2011-12 Distinguished Teaching Award Recipients

2011-12 Morse-Alumni Recipients:

2011-12 Postbaccalaureate, Graduate, and Professional Education Award Recipients:



2010-11 Morse Alumni Award Recipients


Dennis Becker
Associate Professor
Department of Forest Resources
College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
“I have heard students say that it does not matter how well they do in a class because it is not the real world. I make no such distinction. The classroom is where they explore their values and gain a better understanding of the complexity of the world around them. My goal is to help them to see how their experiences relate…”

“Good morning. What is going on in the world today?” So began the first day of one of Dennis Becker’s courses—and every day thereafter—recalls a former student.

Learning is a conversation and a partnership, Becker believes. To know what is going on in the world, we must talk, we must listen, and we must act. This is what he teaches, and this is how he lives.

In the classroom, he’s been called an innovator, using diverse teaching methods to keep it active and engaged. He asks his students not just to state their opinions, but challenges them to understand the opinions of others—to articulate and contrast those with their own.

Each of his students must research real environmental case studies and formulate meaningful policy alternatives. He teaches from his own life experience and his research on the social and economic impacts of forest and natural resource policy, from here in Minnesota to his investigations into illegal logging in Madagascar. “Bringing his experiences into the classroom made learning about environmental science far more interesting,” says a former student.

Perhaps most of all, students and colleagues recognize him as a man who has time for people. As one colleague puts it, “He is one of the most sought after faculty advisers…because of his willingness to put [students’] needs ahead of his own.” A student says it best: “There are professors who will never be for-gotten and who will help shape the lives of their students. Dr. Becker is one of those professors for me.”
Kathryn Pearson
Associate Professor
Department of Political Science
College of Liberal Arts
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

“I want to share political insight that goes much deeper than the latest sound bite, and as a female professor, I want to serve as a role model not just to my students, but to girls and women who may happen to catch my comments in the media and begin [to] think more seriously about politics, and especially about their potential role in a male-dominated arena.”

When current and former students describe Kathryn Pearson’s teaching prowess, the same words spill out time and time again: passionate and inspirational. Given that her field is political science—a realm that can leave students indifferent—that’s high praise, indeed.

Students also say she’s engaging, enthusiastic about sharing her knowledge and answering questions, and, in short, “a model professor.” One student calls her “the finest educator and mentor I have ever had the privilege of working with.” They also gain from her perspective as a former congressional staffer on both sides of the aisle, and treasure the observations and anecdotes from her time on Capitol Hill.

Pearson’s research has been published broadly in prestigious journals, and she willingly imparts her methodology to students, showing them how to collect new data to answer their own questions. She has also offered a number of new honors courses, including a class for freshmen on campaigns and elections that coincided with the last presidential contest.

As an adviser, she shows genuine care for students’ intellectual development, as well as a willingness to go “above and beyond the call of duty” to advance their career aspirations. Former advisees invariably credit Pearson for her guidance in getting them to where they are now.

Further evidence of Pearson’s trademark passion and inspiration? Says one student: “She is the kind of professor who actually inspires you to watch C-SPAN, which speaks for itself.”
Steven Sternberg
Associate Professor
Department of Chemical Engineering
Swenson College of Science & Engineering
University of Minnesota, Duluth

“It is tremendously challenging and rewarding to discover how to help students reach their intellectual potential. This merging of teaching and research, usually done on an informal and one-on-one basis, is the most interesting work I have ever done."

After beginning his professional career as an engineer, Steven Sternberg knew he could do more. Fueled by his desire to make a difference in the world, Sternberg eventually found where he belonged—in a university classroom. Surrounded by aspiring students, he knew he could help those who would be the change that the world needs.

Described by students as passionate and respectful, Sternberg makes his classroom an interactive environment designed to inspire and motivate. His teaching philosophy is centered on the success of each and every student. By incorporating prior experiences with an array of educational methods, Sternberg has the rare ability to make complex scientific material not only interesting, but also understandable. “He had the uncanny ability to make the abstract feel real,” says a student.

Colleagues marvel at Sternberg’s never-ending commitment to undergraduate education and his genuine concern for students. As a teacher, adviser, and faculty mentor to numerous student clubs, he constantly works to improve each student’s collegiate experience. He was a leader in developing an engineering accreditation program and an environmental science degree program at the Duluth campus, and he has been instrumental in creating professional development opportunities. “Dr. Sternberg makes an indelible impression on every student he encounters,” recalls a student.

Without question, Steven Sternberg has made, and will continue to make, a difference in the world.
Serge Rudaz
Founding Director of the University Honors Program and Professor
Department of Physics & Astronomy
College of Science & Engineering
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

“It is my job to exemplify and model for [students] what a scientist does and how to do it, in real time. Lectures are also performances, and require active participation and interaction, so, no PowerPoint!”

