Four faculty members recognized for their outstanding teaching
Princeton NJ - Four Princeton faculty members received President's Awards for Distinguished Teaching at com-mencement ceremonies June 3.
They are: Robert Gunning, professor of mathematics; Joshua Katz, assistant professor of classics; Harvey Rosen, the John Weinberg Professor of Economics and Business Policy; and Elaine Showalter, the Avalon Foundation Professor of the Humanities.
A committee of faculty and undergraduate and graduate students selected the winners from nominations by current students, colleagues and alumni.
Gunning, who earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from Princeton in 1955, joined the faculty in 1956. He served as Princeton's dean of the faculty from 1989 to 1995, then returned to teaching courses in algebra and analysis.
Colleagues and students alike praised his skills at explaining difficult mathematical concepts and his devotion to students. "He has a truly unusual ability for exposition of mathematics at any level," according to one colleague. "He has a clear insight into the subject matter and in the capacity of his students to absorb the material. His classes are superbly organized and his lectures have just the right mix of theory, examples and humor."
Gunning's humor was mentioned many times in his nomination letters for the award. "What sets [Professor] Gunning apart are the intangibles," wrote one student. "He is always smiling. He tells horrendously nerdy math jokes that never fail to make everyone laugh."
Several students commented on the significant amount of time Gunning spends with them outside of the classroom on papers and homework assignments. "Professor Gunning strikes me as an inspirational combination of all the qualities that make up an excellent teacher," summed up one student. "He has a profound and intimate knowledge of his subject matter. Furthermore, he is incredibly skilled in explaining mathematics to students and is willing to go beyond the call of duty to ensure that his students genuinely understand the material. And finally, he combines his deep knowledge and teaching ability with alacrity, understanding and patience."
Katz, who came to Princeton as a lecturer in 1998 and was promoted to assistant professor in 2000, teaches courses on historical and comparative linguistics and ancient Greek and Latin. He is given much credit for reviving interest in these fields at Princeton.
"The really remarkable thing to me ... is that Katz's most extraordinary work has been done in an area for which there was virtually no audience when he first began his career at Princeton," a colleague wrote. "Yet after only two years as an assistant professor, he has already introduced hundreds of students to his field." The faculty member noted that one class, "Origins and Nature of English Vocabulary," had enrolled only 20 students in 1997; by spring 1999 when Katz was teaching it, there were 95 students taking the course.
Students repeatedly mentioned the care he takes with students in and out of the classroom. "Professor Katz is extremely excited with his work, and takes an authentic joy in spreading this excitement to his students," wrote one student. "Classes were active learning sessions filled with witty humor, intriguing discussions and memorable anecdotes."
A former student who now teaches Latin wrote in nominating Katz for the award: "What makes [Professor] Katz an outstanding teacher is his dedication to his students not only inside the classroom but also outside. Whether your major is classics or economics, whether you are a freshman or a senior, [he] will greet you by name (and likely place your accent), respond immediately to your e-mails, invite you to office hours and make you feel welcome and at ease when you arrive."
Rosen came to Princeton in 1974 and, from 1989 to 1991, served as deputy assistant secretary for tax analysis in the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In April, the White House announced that he would be nominated to serve as one of three members of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers.
Rosen teaches classes ranging from a large lecture on introductory economics to a small freshman seminar on taxation to an intermediate course on public finance. He is known throughout the University for his ability to remember each student's name and for his passion for calling on students in class and having them explain the next step in solving a problem. "He views teaching as a two-way conversation, and always encourages give-and-take in the classroom, even in larger classes where other instructors view this to be impossible," wrote a colleague. "Harvey is an engaged lecturer with a passion for his subject. The students consider his lectures to be clear, well-organized, hard-hitting and spiced with real-world knowledge accumulated from his days at the Treasury Department."
A student wrote, "By merging economic theory with current issues, Professor Rosen was able to transform what I would consider a rather mundane subject into an exciting and challenging course." Several students mentioned his far-ranging connections in the government and academic arenas and credited him with helping them to find internships and jobs.
Other students praised his commitment to his students outside of the classroom setting. Rosen initiated an informal lunch-time group in which graduate students and faculty present work-in-progress on public finance to each other. He also frequently has meals with students and attends their extracurricular events. "Through our frequent lunch, evening and 'on-the-fly' meetings, Professor Rosen has generously offered his tremendous insight and experience," wrote a student for whom Rosen has served as a thesis adviser. "My friends are astounded and more than a little envious of this close thesis collaboration. [Professor] Rosen is, quite clearly, committed to my success as a student."
Showalter came to Princeton's Department of English in 1984 and plans to retire from the University after the 2002-03 academic year. Her teaching and research interests are 19th- and 20th-century fiction, feminist criticism, popular culture, the history of psychiatry and literary journalism.
In their nomination letters for the award, students and colleagues highlighted the energy that Showalter brings to her teaching. "Elaine Showalter is a powerhouse professor with that magical 'certain something,'" wrote one former student. "Call it aura, call it charisma -- call it whatever you like -- but the 'oomph' [Professor] Showalter exudes enters the room two seconds before she does and surrounds her like a glowing fireball. She's every positive adjective one could conceive: intelligent, energetic, quick-witted, stunning, thought-provoking, etc."
Several mentioned her stimulating lectures that incorporate movie clips, Internet sites, audio mixes, artwork and PowerPoint presentations. "She is ever collecting and archiving new information about the novels and authors and films she teaches and working, in her lectures, to translate to her students her sense of how important literature is to the way we construct a sense of our contemporary culture," wrote a colleague.
Showalter's efforts to promote better teaching also were noted by nominators. She created a seminar on teaching for graduate student preceptors in the English department under a Cotsen Faculty Fellowship and also has written "Teaching Literature," a book about teaching literary studies that was inspired by the seminar. "Her pedagogy rests on a foundation of personal and intellectual generosity," wrote one of her former preceptors who now teaches at a university.
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