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Between April 27 and May 15, UVA Today will feature profiles of several of the many exceptional members of the graduating Class of 2015. These are stories of academic excellence, research prowess, extraordinary public service and much more. Together, they illustrate the rich experience of an education at the University of Virginia – one made possible by the students themselves.
The stories published so far include:
For more information on graduation weekend, visit the official Final Exercises 2015 website.
For a separate series of photo profiles published by the Class of 2015’s Fourth Year Trustees, follow @2015 on Instagram.
Editor’s note: Over the new few weeks, UVA Today will introduce readers to some of the outstanding members of the Class of 2015. All of the stories, plus other information about Finals Weekend, will be compiled here.
“Growing for Change” is fourth-year University of Virginia student Shantell Bingham’s $10,000 grant project for her Dalai Lama Fellowship, which starts this fall. It could also describe her undergraduate career.
Originally recruited to U.Va. as a track and field athlete, Bingham, who hails from Burlington, North Carolina, planned a pre-medical education and soon decided to give up athletics to devote herself to her academic studies. Several experiences led her to change her focus to public health issues and education, locally and globally, although she didn’t want to give up art entirely.
As a first-year student, Bingham coached a local youth soccer team, where she met the girl she would formally mentor when volunteering with Madison House’s Bridging the Gap program during her second year.
“I love this program for mentoring refugee kids,” said Bingham, who directs Bridging the Gap this year. With their parents often working long hours, the children don’t usually have the opportunity to pursue extracurricular activities, she said. Student volunteers help the refugee youth by doing things such as taking them to, or supporting them at, sports games or music events.
Bingham has maintained her relationship with her Tanzanian mentee, now 14. They like to take walks together, often taking photos, a common interest that she has nurtured and shared with the teen.
“Mostly, I’ve been someone she can talk to and be an emotional support for,” Bingham said, adding that the girl’s family has had a rough time between the refugee camp and the transition to American life.
In her second year, Bingham also took a medical service trip during the January term to Nicaragua and Costa Rica, where the group helped staff health clinics. That piqued her interest in community-oriented public health, and she decided to apply for U.Va.’s Global Development Studies program, concentrating in the public health path.
She has combined her desire to bridge barriers that impede education and community connections with her passion for art. A member of the Student Global AIDS Campaign, she participates in art therapy nights and a family camp on spring weekends with the Ryan White Clinic. Last summer, she completed a photography project, going to Westhaven, a Charlottesville public housing neighborhood, and the Southwood Mobile Home Park, home to many immigrants in Albemarle County. Some of her photos are on display in Clemons Library.
Bingham said being in the Global Development Studies program encouraged her to think about ways she could “connect with the world, be helpful and have cross-cultural experiences.” She credits the faculty in the program for the support they give to students, and have given to her.
“Shantell was an exceptionally imaginative social thinker, quick to see the point of someone else’s critical insight, quick to develop an alternative possibility in discussion,” said Richard Handler, director of the Global Development Studies program, who taught Bingham in one of the program’s core courses. “She came to class ready to listen and absorb, but also ready to contribute. I had the sense that she took great delight in learning to think in new ways.”
Two years ago, Bingham traveled to South Africa with the Field School for Public Health Research, led by summer faculty member Christopher Colvin. They visited rural areas outside Cape Town, including two black townships, Khayelitsha and Zweletemba.
Her group decided to investigate youth perceptions of “matric” – a final exam given to high school seniors in South Africa. “This exam determines if you will be able to apply to college and pursue higher education,” she said. Her team concentrated on Khayelitsha, where the high school dropout rate is 50 percent, she said.
With the support of a Minerva Award from the College Council at U.Va., she’ll return to Cape Town for six weeks this summer to conduct research with Colvin, head of Social and Behavioral Science at the University of Cape Town, on the sense of “school belonging” among South African teenagers in Zweletemba, bringing photography into the process.
“Specifically, I hope to gain understanding on how black township culture has influenced youths’ perceptions of barriers and opportunities for educational success by using photography as a means for participants to articulate their ideas on the built and social environment of their neighborhoods,” she said.
