Finalists seek semester at BU
By Sara Tirrito
Three finalists for the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching will visit Baylor this fall, each giving two lectures in their respective departments as well as their official Cherry Award lecture.
This biennial award honors teachers from across the nation, and brings the winner to Baylor to teach for one semester.
The finalists are Dr. Brian Coppola, Arthur F. Thurnau professor of chemistry at the University of Michigan; Dr. Heather Macdonald, chancellor professor of geology at the College of William & Mary; and Dr. Allen Matusow, W.G. Twyman professor of history at Rice University.
Coppola is the associate professor of the chemistry department at the University of Michigan, and is also the associate director for the University of Michigan-Peking University Joint Institute in Beijing. He is also a co-director of the Instructional Development and Educational Assessment Institute, which aims to foster collaboration between faculty and students who are interested in teaching.
“We very much liked what he was doing with instructional development within the discipline of chemistry, because of course this is a teaching award, so it seemed like not only was his teaching excellent, but his research also corresponded pedagogically with the goals of the Robert Foster Cherry Award,” said Dr. Heidi Hornik, professor of art history and chair of the Robert Foster Cherry Award committee.
Coppola is currently in China and could not be reached for comment.
Macdonald is a co-director of the College of William and Mary’s minor program in marine science and was a member of a team that created a website, “On the Cutting Edge,” to assist geoscience faculty in staying abreast of the latest teaching and research advances in their field.
Macdonald’s application was strong because of her involvement in geoscience education and other specialty areas in geology, and also because of her work on the website, Hornik said.
“Her website utilized and made approachable lots of her methods about teaching to faculty across the United States,” Hornik said.
Through her teaching, Macdonald said she hopes to share her enthusiasm for the earth sciences and geosciences with students.
“One of the themes is launching people into the next stage of their career,” Macdonald said. “Whether it’s students going to graduate school or students finding a job that’s the right job for them or students going into earth science teaching…I’m really interested in helping with that transition.”
Matusow, who is also the associate director for academic programs at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice, has largely focused on the foreign policy of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, post World War II American foreign policy and U.S. history from 1945-1974 in his work.
“He was very strong in that area, and he also won several teaching awards, so we felt that his teaching and research seemed to go together because he has written books in this area,” Hornik said. “And his students seemed to like him as well.”
As an educator, Matusow said he hopes he can help students learn about the subject he loves and also have an impact on their lives.
“I think that you teach who you are,” Matusow said. “You teach because you think your subject is tremendously important and you want to communicate it to students and you hope that in reaching students you can make them address issues of values, and in a few cases, change a few lives.”
The finalists will receive a $15,000 prize in addition to $10,000 for their respective department at their home university.
The announcement of the winner is slated for January 2012. The winner will receive $250,000 — up from the former prize of $200,000 — and $25,000 for his or her department. The increase was scheduled to coincide with the completion of Baylor’s Vision 2012, Hornik said. The winner will also come to Baylor to teach for a semester.
Hornik said she does not expect choosing a winner to be easy.
“It’s usually a pretty tough decision,” Hornik said. “By the time they get to this point in the selection process they’re exceptional teachers and it becomes a difficult decision to select one for the award.”