2010-11 Distinguished Teaching Award Recipients

2010-11 Morse-Alumni Award Recipients:
2010-11 Graduate/Professional Award Recipients:


2010-11 Morse Alumni Award Recipients
Christopher J. Cramer
Professor
Department of Chemistry
College of Science and Engineering
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities


“…I view my role as an instructor as a quintessentially personal one. I want my students to feel not merely that they have learned a subject from me, but more importantly that they have been part of an intimate transfer of knowledge and experience that defines the human endeavor moving forward. That’s my definition of professorial success.”

Students rank Professor Christopher Cramer’s chemistry courses at the top for quality despite the fact that they’re really tough. As one former student says, "His patience in answering my questions seemed limitless, and he never made me feel small for not knowing something."

Besides designing several fundamental courses, Cramer has written a chemistry textbook used by universities in 16 countries. As a teacher and leader he seeks to make students feel part of a community. One student remembers Cramer’s meeting with incoming freshmen: "He began talking about his life as a student and how he got to where he is today. I became awestruck…I truly felt I made a connection in the large university."

A prolific researcher, with more than 300 refereed publications, Cramer has mentored dozens of undergraduates who have carried out research under his supervision. "Chris showed a passion for his work," says one of those students, "and an interest in me that far exceeded my expectations.…The faith Chris showed in my abilities gave me the confidence to pursue a Ph.D." Another says, "He was more concerned with you ‘getting it’ than handing out grades, which I liked."

A colleague sums it up: "How many instructors can boast of [such] strong student appreciation for their teaching…that [it] inspires the bumper sticker, ‘Honk if you passed P. Chem’?…While many [teachers] truly excel at a few aspects…I have met none that can match both the quality and stunning breadth of Professor Cramer’s contributions."

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Kirsten Fischer
Associate Professor
Department of History
College of Liberal Arts
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities


“In addition to learning a great deal of religious, social, and legal history, students practice skills they need as citizens: skills of analysis, of civil debate and fair argumentation, of engagement with opposing positions. When students develop their own historically informed opinions while remaining open to counter-arguments, I feel it’s been a good day’s work.”

Students and colleagues alike marvel at Professor Kirsten Fischer’s dedication, talent, and passion as a teacher, adviser, and educational leader in the history department. Her respect for students, interactive teaching style, and prowess for presenting material in a fair and unbiased way are just a few of the things that prompt accolades.

By discussing controversial issues related to history, religion, and politics, she motivates and challenges students to think critically about polemical issues. "Her leadership by example, enthusiasm, creativity, and relentless dedication…taught me some of the most valuable lessons about learning and research that I have yet received," says a former student.
Others credit Fischer’s personalized feedback for developing their well-rounded analytical and writing skills, and her concern for each student’s academic path is genuine. Another student notes, "she has a way…where she can push you in the right direction, without being overly harsh--but more important, without merely leaving you without any direction at all."

Colleagues credit Fischer with revitalizing the educational experience of history majors. A trusted mentor, she advised a student who won the Turner Award for best undergraduate senior project.

One of her greatest gifts stems from her commitment to the University’s land-grant mission. Her work with high school teachers to help their students build the skills necessary for a college education has impacted thousands of students within the community.

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Jeanne L. Higbee
Professor
Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning
College of Education and Human Development
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities


“My goal, as an educator, is to create the kinds of learning experiences in which students will feel supported as they face the challenges inherent in the exploration of human differences and hopefully to facilitate their growth as active participants in the ongoing fight against the kind of intolerance that in different ways has surrounded us all.”

Some people know Professor Jeanne Higbee because of her "gold-standard" pedagogies and evidence-based best practices. For others, it’s because she was the invested and caring teacher who took the time to learn their academic, co-curricular, and personal lives. Whatever the case, everybody knows Jeanne…and Jeanne knows them too.

A national expert on undergraduate education describes Higbee’s contributions to her field by stating, "When educators all over the country want to know the latest on best practices in developmental education, they first think of Jeanne Higbee and the University of Minnesota. For them she is the University of Minnesota." One of Higbee’s students sees it this way: "As an impressionable freshman, [her] encouragement and support assured me that the U of M was a great place for me to pursue my education and that I was capable of making valuable contributions…."

How can one person achieve such sincere regard on such different scales? A colleague recollects with reverence, "I have seen her greet--by name--dozens of undergraduates as we have strolled through campus. There is nothing quite as captivating as seeing their faces when Dr. Higbee recognizes them, when their only contact has been in a lecture course of more than 100 students."