As for that “Growing for Change” grant project, Bingham and fellow student Artem Demchenko, from the School of Architecture, proposed a community initiative with Westhaven residents to design and build gardens in limited spaces, also encouraging healthy lifestyles. They’ll put together a team of students to work on the project through next year.
Bingham said she liked the idea of not only working with the local community again, but also working across student networks and academic disciplines.
“My experiences at U.Va. have been far more than I could’ve imagined, especially going to foreign countries,” she said. “Bridging the Gap and research in South Africa have truly impacted my perceptions on life in so many ways. But I think what’s most important is realizing the privilege of obtaining an education – the opportunities and mobility it can offer. It’s a pricey good that truly has power and economic leverage and not everyone has access to it.
“For me, understanding the who, what, when and why of educational success is what has driven me to continue my education and research. My hopes are to uncover the full narrative of academic success from multiple perspectives so that we may take the proper action to close achievement gaps and expand access.”
The University of Virginia can now wear a green ribbon for its sustainability efforts.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced this week that the University had been awarded the department’s Green Ribbon Schools Postsecondary Sustainability Award. U.Va. was one of only nine post-secondary institutions across the country given the award, and the only one in Virginia.
“This award provides national recognition for the University’s progress in environmental stewardship, wellness and sustainability education, which is led, implemented and utilized by thousands of students, faculty and staff across Grounds,” said Andrea Trimble, director of the University’s Office for Sustainability.
“The Department of Education is recognizing the importance of education in the realm of sustainability,” she said. “It is recognizing schools that are working in many different areas and combining education with other elements and recognizing the whole.”
The University was judged on three areas. The first focused on reduced environmental impact and costs in areas such as cutting greenhouse gas emissions; improving water quality, efficiency and conservation; managing solid and hazardous waste; and promoting alternative transportation. The second area examines improved health and wellness – environmental health and coordinated school health. The third category takes into account effective environmental and sustainability education through interdisciplinary learning; Science, Technology, Engineering and Math content; and civic engagement knowledge.
The Department of Education began the Green Ribbon program in 2012, but previously recognized sustainability efforts only in K-12 schools, Trimble said. U.Va. was recommended by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.
Among the University’s sustainability achievements, Trimble noted that U.Va. set a goal that by 2025, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as reactive nitrogen emissions, by 25 percent from 2009 levels. Much of the research necessary for measuring nitrogen footprints originated at U.Va., which is the first institution of higher education to set a nitrogen footprint reduction target.
Representatives from the University are invited to attend a ceremony in Washington in June where the school will be honored and recognized for its efforts. The four-day event will be an opportunity to meet with members of Congress and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, as well as other education leaders, Trimble said.
“This also builds awareness of what we are already doing on Grounds,” she said. “We can look at the progress we have made and look at the work still to do.”
A University of Virginia student will use a Kenan Fellowship to examine the interaction of students, faculty and slaves in U.Va.’s Academical Village from 1825 to Reconstruction.
Brittany (Britt) E. Brown, of The Bronx, New York, a third-year history major, received a 2015-16 fellowship from the William R. Kenan Endowment Fund of the Academical Village, created to finance programs that further the educational mission of Jefferson’s Academical Village. Brown will receive $4,000, with an additional $1,000 to go to her faculty adviser.
Brown’s research is focused on the hotels, specifically comparing Hotel C to the others. In the Academical Village – the original University designed by Thomas Jefferson – both of the outer rows of buildings, called “ranges,” includes student rooms and three hotels, which originally had separate “innkeepers” who fed and furnished students living in the adjacent rooms. Now the hotels function as office and meeting space for the University community.
“It will analyze how the hotel spaces influenced the community and how the spaces have transformed through the given time period,” Brown said. “Examining and understanding the influence of the hotels at the start of the University is not only gravely important due to the rich history and tradition that surround them, but also to give a greater public understanding of the space in the Academical Village that is still utilized today.”
Brown is a Meriwether Lewis Fellow, a member of Black Oasis for Learning and Development, the Community Honor Fund, Open Athletes and the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society, which meets in Hotel C, a focus of her research.