Thirty years ago, Serge Rudaz turned down a plum job at a national research laboratory because teaching was as important to him as research, and only at a university could he do both.

Students find learning from him exhilarating. For example, students in one of his honors physics classes were inspired to set up a tribute website, complete with pictures and Rudaz “quotes of the day.”

But it is as founding director of the all-University Honors Program that Rudaz may be making his most profound impact. He has built UHP into a cross-disciplinary, Ivy League-caliber structure that has the nation’s top students flocking to the University. This year, 166 National Merit Scholars—more than at any other public Big Ten university—chose the U, nearly all in the honors program. Rudaz always finds time to meet with students, each time seeking to bring to his advisees those things he would have wished for himself as a student.

“His capacity to guide initially anxious and grade-focused young people to search for understanding through practiced reasoning, with the willingness to take on challenges and some risk…is phenomenal,” notes a colleague.

One former student, now a high school physics teacher, says, “I want to convince my students that ‘the world is understandable,’ just as Professor Rudaz convinced me.”

Or, as another puts it: “Serge made learning fun, and because of that, he could teach us concepts and principles and challenge us to excel beyond what we ever imagined.”
Ulrike Tschirner
Professor
Department of Bioproducts & Biosystems Engineering
College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

“I enjoy working with each and every one of these students, irrespective of their background and aptitudes, and continue to stay in contact with students as much as possible after graduation.”

When students talk about Ulrike Tschirner, “She made time for me” is a refrain one hears over and again.

She is known for her warm, caring style and willingness to put aside what she’s doing and help students with problems or questions.

During her 16 years at the University, she has helped develop and teach an astonishing array of courses and has long served on her college’s committee to draft academic program policies and review new course and major proposals. Tschirner also played a significant role in shaping the bioproducts and biosystems engineering major and managing its day-to-day operations.

Typical of her versatile teaching style, she may set up an industry visit for students to see and learn about a biomass gasifier, and the next day begin a solid waste-to-energy research project in her lab.

“Originally a paper chemist, she has taught us all to be adaptable and use our existing skills to innovate the newest technology, whether it is for manufacturing or bioenergy,” says one student.

A former student who holds undergraduate and advanced degrees from the U and is now a college professor has molded her work life after Tschirner’s.

“I have an open-door policy, just like Dr. Tschirner, and I have found it makes a world of difference to the student,” she says. “In all my years at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Tschirner was one of the best professors I ever had, and without her, I would not be where I am today.”











2011-12 Postbaccalaureate, Graduate, and Professional Education Award Recipients


Allen Goldman
Regents Professor
Department of Physics & Astronomy
College of Science & Engineering
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

“Success in research also requires focus and often very hard work. I try to motivate students to focus on their scientific goals and to work tirelessly.”

Allen Goldman, the University of Minnesota’s most prominent experimental physicist, has trained 55 Ph.D. students and 17 postdoctoral researchers—extraordinarily high numbers for his field of condensed matter physics. A national colleague says, “I am not aware of a single person in our field who has produced so many students with such outstanding research and teaching careers.”

A former student declares, “Allen Goldman is as close as one can get to being the perfect mentor.” Another says, “He led his students by example, treating everyone with genuine respect and with the utmost professional integrity.”

He often gives students with less than perfect academic records a chance to prove themselves in the lab. “I strongly believe that if there is a scientist in any student, Allen Goldman can bring it out,” says a colleague. “Allen had a way of building the confidence of graduate students by trusting their abilities and encouraging their contributions,” a former student says. “He didn’t talk down to you, rather he encouraged you to step up, to tackle challenging and interesting scientific problems.”

Goldman is nationally recognized for his leadership in developing ethics education in the training of scientists. And through his reputation and personal qualities he attracts a diverse group—about a third of his Ph.D. students have been women. As one says: “In Allen’s lab, any student, male or female, could expect to receive outstanding mentoring and do excellent physics as part of a collaborative, respect-filled group.”
Kim Johnson
Professor
Department of Design, Housing & Apparel
College of Design
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

“Advising and mentoring of students is the aspect of my job that brings me the most joy. To be a mentor is to provide the support and encouragement that students need to manage their own learning and to gain confidence in their abilities.”

Kim Johnson, in a word, is engaged. She is engaged on a level that dominos throughout her world, an engagement that is infectious among colleagues and inspiring to students—who in turn engage, find a place in the world, and make it their own.

Outside academia, she has served as editor of the leading journal in the field of clothing and textiles, and as president of the field’s principal organization. She has developed courses where shortfalls existed, and improved many more. She has been director of graduate studies, leading an overhaul of the Design, Housing, and Apparel graduate program. And in the meantime, she has co-authored dozens of papers with her students, encouraging them at every opportunity.

