personality, he imparted a passion for psychology,” the student said.

There are numerous such stories.

Timothy Wilson, chairman of the psychology department, said Haidt “is a superstar in the classroom, as well as a caring, attentive mentor to undergraduates and graduate students.”

— Fariss Samarrai

Don JordanJordan’s style, caring make for packed classrooms

Don Jordan doesn’t just present material once in class and assume it’s the students’ responsibility to learn it.

He explains concepts one way, then from another angle, then from yet another. He seeks out creative in-class demonstrations, at various times employing squirt guns, toy trucks, olives and pints of Guinness stout. He schedules help sessions on the nights before homework sets are due and lures students to exam review sessions with free pizza.

“His efforts inside and outside the classroom always gave me a sense of his passion for teaching,” wrote one student. “He wanted to give his students every opportunity to learn.”

So what does Jordan teach? Something easy, right?

Try ocean engineering and fluid mechanics. Before “DoJo,” the course was rumored to be dull and boring. Now students are signing up “for the first time in the 20 years that I have been on the faculty here,” marveled colleague James C. McDaniel Jr. “Don is using a difficult book and gives lots of homework, so it is certainly not a ‘gut’ course.”

In fact, students have paid him the ultimate tribute. “He fills classrooms full of fourth-year students at 8 a.m., week after week, semester after semester,” one said.

— Dan Heuchert

Dr. Mark J. MendelsohnMendelsohn: ‘with everypatient comes a life story’

The hospital nursery can be an intimidating place for young medical students, but Dr. Mark J. Mendelsohn quickly puts them at ease.

“He simply exudes tranquility and patience,” said graduating student Courtney Judd. “He is extremely intuitive and knew just when to ask if we needed something clarified.”

Teaching awards are nothing new to Mendelsohn. As a resident at U.Va. in the 1980s and later on the pediatrics faculty at the University of Pittsburgh, he has been honored repeatedly as a role model and teacher.

Since joining the U.Va. faculty in 1996, he has been a favorite among students and residents alike because of his enthusiasm and excellence, said Dr. Gregory Hayden, professor of pediatrics.

“One of the things that amazed me was how much emphasis he put on learning about the entire patient,” added student Paul McIntosh. “He taught us to realize that with every patient comes a life story and not just a disease.”

Teaching includes educating patients and their families.

“The patient-physician relationship is being eroded by outside forces and increased dependence on technology,” he said. He hopes to show students how to make patients feel comfortable and trusting.

“This is a vital part of how I teach.”

— Robert Brickhouse

Pam RolandRoland has special place in ‘sacred line’

When Pam Roland talks about teaching, it’s as if she’s preaching.

“To be a teacher is to join hands in a long, sacred line with others who have invested themselves in their students,” writes Roland. “I often tell those about to become teachers that this is holy work.”

Her passion has won accolades from students eager to learn about curriculum, distance education and switching careers in the classes she has taught through U.Va.’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

“Pam took a bunch of motley professionals and made them into beginning teachers,” said one Hopewell woman who left advertising and software development to become a teacher.

Roland spent 14 years as an English teacher in Newport News, giving her solid grounding for her eventual niche of inspiring new teachers. She has designed and delivered more than 75 courses taught in more than 120 localities in the state and has developed workshops and courses for staff involved in all aspects of education.

“Pam is at heart a teacher of teachers,” said Sondra Stollard, dean of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. “Her curiosity and willingness to learn inspire those with whom she works and those whom she teaches.”

— Lee Graves

Laura SmolkinStudents savor Smolkin experience

Like a good book, Laura Smolkin enthralls students of reading and writing. Not many doctoral students would gush that they “savored” every moment of their dissertation experience, but Curry School Ph.D. Jennifer Kovatch did.

Kovatch, now an assistant professor at the Roanoke center of U.Va.’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies, credited Smolkin, an education professor who specializes in reading and language arts instruction, with giving her priceless treasures of guidance, encouragement and knowledge. Smolkin is described by other students as “enchanting.”

“There was no way one of her students could give up on the idea of becoming a teacher, because our class was constantly enthralled by her excitement, her positive approach and most of all, her leadership,” said Kathryn Ann Donovan, who finished the five-year teaching program in December.

Smolkin, who came to U.Va. in 1996, said that she has learned that students are best able to meet high expectations when the instructor provides equally high levels of support and excellence.

Curry Dean David Breneman noted, “She models the very behaviors we hope to see our teacher education graduates carry into their classrooms — compassion, creativity and caring, coupled with high standards and expectations.”

— Anne Bromley


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