“Part of this fascination stems from my involvement in the Jefferson Society in present time, watching how my peers interact with each other and how other organizations use the space,” she said. “I am interested in understanding how Hotel C was used in the past, specifically in relation to the other hotel spaces. This includes recreating what those spaces looked like rhetorically and virtually; the significance of slaves living and working in and around those spaces; the faculty, students or administrators responsible for those spaces in the past; and all events occurring in those spaces that shaped the University community in some way.”
Brown said she applied for the Kenan because of her involvement with the Jefferson's University – Early Life Project, a research project that studies the University from its founding in 1819 through the end of the Civil War.
That’s where Brown first met Worthy Martin, an associate professor of computer science in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and a co-founder of the research project with Maurie McInnis, vice provost for academic affairs in the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, and Kirt Von Daake, associate professor of history and assistant dean in the College of Arts & Sciences. Von Daake also co-chairs the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University.
“Brittany has distinguished herself among this large group of students with her engagement in the investigations,” Martin said. “She picked up the technical skills required for the direct tasks she has been assigned and has made good progress. We have encouraged the students to consider a theme of their own to research in addition to assigned tasks. Brittany jumped on the opportunity and selected Hotel C as the locus of her research.”
Brown is on track to receive a master’s degree in public policy from the Frank Batten School for Leadership and Public Policy in 2017. She then plans to seek a doctorate in history.
“The Kenan Fellowship is a large breakthrough in my historical research career as I consider getting a Ph.D. in history in the near future,” she said. “I am very grateful that I get to research a topic that I deeply care about and will provide a stronger understanding of the University.”
Student leaders are working with the administration and members of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors on two new initiatives intended to increase engagement and enhance communication on issues of key importance to the student body.
The first is an innovative program that will employ crowdsourcing to allow the student body to bring their most important issues to the board.
Student Council, along with incoming Board of Visitors student member Daniel Judge, are inviting students to describe in 150 words or less what they would like to tell the board. The council’s executive team will choose the 15 most constructive queries and post videos of those proposals on the Student Council website. The process culminates with students voting for the two students they believe best reflect their voice.
Student Council will select a third student. The three who are selected will make presentations to the Advancement and Communications Committee, and co-chair John Griffin will report out to the full board.
“The model is based on the TedxUVA student speaker model,” Student Council President Abraham Axler said. “It balances the responsibility we have as elected representatives to express student concerns to University administrators and board members while allowing students who maybe are not in formal leadership positions but have a really great idea or a really big concern the opportunity to speak directly to the people who make decisions at the highest level.”
Axler said the Student Council has been in conversation with the Board of Visitors about increasing student input since the beginning of the academic year and that Griffin encouraged students to create a mechanism to help realize that goal.
“U.Va. prides itself on student involvement at all levels, and I am happy to see our students identify an opportunity and bring forward a creative approach,” Griffin said. “I appreciate the chance to improve the board’s engagement with them, and I’m eager to learn which issues the students select for discussion.”
Advancement and Communications Committee Co-Chair John Nau said he also welcomes efforts to build new avenues for dialogue on key issues. “Our student board member does an excellent job of representing student views, and this new effort will help broaden the discussion and decision-making process even more,” he said.
The second initiative involves the creation of two new student committees, one an advisory group on tuition and the other an advisory group on fees.
Axler said these were created in connection with the passage of U.Va.’s new Affordable Excellence program, a model that seeks to maintain the University’s value and academic excellence with a sustainable, multi-year financial plan that significantly lowers student debt for qualifying Virginians while identifying funding to support strategic priorities. The committees, he said, will create avenues for additional student input and address some frustration that emerged from the approval process of the new tuition and financial aid model.
The application process for both committees is open and work will begin in September. Both groups will have a series of meetings with Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Patrick D. Hogan.
“This is a really wonderful opportunity for students to have more engagement on these issues and is another example of the exceptional student leadership at U.Va.,” Hogan said.
Judge said one of his goals is to help bring more students before the board and the new comment program is the first step in that process.
“It is important to note that this format is an experiment, but the resolve to increase the student voice is not,” he said. “This process is appealing because it removes the bias of one individual choosing who speaks for the students and instead welcomes a plurality of opinions at the University.”
