Excellence in Teaching Award winners (from left) Michal Herzenstein, Thomas Becker, Juejun Hu and Gary Allison.

Faculty honors

Eight faculty members recognized for excellence in teaching, advising


4:01 p.m., May 6, 2013--Eight members of the University of Delaware faculty have been recognized for outstanding work in teaching and advising, and three graduate teaching assistants have received awards for excellence in teaching.

The Excellence in Teaching and Excellence in Undergraduate Advising and Mentoring awards were presented at the May 6 meeting of the Faculty Senate.

Honors Stories

National Medal of Science

President Barack Obama recently presented the National Medal of Science to University of Delaware alumnus Rakesh Jain.

Warren Award

Rosalind Johnson, assistant dean for student success in the NUCLEUS Program in UD's College of Arts and Sciences, was presented the John Warren Excellence in Leadership and Service Award during a May 26 ceremony.

Excellence in Teaching Awards are based primarily on nominations from current and past students. Each winner receives $5,000, has his or her portrait hung in Morris Library for five years and has a brick, inscribed with his or her name, installed in Mentors' Circle, between Hullihen Hall and the Morris Library.

This year's Excellence in Teaching Awards were presented to Gary Allison, assistant professor of special education; Thomas Becker, professor of management and chair of the Department of Business Administration; Michal Herzenstein, assistant professor of marketing; and Juejun Hu, assistant professor of materials science.

UD's Excellence in Advising and Mentoring Award is based on student nominations, and recipients each receive $2,500 and are honored with an inscribed brick in Mentors' Circle.

Honored this year were Marsha Baumeister, assistant professor of education; Jennifer Buckley, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; Eric Furst, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering; and Jennifer Gregan-Paxton, associate professor of marketing and senior academic adviser.

Each recipient of the graduate student Excellence in Teaching Awards receives $1,500. This year's honorees are Tiffany Racco, an art history doctoral student from Meriden, Conn., specializing in Italian Baroque art; Furkan Cayci, a doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering from Istanbul, Turkey, whose research examines embedded systems, power analysis and hardware technology; and Joseph Turner, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English from Baltimore, whose dissertation explores medieval literary and rhetorical traditions.

UDaily asked this year's honorees to share their thoughts about teaching and advising. Excerpts from their responses are printed below. To read the complete responses (PDF) of several of the honorees, click on their names.

Excellence in Teaching

Gary Allison: “I deliver instruction in multiple modes in order to reach and teach my students and have developed new methods to do so. My general approach is to make the instruction exciting, engaging and memorable. To think that I play a part in the professional preparation and development of UD's teachers, who are, without question, the finest in the region, is beyond gratifying.”

Thomas Becker: “Students need to learn both the theory and practice of management. Most importantly, to be successful managers they need to understand the evidence for and against specific managerial practices. This requires that they avoid fads and fashions in business and that I avoid fads and fashions in teaching. What works for me is a priority on meaningful learning, rigorous standards, enthusiasm for the topic, and genuine concern for students.”

Michal Herzenstein: “My teaching philosophy, in a nutshell: teaching complex material in a down-to-earth and entertaining manner. I expect my students to work hard, study well and produce high quality output, while I give them plenty of resources and attention. I design my courses with the purpose of illustrating to students both the elegance and complexity of the marketing discipline.”

Juejun Hu: “Teaching is a fun inventive process. I draw inspiration from research of my own and others, from everyday life, from conferences I attended, from the news I read, from the movies I watched, and from conversations with people — and these resources may well become examples in my class lectures in the forms of projects, examples, in-class demos and little jokes.” 

Excellence in Advising and Mentoring

Marsha Baumeister: “Consistently, [my students and] future teachers shared that despite their initial fears about student teaching, at the conclusion of the experience, they felt confident about beginning a career as an educator, and that was the goal I had hoped each of them would accomplish… I am indeed fortunate and blessed for the opportunity to softly guide our future educators.”

Jennifer Buckley: “Engineering is a combination of theory, practice and common sense. I think that every student whom I work with has the potential to be competent in all and excel in at least one of these practices. In doing so, they will become a good professional engineer and make a meaningful contribution to society. I never think that a student cannot reach a particular milestone, whether it is making a novel design or understanding an engineering concept, and I like to think that my belief in them helps them reach their goal.”

Eric Furst: “Among chemical engineering departments across the country, UD is recognized for its unparalleled tradition of mentorship. Having benefited greatly from this tradition in my own professional development, it is a tremendous privilege to pass it on to the next generation of chemical engineers. Mentoring requires an investment in time and energy, but it is the most critical element of a student's education, and an investment that returns dividends far into the future to support our shared mission of education and research.”

Jennifer Gregan-Paxton: “As an adviser, I’m invited to participate in one of the most significant and consequential phases of an individual’s life. This is a great honor and privilege. I feel truly fortunate to be in a position to provide young people with the guidance and support they need to successfully navigate the challenging, thrilling and sometimes treacherous path to adulthood. The ‘advising’ I provide varies tremendously from student to student, based on each student’s unique needs, but my overriding goal remains the same:  to help every student articulate and achieve his/her professional, academic and personal dreams.”

Excellence in Teaching by graduate students

Tiffany Racco: “I see my role as a teacher as one of turning frustration into curiosity. My first step is to present [students] a challenge, and then to give them the tools they need in order to arrive at an understanding on their own. An open dialogue is always key. In the end, I hope to have made the best of an opportunity to pass onto someone else the ideas, objects, and pieces of history that I see as mattering deeply.”

Furkan Cayci: “In engineering, I believe one of the main problems that students are facing is to actually relate the course material to real-world applications. I like to present the questions that make them realize that connection and lead them into finding answers.”

Joseph Turner: "My pedagogical focus is always on students' writing. Equipping students with strong writing skill can help them long after they leave UD. An education is about learning to reason through complex ideas, and I want my students to see writing as a tool for understanding difficult material."

Article by Artika Casini

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson and Ambre Alexander

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