Johnson’s students call her a teacher, an adviser, a mentor. The last is the aspect of her job that she revels in most. One student, now a professor at a California university, recounts, “She taught me the value of passion and persistence. One day she put a small card in my mailbox, saying ‘Passion will sustain you,’ and this became my motto. It sustains me even today.”

A colleague notes, “She frames anything that could be considered ‘failure’ as opportunity for growth and change.”

A teacher imparts a world to her students. And in a world where passion and persistence are of utmost value, and where failure is just a synonym for opportunity, Johnson, as another colleague recalls, “…had the vision to see who we could become.”
Bonnie LeRoy
Associate Professor
Department of Genetics, Cell Biology & Development
College of Biological Sciences, BioGen Center
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
“I feel as though I have been able to make a difference in the lives of my students, as well as play a role in the evolution of the genetic counseling profession, and through these experiences, patients and families have benefited.”

Bonnie LeRoy has made an impact on many lives throughout her professional career—from those of her students and colleagues to those of patients and families struggling with genetic diseases.

In 1988, LeRoy was given the opportunity to design courses for the genetic counseling program. Approximately 22 years later, that program has grown from 2 to 132 students. From her own experience as a trained genetic counseling practitioner, she understood what students needed to succeed to their full potential.

Among those needs were textbooks that focused specifically on genetic counseling. Collaborating with colleagues, LeRoy has since published two teaching texts for the profession. Referring to one of them, a former student and current colleague says, “[Her book was] one of the first to clearly describe the interpersonal communication skills required to be an effective genetic counselor and to provide practical methods for teaching these skills.”

LeRoy’s impressive background ranges from serving on various committees to teaching and designing courses at the U. “One theme consistently expressed by nearly every individual is their recognition of Bonnie’s mentorship and encouragement as having a profound influence over the path they have taken during their professional careers,” says a former student. “Bonnie has without a doubt changed my life,” says another. “[She] creates a foundation of knowledge, guidance to feel comfortable evolving, and encouragement to soar at the career, state, and national level.”

Timothy Lodge
Distinguished McKnight University Professor
Department of Chemistry
Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
College of Science & Engineering
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

“It is tremendously powerful for students to realize that they can actually grasp the fundamentals of the field, even at the level often seen in the research literature....The ‘aha’ moment when a student first sees how to map an unfamiliar problem onto one they already know how to solve is remarkably satisfying.”

Timothy Lodge is, in the words of his nominator, a “brilliant scientist, caring adviser, outstanding educator, [and] an untiring worker on behalf of his discipline and the University....” In addition to being a preeminent scholar in polymer science, Lodge has advised an incredible 51 Ph.D. and 11 M.S. students and trained more than 25 post-doctoral researchers, most of whom participated in research with him and presented at major conferences where they were included in discussions with senior scientists.

Lodge has been intimately involved in course and program development in his field, where he aims to get every student to new levels of understanding. “He has the wonderful ability to teach the complex mathematical theory and make it intuitive, so students understand both the math and the concept,” says a former student. He also coauthored the premier textbook in polymer chemistry, while editing the field’s most prestigious journal and directing the U’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.

But it is in preparing his students for research and academic careers where Lodge truly shines. “He demands a high degree of rigor from both himself and...his group,” states a former student. “I model my own advising...after the way Tim demonstrated while I was a part of his research group.” Writes another: “I...try to model my own graduate teaching after Professor Lodge.… This is certainly a tall order given his combination of deep insight and ability to cut to the essence of a particular topic with aplomb.”

Jennifer Pierce
Professor
Department of American Studies
College of Liberal Arts
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

“Part of my job is to demystify [the scholarly] process for graduate students and encourage them to imagine themselves as part of a larger national community of academics who work in similar areas.…Working with my students…demonstrates the vibrancy and possibility of a public and collaborative humanities at the University of Minnesota.”

Jennifer Pierce is an exceptional instructor, a developer of innovative courses, and a distinguished graduate adviser. A leading sociologist in American studies, she is distinctly accomplished at developing her students’ professional skills and preparing them for success in academia.

During her 19 years as a professor at the University, Pierce has shared professional opportunities and collaborative research with her students, involving them at all levels of publishing. Many former students connect Pierce’s intense engagement with their research to their intellectual growth and ability to become leaders among their colleagues. As one student comments, “My success in graduate school and the satisfying career I have built...all lead back to [Pierce’s] teaching, mentoring, advising, and the intellectual camaraderie and professional networks into which she introduced and welcomed me.” Pierce has guided a record 12 Ph.D. dissertations to completion, opening her home for a monthly dissertation group. Nine former students currently teach in tenure-track positions at major colleges and universities.