The board also has named Judge to the finance committee.
“These innovations all aspire to the same goal, and that is to ensure that our shared stewardship of this University puts it in the best position possible to fulfill its mission of service,” Rector George Keith Martin said. “The students are really leading these efforts and that can only lead to good things.”
Taking graduate business students on a wilderness journey with the National Outdoor Leadership School; allowing students to design experiments with live animals to observe their behavior; greeting a refugee patient in his own language to teach medical residents cultural understanding – these are a few of the ways University of Virginia faculty engage their students in hands-on, innovative learning experiences that are life-changing, challenging and fun.
Fourteen professors and five graduate instructors received teaching awards Wednesday night in recognition of their impact not only on students, but also on their colleagues who nominated them.
“Teaching has an eternal effect,” President Teresa A. Sullivan said at the ceremony, held in Alumni Hall. “Those who learn from you in turn will teach others, and so on. Teaching weaves the generations into an historical fabric that connects us all.
“To teach is also to make order out of disorder, to transform confusion into understanding,” she said. "The act of turning incomprehension into knowledge, transforming inability into skill and defining ethical sensibilities is profoundly creative."
English professor Stephen Cushman and biology professor Sarah Kucenas also were recognized for receiving the state’s highest honor for professors in December, the 2014 Outstanding Faculty Award, given by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and Dominion Resources. The U.Va. Provost’s Office administers the rest of the teaching awards handed out Wednesday.
Click on the names below to read what colleagues, students and the honorees themselves have to say about teaching and learning.
2015 Teaching Award Faculty and Graduate Teaching Assistant Award Winners
Alumni Association Distinguished Professor
Herbert “Tico” Braun, associate professor of history
Alumni Board of Trustees Teaching Award
Michael Kennedy, assistant professor, Curry School of Education
All-University Teaching Awards
Benjamin Converse, assistant professor of public policy and psychology, Batten School
Dr. Gerald R. Donowitz, Edward W. Hook Professor of Infectious Diseases and International Health, School of Medicine
Dr. John Gazewood, residency program director for Family Medicine
Yael Grushka-Cockayne, assistant professor of business administration, Darden School
Masashi Kawasaki, professor of biology
Adam Koch, associate professor of commerce
Suzanne Moomaw, associate professor of urban and environmental planning, School of Architecture
Andrew S. Obus, assistant professor of mathematics
Lisa Woolfork, associate professor of English
Excellence in Education Abroad
Peter A. Maillet, lecturer in global strategy and finance, associate dean for global initiatives, Commerce School
Excellence in Faculty Mentoring
David A. Leblang, J. Wilson Newman Professor of Governance and chair of the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics
School of Medicine Resident Teaching Award
Amanda Beer, radiology resident
Graduate Teaching Assistant Awards
Lindsey Brinton, biomedical engineering, All-University Graduate Teaching Award
Katelyn Kochalski, mathematics, Frank Finger Graduate Fellowship for Teaching
Kristen Lashua, history, All-University Graduate Teaching Award
Nicole Pankiewicz, politics, All-University Graduate Teaching Award
Elizabeth Sutherland, English, Class of 1985 Fellowship for Creative Teaching
Herbert “Tico” Braun, associate professor of history: Alumni Association Distinguished Professor
What his nominator says: “I’ve kept [a former student’s email] as a reminder of the kind of teacher that I want to be. [Braun] understands that, in the best tradition of U.Va. and the liberal arts, the intellectual enterprise should engage students in mind, body and spirit.”
What his former student says: “Teachers like Tico Braun are rare. … While I learned very much about the history of Latin America by way of his course, I also learned about humanity and about myself.”
What his colleague and former student says: “I first encountered Tico when I enrolled in his survey course on “Modern Latin America” in the spring of 1986. … That course, more than any other I have ever taken, has become a model for my own teaching. … His teaching is guided by the belief we, as human beings, tend to project our own beliefs and prejudices onto the people we are trying to understand, and that we have a tendency to do this even when we think we are being open-minded about historical and cultural difference. Tico knows how to provoke students into breaking this habit, so that they can truly understand the past in something like its own terms. In doing so, not only do they learn a great deal about Latin America, but also about themselves and their place in the world.”