It is this genuine care and concern that leads to Higbee’s success as a teacher and scholar. And it is her dedication to each student’s achievement that creates an atmosphere of possibility and excellence for all.

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Gary R. Jahn
Professor
Program in Slavic Languages and Literatures
College of Liberal Arts
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities


“I have been a teacher for so long now (more than 40 years) that I find it difficult to remember not being in front of a class.…My goal as a teacher of literature has been to provide my students with the context they will need to deal adequately with the texts and with a constant pressure upon them to encourage and elicit their personal experiences of the text.”

Gary Jahn has fired the imaginations and intellects of more than a generation of students during his career at the University of Minnesota. One of the world’s foremost scholars on the great 19th-century Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, Jahn challenges students in his Russian language and literature courses to go beyond their comfort zones. His patience and unremitting attention to each student, combined with an abiding passion for his field, create a classroom environment that gently prods the student to discover new strengths, abilities, and levels of understanding.

For Jahn, any time is a good time to give a student individual attention. "He treats each undergraduate as an individual person and takes the time that is needed to assist," says a former student. "I have seen this over and over again, during classes, after classes, on sidewalks, in stairwells, tunnels, hallways, or overheard from outside his open office door in Nolte Center."

Jahn was one of the first to embrace the use of technology in order to make his scholarship accessible to students and other scholars. In the early 1990s he began developing electronic texts of short works of Russian literature with hyperlinks to translations and linguistic information.
He has continued to employ innovative technology in his teaching, prompting a colleague to note, "For a person who looks and acts a bit like Tolstoy, he is amazingly contemporary when it comes to technology and bending it to his scholarly and teaching needs."

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Soo-Yin Lim-Thompson
Associate Professor
Early Childhood Education Program
Liberal Arts and Education Department
University of Minnesota, Crookston


“My students consistently motivate me to seek creative ways to reach each one, support them during times of challenges, provide and challenge them to discover their fullest potential, and guide and affirm their interests and aspirations in their future endeavors.”


Professor Soo-Yin Lim-Thompson is the epitome of a passionate teacher and committed adviser. In this role, she has always gone above and beyond to help her students excel and succeed. One describes her as "approachable and dependable regarding questions and concerns." She adds, "She is an excellent example of someone who accepts others and embraces diversity."

As an adviser, Lim-Thompson has made a positive impact on many of her students’ lives, always making them feel welcome and supported throughout their educational careers. Another student, since graduating, has considered Lim-Thompson not only "my adviser, but also a friend, confidant, and someone that I always want to stay in touch with because of who she had encouraged me to become in my four years at the University of Minnesota, Crookston."

Lim-Thompson is always trying to find ways to engage her students in learning; in 2008 she developed an upper division global seminar that took students to China. Whether in the classroom at Crookston or halfway around the globe, she seeks all opportunities to expand her students’ learning. One recalls, "I was always excited to be in her class because she constantly had such a positive energy about her and made learning fun by making class enjoyable!" Lim-Thompson’s accomplishments also extend to her research and educational program development and leadership. However, through all her successes Lim-Thompson has always made her students a top priority, making her an educator to be acknowledged.

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Susan C. Mantell
Professor
Department of Mechanical Engineering
College of Science and Engineering
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities


“I feel compelled to ensure that students have opportunities to touch things, take them apart, to make something work and to analyze failure. It is through these types of experiences that we can train our students as lifelong learners.”


Susan Mantell’s undergraduate students might have calluses on their hands…but not from note-taking. The mechanical engineering professor creates an environment where tinkering, constructing, and dissecting are at the core of learning.

In fact, she has become a pioneer in designing hands-on curriculums for her students. She does it in a manner that "masterfully strikes a balance between inspiring the students’ creativity and innovation while reinforcing the rigor of engineering design," according to a colleague.

Despite the complex nature of engineering concepts, she is able to distill theory and ideas into challenging but digestible coursework. She has a "very clear, understandable, and easy to follow method of teaching," says one student, adding, "…she seemed to really enjoy teaching and helping her students learn."

Outside the classroom, she has an intense personal dedication to mentoring and advising. One colleague remarks that Mantell sometimes meets with so many students, the line outside her office blocks department hallways! A former student, now a medical device engineer, recalls that she always strove to find "ways to forge strong connections with her students and to provide the best learning experiences."

