We have all had professors who have profoundly affected us, whether we have been at Southwestern University for one year or five. These instructors have blown our minds, have exceeded their statuses as mentors to become our friends and changed the course of our lives. These professors have poured tireless effort into our learning, going above and beyond their call of duty to ensure us the best education available. We find ourselves awed by these professors achievements, and strive to be half as great in our professional and personal lives. It’s time to give back and offer your nomination for the Southwestern University Teaching Award.
The tradition of The Southwestern University Teaching Award goes back more than 10 years. “We had three different faculty members, Dr. Dirk Early in Economics and Business, Dr. Tracy Guiliano in Psychology, and Dr. Maria Lowe in Sociology and Anthropology were very interested in honoring what Southwestern is most proud of, which is teaching undergraduate students,” said Julie Cowley, the associate vice president for Academic Administration. “We felt like we had programs in place to acknowledge research and scholarship, but not really anything to recognize the teaching that our faculty do.”
After propositioning for the award and securing a $2,000 award prize, the tradition was set in stone. Two Southwestern University Teaching Awards are presented each year – one to a tenured professor and another to a nontenured professor. Nontenured faculty members include visiting professors and part-time professors. An Honorary Degrees Committee, comprised of eight professors from the Humanities, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and the School of Fine Arts, serve two-year alternating terms and make the decision as to which professors earn the honor. Previous winners of the award include the award’s three founders, Dr. Rebecca Sheller, Dr. Phil Hopkins, and two-time winner Dr. Shannon Winnubst.
“[Selection] is a hard process because we have such good faculty here,” said Cowley. “In fact, each year when the Honorary Degree Committee is having their meetings, we always talk about how they can’t really make the wrong decision, because they’re choosing among great people.” The nomination process is simple. Click the link on the Southwestern website and follow the clearly labeled directions on the form. “We want to hear what that student’s opinion and experience is with the professor’s different ways of teaching, what makes them different in the classroom,” said Cowley. It’s easy, it’s not time-consuming, and it can make the world of difference to any number of professors on campus.
“One of the messages we want to get out is that there is no such thing as too many nominations, and to not assume that I’m sure my friends will nominate ‘Fill in the blank’,” said Cowley. “It’s okay for a person to have multiple nominations, and that, in fact, gives the committee a broader look at the faculty member because students are talking about that faculty member from different perspectives.”
Once professors are nominated for the award, the Honorary Degrees Committee requests that they submit additional material for review, such as syllabi, descriptions of assignments and projects used in class, and research involving students. Even end-of-the-semester course evaluations of professors are counted. “It really starts with them [the students],” said Cowley. “It really starts with what they write and what they tell us about the person, because something about that nomination kind of catches the interest of the committee, then it’s whittled down from there.”
The deadline for the nominations will be the Friday before Spring Break, March 12. The awards will be presented at the last faculty meeting of the semester. “The faculty who have been chosen for this tell me consistently that this is the most important honor that they’ve received,” said Cowley. “They say this is why they chose to come to a school like this, this is why they stay at a school like this, and so to know that this is coming from the students just means the world to them.”
Go to http://www.southwestern.edu/offices/provost/teachingawards.php to fill out the nomination form.