What Tico Braun says: “It is our common life, and by reading and thinking about others, about Latin Americans, perhaps we can, together, make our lives here more vital. The past is so vividly alive in Latin America. What are the traditions from American history, from this past here, that can help us move forward, so we can build on the beauty of the belief in human equality? I don’t teach much about those American traditions, but perhaps some seeds are planted in my students’ hearts and minds. We can learn about ourselves by learning from others. It’s fun.”
Michael Kennedy, assistant professor, Curry School of Education: Alumni Board of Trustees Teaching Award
What his nominator says: “He makes an impact on students by influencing what they know, how they think and how they develop into high quality special education teachers.
“Kennedy’s research focuses on how to develop multimedia tools to help students identified with disabilities learn content (history, science, math) in grades 6-12. He uses this research to inform his teaching. … Kennedy’s approach: the provision of multiple creative hands-on activities that bring laws and content to life for students and help them remember important content.”
What his colleague says: “As a special educator, Michael is careful to make certain that students have access to information in a variety of formats. He both teaches this important concept and practices it.”
What his student says: “The energy he brings into the classroom is infectious and much of what I have learned within his classes has fueled my passion to teach individuals with special needs. The instruction he has provided me with over the two years has greatly increased not only my understanding of what it means to be an educator, but more importantly my appreciation for the art of teaching.”
What Michael Kennedy says: “I am responsible for teaching courses to future teachers, therapists and school administrators. I draw motivation, passion and a sense of purpose knowing that my students go on to serve children in schools across the commonwealth, nation and sometimes the world. … I teach a course which is the final one before students enter the field as practicing teachers. Therefore, there is incredible pressure to ensure the instruction and experiences I provide lead to professional readiness. I rise to this occasion because I love it, and because I must.”
Benjamin Converse, assistant professor of public policy and psychology, Batten School: All-University Teaching Award
What his nominator says: “I have been extraordinarily impressed with the thoughtfulness with which he approaches his teaching, his research and his life. … Ben discusses the importance of providing messages that are ‘sticky’ and that offer long-term value, and he emphasizes the importance of integrity in the teaching process.”
What Dean Allan Stam says: “His ability to inspire students to think about the challenges leaders face and to structure their approach to problem-solving in creative and innovative ways, while maintaining the basic principles of leadership, is unparalleled.”
What his colleague says: “Great teachers … stimulate students to perceive connections they would otherwise not see, recognize opportunities they would otherwise miss and gain a deeper awareness of human nature. ... His courses combine powerful insights from social, cognitive and decision-making psychology with experiential learning exercises to teach students to be effective leaders.”
What his student says: “One of Professor Converse’s most important strengths as a teacher – and as a leader – is one of the leadership skills he teaches in class: he, more than any professor I have had, takes the time to understand and consider students’ motivations, and then to tap into them in order to inspire excellence.”
What Ben Converse says: “The core principles that I [impart] to my students is that they will be more effective leaders … if they are thoughtful about basic psychological principles. I believe this promise holds a special responsibility: I have to deliver not just on the outcome, but also on the process.”
Dr. Gerald R. Donowitz, Edward W. Hook Professor of Infectious Diseases and International Health, School of Medicine: All-University Teaching Award
What his nominator says: “Dr. Donowitz is eminently deserving of this recognition for his singular role in shaping the education of medical residents and interns over the last 15 years. … [He is] someone who has the highest expectations for the quality of medical care delivered by his student physicians. He sets an example to us all through his commitment to excellence and incredible work ethic.”
What his colleague says: “Instead of discussing patients in a room away from the inpatient ward, Jerry leads his team throughout the hospital to discuss and examine all patients on his team. This ‘real-time’ teaching allows learners to connect a patient to previous textbook learning and highlights Jerry’s breadth of medical knowledge.”
What his student says: “The most important lesson he taught me was to not fear the system, to understand that we are all here with the common goal of helping the patient, and that open discussion between team members, from the newest intern fresh out of medical school to the seasoned veteran physician, is critical to the medical profession. He teaches not only through his words, which are always passionate, powerful and honest, but more importantly, he teaches through his actions. He is the strongest patient advocate I have ever had the pleasure of working with.”