Without a doubt, Mantell has strengthened student education in her department. From redesigning the teaching assistant program, to advocating for student lab space and equipment, and to being a role model for female engineers, her pioneering methods are building tomorrow’s discoverers.

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Michelle L. Page
Associate Professor
Department of Secondary Education
Division of Education
University of Minnesota, Morris


“I do not seek merely to ‘embrace diversity’ or ‘teach tolerance’ alone. Rather, I seek to play a role in creating a more equitable and just society.”


Michelle Page teaches teachers how to teach. In a diverse and ever expanding multicultural society, that’s no small task. Sometimes, Page uses props. Once, say students, Page came to class in traditional Moroccan dress and spoke French for the first 15 minutes to illustrate how difficult a classroom setting can be for nonnative speakers of English.

"Education is not only about information…it is about transformation," said Page. Evidently, she meant this quite literally.

One student recalls, "Whenever I entered her classroom, I knew I was in for something special."

But Page’s research and teaching focuses on multicultural education, diversity, and social justice issues in education, and sometimes learning encounters resistance, as evidenced on the occasion when one student said to Page, "I hate this class, and I hate you."

Page says, "…the problem was that what we were doing in class was leading her to confront her own values, history, and identity.…to begin to consider the possibility that the ideas [she] held about [her] life or community might not be true."

And so Page began working with the student weekly throughout the semester. At their last meeting, the student said to Page, "OK, I take it back. I never really hated you and I don’t hate this class either. It’s just hard when you have to question everything. It hurts. Growing pains, I guess. I’m seeing the world in a whole different way now. And it’s scary to think that I can and should make it better. But I’m going to try."

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2010-11 Graduate/Professional Award Recipients
Melissa D. Avery
Professor and Chair
Child and Family Health Co-operative
School of Nursing
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities


“The most rewarding part of my day as a faculty member is the opportunity to see a student through a success, whether that is sorting out a resolution to a small challenge, achieving a milestone such as completion of a course, paper or program, or those ‘aha’ moments that come along frequently during the teaching/learning process.”

Melissa Avery’s career illustrates what it means to be an innovator, a pioneer, and a beloved teacher. Her 26 years of leadership in nurse-midwifery education contributed to her groundbreaking development of web-based learning programs. She crafted a web-based technology that delivers the Graduate Program of Midwifery in an online format and includes four other programs within the School of Nursing.

With this technology, Dr. Avery has given graduate study opportunities to those from underserved populations. One student expressed her gratefulness for the program, stating, "I would not be a midwife today, had I not had the opportunity to enroll in courses online."

Avery has been recognized both nationally and internationally for her creative innovations, publications, and presentations. She has also held elite positions with the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM) as vice president and president. Even with all of her achievements, Avery has never lost sight of her students and has included them in her work, from research to publications.

Many students have credited Avery for getting them to where they are today. One student states, "There is no doubt that Melissa has made outstanding contributions to my doctoral education.…For that, I cannot thank her enough."

Dr. Avery is celebrated for her dedication within the field, significant contributions to web-based education, and her compassion for teaching.

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Janet M. Dubinsky
Professor
Department of Neuroscience
Medical School
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities


“BrainU has been a catalyst for change…in the teaching styles, knowledge and professional development of middle and high school teachers,…in the learning environments of their students,…[in the] development of intercollegiate graduate education courses and opportunities for graduate students, and…in the teaching of Department of Neuroscience faculty.”

Janet Dubinsky’s lab investigates the role of metabolism in neuro-degeneration and has clarified significant aspects of Huntington’s disease, a devastating neuropathy. She has done it with continual grant support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), private foundations, and other agencies since the mid-1980s--something, a colleague notes, that is not only "a tremendous accomplishment in these times of reduced funding," but also "a reflection on the quality and importance of [her] study of neurodegenerative diseases."

Another reflection of the important work she does can be found in middle and high school science classrooms across the state, where, as one student put it, his teacher "teaches like he really knows what’s going on inside my brain."

That teacher was a graduate of BrainU, a highly successful, NIH-funded, professional development program for science teachers that Dubinsky developed and directs. It introduces the science of the human brain and the neurobiology of learning to teachers and gives them tools to present that material using real experiments and active, exciting scientific processes. In 2009, Dubinsky was honored with the Society for Neuroscience’s Science Educator Award for her work with BrainU.

