By Rylee Seavers | Staff Writer
Three finalists have been selected for Baylor’s Robert Foster Cherry Award for great teaching. The winner of the award will be announced in spring 2018.
The finalists are Dr. Heidi Elmendorf, associate professor of biology at Georgetown University; Dr. Neil Garg, professor of chemistry at UCLA; and Dr. Clinton Longenecker, distinguished university professor of leadership at the University of Toledo.
Dr. Michael Thompson, professor in Baylor’s department of electrical and computer engineering, and associate dean for undergraduate programs and chair of the Robert Foster Cherry award committee, said the three finalists will visit Baylor to deliver a public lecture and teach two classes. These events will help committee members determine the eventual winner.
Dr. DeAnna Toten Beard, professor and associate chair of theatre arts and member of the Robert Foster Cherry Award committee said the committee is looking for exciting and effective teaching methods, engagement with students and expertise with the subject.
“We’re looking to be inspired as teachers, by these teachers,” Toten Beard said.
The committee is made up of leading academics from all across campus, according to the award website. Toten Beard said it is humbling and inspiring to serve on the committee and read the applications of world class teachers.
The winner of the Robert Foster Cherry Award will teach in residence at Baylor during the fall 2018 or spring 2019 semester. Professors can be nominated by students and faculty at their home universities, by Baylor professors or sometimes by themselves, Thompson said.
Baylor professors are not eligible to receive the award, Thompson said, because Robert Foster Cherry thought it was important to recognize great teachers outside of the Baylor bubble.
“We’re looking for great teaching, which is different from just great scholarship,” Toten Beard said.
Toten Beard also said she likes to see professors engaging with all levels of teaching, meaning she likes to see world-class professors teaching intro-level classes. Toten Beard said this is especially important because the award winner will be engaging with Baylor students when they teach a course in residency.
In addition, Toten Beard said having professors teach in residence at Baylor is a great opportunity for Baylor students and faculty because it is stimulating to be surrounded by great teaching and different backgrounds.
“Teaching is hard work, and the most meaningful work that you could do with your life and to acknowledge people that do it at the highest possible level is profoundly good, in my opinion,” Toten Beard said.
The Cherry award is for all disciplines that have a representation at Baylor and is the largest monetary teaching award, Thompson said. The final winner will receive $250,000 dollars and an additional $25,000 dollars for his or her home department.
Robert Foster Cherry received his A.B. degree from Baylor and was a student at Baylor law school, according to the award website. He had experienced the impact of great teachers in his own life and wanted to recognize those teachers and bring them to Baylor, according to the website.