What Jerry Donowitz says: “It is the chance to make someone a better physician than they would have been had they not been with you in some instance, or in some clinical situation that is the most gratifying part of teaching.”
Dr. John Gazewood, residency program director for Family Medicine: All-University Teaching Award
What his nominator says: “Dr. Gazewood is an experienced clinician-teacher whose exceptional efforts on the part of U.Va.’s Graduate Medical Education programs have resulted in our recognition as one of the most outstanding Family Medicine Residency Programs in the country.”
What his colleague says: “John’s commitment to, and excellence in, teaching is inspiring, and his example helps us all strive to do a little better. His learners know how much he cares about their knowledge and love of the discipline of medicine, but more importantly they know that he cares about them as people and developing physicians.”
What his student says: “I was particularly impressed by his interaction with a Nepali refugee patient … [who] lay in bed listlessly most of the time. When Dr. Gazewood first entered his exam room, he greeted the patient with “Namaste” and a short bow – and to my shock [the patient] sat up, his eyes brightened and he returned the greeting in exactly the same manner. The mood of the room changed instantaneously; the patient was engaged, talking to Dr. Gazewood (via interpreter) and answering questions. Using the culturally appropriate greeting completely changed the tone of the interaction and showed great respect for the patient; I will be a much more sensitive and effective physician having learned that small but very important lesson.”
What John Gazewood says: “Creativity in medical education calls for understanding the varying stages of learner development and group and individual curricula that will address the varying needs of individuals. I believe that how we teach our learners and care for our patients is just as, if not more, important than the content of what we teach. I must model for learners what we expect of them.”
Yael Grushka-Cockayne, assistant professor of business administration, Darden School: All-University Teaching Award
What her nominator says: “She assessed that women students need to find good role models … and got a Mead Endowment grant to take female students to a TEDxWomen conference in D.C. to hear extraordinary women share their stories. She led a group of students on a leadership in the wilderness journey with the National Outdoor Leadership School so students could have an immersive experience in leading – and following.”
What her colleague says: “Yael Grushka-Cockayne is among the finest classroom instructors I have ever seen in my 20 years of teaching, and furthermore, exhibits a level of devotion to the content of her classes that is almost intimidating in its care and focus. … She was able to generate so much excitement that at one point she walked off to the side of the classroom and just let the conversation move forward on its own – she had created the epitome of a Darden class experience: energized, challenging and engaging for every one of 64 students.”
What her former student says: “I was fortunate to be part of a new Darden course spearheaded by Professor Grushka-Cockayne focused on project management. … Her enthusiasm for the new subject matter was evident in every class session. As the director of operations of a new and growing impact investing firm, I now draw on lessons from that class daily.”
What Yael Grushka-Cockayne says: “Whether in my classroom, my office or my home, I try to foster a comfortable, non-threatening environment in which my students feel that they can be themselves, be vulnerable, experiment and take risks. My students’ courage, integrity and leadership have empowered me to take risks, too. I have been inspired to seek even more opportunities to engage and learn with them.”
Masashi Kawasaki, professor of biology: All-University Teaching Award
What his nominator says: “He teaches students about animal behavior through a combination of brief lectures and in-depth hands-on experiences. At the same time, he teaches them how scientists operate – how to figure out what questions to ask, how to design hypotheses, carry out experiments and look at results both conceptually and quantitatively to understand the answers. … He is a dedicated, approachable teacher whose passion for the material and understated presence encourages students to take learning and discovery into their own hands and take the first step to becoming scientists in their own right.”
What his colleague says: “He nurtures their inquisitiveness and creative thinking and because of that, the students excel. If faculty were allowed to take this class, I’d be first in line.”
What his student says: “Many of our experiments required that we not only obtain quantitative data from our animal models, but also that we observed their behavior and cared for them. We periodically made sure that the hamsters had enough food and water and that their cages were clean. … His classes reminded me why I was first drawn to biology.”