Pierce has pioneered major collaborative projects that have resulted in the publication of two forward-thinking books: Queer Twin Cities and Feminist Waves, Feminist Generations. She also redesigned the graduate Teaching Practicum in American Studies and devised progressive new graduate courses for the curriculum. Her genius is evident to her students. As one says, “Discussions were lively and provoking, and many of us in the course were transformed by it.”

David Power
Associate Professor
Department of Family Medicine & Community Health
Medical School
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

“There is an art to practicing good primary care medicine that differs from hospital care, and there is an art to precepting a student in clinic. I enjoy trying to practice that art with each individual patient and with each student.”

David Power has made it his mission to improve the quality of education that University of Minnesota Medical School students receive on a day-to-day basis. His contributions to programmatic improvements in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health are recognized not only by his colleagues, but also, more particularly, by the students he teaches and advises.

Power has advised more than 75 medical students who praise his attention to student psychology, patience in teaching, and inspiration in leading student discovery. One student credits Dr. Power’s advising as the reason he didn’t quit medical school during his third year, while another former advisee recalls, “Dr. Power is the kind of mentor that I will remember for the rest of my life, and the kind of mentor I hope I can be one day.”

In addition to his advising work, Power’s interactive teaching method emphasizes the importance of patient care by understanding the patients personally as well as medically. This focus has driven him to implement and create programming at the Medical School, including Standardized Patient encounters. These involve actors who pose as patients with particular questions or concerns, and give students a standardized education and experience in the crucial patient interaction skills that are so important to learn.

Dr. Power has diligently supported and implemented this method of learning because of his passion for teaching, mentoring, and advising students to become the best doctors they can be.

Yoji Shimizu
Professor
Department Laboratory Medicine & Pathology
Medical School
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

“I have directly involved trainees at various levels of career development in my research laboratory, [including] graduate students, postdoctoral trainees, undergraduate students, and high school students....I have strived to create a laboratory environment that values collaboration, creativity, and passion for discovery.”

He is a world-renowned immunologist and a devoted mentor, an exacting scientist and innovative educator. Yoji Shimizu’s unique blend of scientific achievement and passion for educating has had an unparalleled impact on graduate education during his 21 years on the faculty of the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Among his achievements: As director of the Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology graduate program from 2004 to 2007, he undertook a recruiting initiative that resulted in an increase in the percentage of underrepresented minority students from a prior nine-year average of less than 5 percent to 20 percent. Furthermore, notes a colleague, Shimizu nurtured these students’ career development once they were at the University.

As director and principal investigator of the University’s rigorous, eight-year-long Medical Scientist Training Program, Shimizu oversees the training of nearly 60 aspiring physician-scientists, a responsibility he views as “an incredible honor and privilege,” believing they represent the future leaders of academic medicine. Upon assuming the role, Shimizu met individually with students to learn about their career goals and hear ideas for improving the program. According to former students, he consistently provides the same individual attention in his laboratory. As one notes, “Dr. Shimizu has gained a well-earned reputation among students as being a fantastic mentor and student advocate....It is rare for a world-renowned principal investigator to so willingly give of their time....”

Traci Toomey
Professor
Department of Division of Epidemiology & Community Health
School of Public Health
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

“I help students develop skills I wish I had gained in my own coursework....Although I hope my research will make a difference, I believe that training the future generations of public health specialists is where I will make a real improvement in the health of populations throughout the world.”

Before the start of every semester, an email from Traci Toomey pops up in her colleagues’ inboxes, reminding them to take the initiative in contacting their advisees. That nudge is a hallmark of her drive to improve teaching and advising in the School of Public Health, where she helped establish more formal, unified teaching expectations, and was lead author of an advising handbook that has since been adapted by other units at the U.

In the classroom, Toomey’s expertise is evident in the number and range of courses she teaches, as well as their popularity. “Students who take just one...often go on to take all of her available courses, even if the subject...lies outside of [their] area of interest,” says a colleague.

But her impact is most apparent in the work she does beyond the curriculum. Toomey often advises 10 to 20 students per year, many of whom fall outside her own research area. “Traci was the first person I met during my pursuit of a joint law and master’s [of public health] degree who understood...and could help me envision new uses for such a degree,” says a former advisee.

To prepare students for real world practice, Toomey initiated (beyond teaching and research responsibilities and without funding) and co-facilitated a series of free workshops on such topics as grant writing and Hmong views on health care. Says another former student, “I learned more from Dr. Toomey’s critical evaluation of her failures than from any number of...presentations. [Her] willingness to bring her whole self to her teaching will stick with me for years to come.”



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