"Dr. Dubinsky has addressed creatively and with deep commitment a major concern in our society, the general lack of appreciation of and interest in science and, as important, the process of scientific discovery," says a New Jersey colleague who is implementing BrainU in his state.

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Edward G. Goetz
Professor, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
Director, Center for Urban and Regional Affairs
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities


“I remember that as a student I learned best when I was truly engaged in the topic or by the instructor. As a result, I keep the ‘space’ between me and the student as minimal and as uncluttered as possible.”

Admiration for Edward Goetz is copious and consistent. A peer describes him as "a jovial and supportive colleague," while a student pronounces Goetz "the standard by which all other professors are judged by the Humphrey School student body." A local civic leader stresses that he is "an insightful, credible and moral force in our community," and a former student (and current faculty member) declares that Goetz "stands for the model of the engaged scholar."

For this dedicated faculty member of 22 years, such lofty praise is tied to specific acts of service and progress at the Humphrey School and the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs. Exponentially growing the enrollment of the Master of Urban and Regional Planning program; writing successful accreditation reports; including students in scholarly research; and creating sound, relevant community partnerships are all part of Goetz’s extensive legacy.

A colleague explains that Goetz has "bucked [the] trend" that assumes that the school’s traditionally two-year professional students aren’t concerned with engagement in research. One such student explains how he helped her "implement a research strategy that was academically sound and respectful of the participants."

While his pervasive accessibility and absolute rigor play a role, it is above all Goetz’s ability to light that first spark in order to fully engage a student, who might have thought she or he was merely passing through a required course, that makes all the difference.

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Ralph W. Holzenthal
Professor
Department of Entomology
College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities


“I consider myself a ‘hands on’ adviser, mainly because of my genuine interest in the student’s research, but I hope with enough ‘hands off ’ to give students the freedom to follow their own course.”

Insects are a source of enduring fascination to Ralph Holzenthal, a world authority on caddisflies, a group whose well-being is used to gauge the health of streams. He infuses his excitement into graduate students in every subject he touches--for example, the study of how insects are classified based on their evolutionary history. Holzenthal takes students on field trips to places like Central and South America and weaves the latest discoveries in molecular biology into the saga of how insects evolved. He has trained many students and professionals from Latin America and Africa, generating new waves of entomologists to keep alive the study of insects in those areas.

He even turns students who think they have no artistic talent into illustrators of insects, skilled in both pen-and-ink and computer-aided renditions. "...[H]e breaks myths that some materials are only comprehensible to privileged minds," says a former graduate student from Mexico.

Among his many contributions is a complete overhaul of the graduate student manual while he served as his department’s director of graduate studies. But the true depth of his impact may be summed up by a former graduate student from Colombia: "One of the most important lessons I have learned from Dr. Holzenthal [is that] the forest crisis of illegal cropping, deforestation and pollution can only be stopped, and sustainable management of the aquatic ecosystems be achieved, when the spirituality and peace of communities living with nature are involved and respected."

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Anatoly Liberman
Professor
Department of German, Scandinavian, and Dutch
College of Liberal Arts
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities


“Every year, young people come to me, certain that I know answers to all their questions.…And every time I have to decide how to open and shape their minds, without instilling dogmas into them, and how to bring out their best qualities, without making them too dependent on my judgment.”

A decade ago, an associate of Anatoly Liberman was asked at a conference, "What is it like having the most distinguished Germanic studies scholar in the world as a colleague?" Liberman’s reputation has not diminished.

The Modern Language Association, which recently awarded Liberman’s A Bibliography of English Etymology its prize for distinguished bibliography, said the work, "...is destined to become one of the most authoritative resources on the origin of English words." A colleague notes, "Because of his research, the University of Minnesota is now the global center for English etymology."

Former students hold him in the same high regard. Says one: "I was totally blown away by his manner of teaching, his enthusiasm, his sense of humor, his profound knowledge." That manner, says a faculty colleague, includes "exhaustive preparation, his skillful lectures, his carefully targeted ‘digressions,’ his patience for any mistake made in earnest, the joy he shows when students surprise him, and above all, his refusal to patronize."

Another student recalls the depths to which Liberman would make his students dive, and, consequently, the heights to which they’ve now risen--many are professors at institutions around the world. "It was never just the ‘what,’" says the student, "but more importantly the ‘how,’ ‘why,’ and ‘are you sure?’"

