Foster Cherry Award winner to challenge faculty in new position
By Sara Tirrito
Dr. Edward Burger, the 2010 Robert Foster Cherry Award winner, will return to Baylor in July as vice provost for strategic educational initiatives.
“It’s a wonderful honor and I’m delighted to be able to return to Baylor, a place that I greatly enjoyed in the fall as the Cherry professor,” Burger said. “I’m thrilled to be working with the administration and the students and faculty to help to make Baylor an even greater institution than it already is.”
In this new position, Burger will spend one year helping faculty examine how they approach teaching and what transformational effects they can have on students’ lives through the lessons they incorporate into their teaching.
“Dr. Burger will continue and expand initiatives that he began as the Robert Foster Cherry professor in the fall,” said Dr. Elizabeth Davis, executive vice president and provost. “For example, he will continue the faculty forum and offer seminars to encourage faculty to think about the enduring lessons that emerge from their academic disciplines.”
After watching Burger interact with students and faculty in the fall, Davis created the position in the hope that he could be enticed to return to Baylor.
“Because it was a temporary position and it’s not one that will likely continue past this year, I actually created this with him in mind,” Davis said. “I thought that I might have the opportunity to convince him to be with us for another year and the effect that he had on the campus was so pervasive for that one semester that he was here, I thought, ‘Wow, we could get a whole lot done if he would be willing to come and be with us for another year.’”
Burger’s new position does not have a direct bearing on the university’s strategic planning process, but his work will help other campus leaders determine what a 21st century education should look like, Davis said.
“Though his position is not directly related to our strategic planning process, the fact that he is with us during this year of strategic planning will help faculty, department chairs, deans and other academic leaders to think strategically about how we approach teaching and learning in the 21st century,” Davis said.
Burger said he is excited to participate in discussions with department leaders as they plan for Baylor’s future, and hopes to encourage faculty to think about inspirational and transformative teaching.
“First, I really am looking forward to having thoughtful conversations with deans and chairs of departments to see what directions Baylor can and should move,” Burger said, “and then to engage the faculty in thinking about truly effective and truly inspirational teaching in which we offer our students lessons that will transform them and lessons that will be with them for life.”
Davis said Burger’s abilities and goals in education make him the right person for the job.
“The very fact that he was the Robert Foster Cherry Professor lends credence just to the level of teacher he is,” Davis said. “The way that he’s able to transform student lives, the way that he’s able to engage faculty in thinking about the transformational aspects of education, really what he has spent his life’s career working toward, makes him the ideal faculty member to lead us in this regard for the next year.”
In working with the math department at Baylor last fall, Burger brought new perspectives on teaching and on interactions between the math department and other departments, Dr. Lance Littlejohn, chair of mathematics, said.
“I don’t think we had ever had anybody like that before,” Littlejohn said. “He’s so good; he’s so natural at engaging anybody in academics.”
Littlejohn said he is pleased that Burger will be returning to campus for another year and expects to see the passion Burger exhibited in the classroom carry over into his new position.
“I think Ed is just one of these very rare individuals who’s going to succeed no matter what he does,” Littlejohn said. “He has an obvious passion for teaching. I suspect he’s going to have an obvious passion for doing this work in the provost’s office as well.”
Dr. Ronald Stanke, associate professor and graduate director of mathematics, said he believes Burger’s return to Baylor will have a lasting influence on the Baylor family because of his ability to build relationships and his enthusiasm for his work.
“He’s demonstrated that he can pique a student’s interest in the math they’re studying and establish strong relationships,” Stanke said, “so it’ll be great to have him doing all these things at another level, at the level of faculty.”