Liberman’s knowledge is vast, his research runs deep, but knowledge and research are nothing if they fail to rise. In his teaching, Liberman makes sure that they do.

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Raymond M. Newman
Professor
Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology
College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities


“I am particularly interested in developing interdisciplinary teams and programs to help solve important environmental problems and, more importantly, to help train the next generation of scientists and managers to be better equipped to deal with these challenges.”

Colleagues of Ray Newman, an aquatic ecologist, will tell you he has worked wonders in organizing graduate programs. For example, he led the effort to establish a $3 million National Science Foundation graduate training program in the interdisciplinary field of risk analysis for introduced species and genotypes and showed "remarkable leadership" as director of graduate studies for the Water Resources
Science (WRS) Graduate Program.

But he also works wonders through his devotion to individual graduate students, giving freely of his time despite his formidable schedule of service commitments. One former student remembers when, as a prospective WRS graduate student, he contacted Newman for information about the program. "To my surprise, Dr. Newman spent nearly two hours on the phone with me, answering all my questions and leaving me utterly impressed and excited at the prospect of entering the WRS program," he recalls.

Newman sets a high standard that his students try to emulate. "Even 10 years later, I still used Ray’s course notes and syllabus from his fisheries management class to help me structure my own lectures for a similar class..." says another former student, now a college professor.

All Newman’s students attend conferences, publish papers, and otherwise act like full-fledged scientists. One who studied invasive aquatic plants remembers how he invited her to Twin Cities-area meetings on the topic."I met state and local agency staff members and obtained a real-world understanding of invasive species management," she says.

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Margaret V. Root Kustritz
Associate Professor and Assistant Dean of Education
Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences
College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities


“I was blessed with great teachers and mentors.…Those mentors instilled in me great attention to detail and an appreciation for how to take what others had done and to build on it for the future.”

Margaret Root Kustritz is an all-around stellar faculty member. Not only has she won five significant teaching awards in the last 10 years and published at least 120 textbook chapters in her field of animal reproduction, she has pioneered online learning, served on many professional, University, and College of Veterinary Medicine boards and committees, and has spoken around the world. "Within [her field] Dr. Root Kustritz holds iconic status [and is] an inspiring role model," says one colleague. She is "a professor who is valuable beyond estimation," opines another.

Root Kustritz’s work as the college’s professional development coordinator has created a model that has inspired many other colleges, and her rigorous online learning efforts have allowed her to help prepare veterinarians around the world. These are just a few of the reasons she was appointed assistant dean for education at the college and serves on the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education. Among her significant research are findings that have allowed for earlier spaying and neutering of kittens, helping reduce unwanted reproduction.

Perhaps the greatest compliments come from her students, who vote each year to have Root Kustritz suit them at the White Coat Ceremony and announce their names at graduation. "Dr. Root Kustritz stands out as an exceptional professor whose superior teaching abilities are due not only to her long tenure," writes one, "but also due to a unique gift [for] inspiring a passion for learning in her students."

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Ann E. Van Heest
Professor
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery
Medical School
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities


“The essence of medicine is helping others. Mentoring the professional training of other orthopaedic surgeons to become competent, ethical, board certified healers, as well as my core work as a pediatric orthopedic hand surgeon, has been the joy of my academic career.”


When Ann Van Heest spoke years ago to first-year medical students about her work, her words indelibly shaped one student. "She was fascinating," recalls the woman who would also choose orthopaedic surgery. "It was surprising for me to see a young woman as the representative to a profession I had assumed wasn’t an option for my gender."

Van Heest represents her profession well. She is an internationally recognized expert in the treatment of children with hand disorders. And as the residency program director for the U’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, she has developed cutting-edge approaches to graduate medical education that are setting a standard nationwide. A leader in competency-based assessment for students and residents, her development of an e-portfolio has become a national model. And she continues to guide more women in a male dominated field. Only 3 percent of orthopaedic surgeons and 13 percent of orthopaedic surgery residents nationwide are women; at the U of M, some 20 percent of orthopaedic residents are women.

Van Heest is past president of the Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society, the national organization for female orthopaedic surgeons, and recently received the Parker J. Palmer Courage to Teach Award, the highest recognition for a program director.

Residents describe her as genuine, supportive, a wise mentor, and a role model. Van Heest is "my inspiration for going into the field of orthopaedics," says an advisee. "She changes the lives of not only her patients but also her students and residents on a daily basis."

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