What Masashi Kawasaki says: “I allow students to design their own experiments. They decide what to measure, how many experimental blocks to set and which statistics to apply. I believe that hands-on experiences coupled with logical thinking are the best means of learning how scientific knowledge is created.”
Adam Koch, associate professor of commerce: All-University Teaching Award
What his nominator says: “He is masterful at helping students recognize how seemingly complicated topics can be reduced to a much simpler framework for understanding and analysis. … Students trust Adam, which is perhaps the most important trait for an effective teacher. They trust that he is careful with their time, careful with preparing them adequately and careful in his evaluation of their work.”
What a group of his former students say: “We now knew, through the case studies and real-world examples, how management could use its accounting discretion to assess a firm’s financial health. … My first week on the job, I was tasked with making some adjustments to standardize and compare several companies’ financial statements. The adjustments were exactly the same as some we’d covered two months prior in Professor Koch’s class, and as such I passed this first on-the-job test with flying colors. [Another student] recently shared a similar story in which Prof. Koch’s material was a focus point of the materials she’d successfully prepared for a meeting with her current boss.”
What a group of his current students say: “[He] walked step-by-step through real-life cases, real accounting data and real companies. His fresh perspective created a stimulating classroom experience and allowed students to see how they could apply these concepts throughout their professional careers.”
What Adam Koch says: “I grew up in a family that loves to tell stories, and I bring to the classroom a lifelong passion for pacing, choosing details and building toward a conclusion. My teaching style revolves around illustrating the rules and principles of accounting through compelling real-world examples.”
Suzanne Moomaw, associate professor of urban and environmental planning, School of Architecture: All-University Teaching Award
What her nominator says: “She exemplifies in her teaching and scholarship the promise of what a public university can be and do, and [that] the work of our students and faculty can make a difference in the world.”
What her colleague says: “Suzanne is more than a superbly strategic lecturer; [she is] also a convincing catalyst inspiring local community leaders to work with national foundations advancing education, employment and health support systems across Appalachia.”
What her student says: “Despite the urban planning department’s focus on traditional academic research and analysis (and her own considerable capacity for such research), she has this past year worked tirelessly to plunge urban planning students into a studio environment. The Petersburg, Virginia studio that she founded and co-taught with Professor Harriett Jameson presented its students with pressing problems to solve and actual clients counting on these solutions. As one of the students in that studio, I can attest that it was a daunting but extremely catalyzing experience. It forced me – and my classmates, I’m sure – to think more expansively, work more cooperatively, problem-solve more empathetically and act more professionally than has nearly any other course at the University.”
What Suzanne Moomaw says: “Teaching has allowed me to hone my own hopes and dreams and join the next generation in helping define theirs. … My philosophy is that I hope students find what I have to say as important as I find what they have to say.”
Andrew S. Obus, assistant professor of mathematics: All-University Teaching Award
What his nominator says: “He masterfully uses all the techniques that characterize a skillful and experienced teacher. But what makes his style unique is his ability to give clear, intuitive explanations of complicated mathematical concepts and to radiate enthusiasm about mathematics. … To complete the picture of his devotion to teaching mathematics, in summer 2011 and 2013 he co-organized summer workshops for math and science teachers in Liberia.”
What his colleague says: “Andrew brought an incredible amount of energy into math club organization, as well as several excellent ideas, and these made an immediate impact. Math club attendance went up, the talks became more interactive, and I have a sense students enjoyed attending the math club much more.”
What his student says: “Before I even knew Dr. Obus very well, he was very receptive to the idea of guiding a research project and helped me draft a research stipend proposal (which was successful). … I began writing a paper on our topic … which Dr. Obus agreed to help me edit … and we are now in the process of publication. In summary, he has gone the extra mile to ensure that I reap the full benefits of mathematical research.”
What Andrew Obus says: “My primary goal as a teacher is to give each student a meaningful and positive experience in my course. What this means depends on the student, but as a baseline measure, ‘meaningful’ means that the student has deeply internalized the basic concepts of the course, and ‘positive’ means that the student has experienced excitement and success.”
Lisa Woolfork, associate professor of English: All-University Teaching Award
What her nominator says: (Re: Woolfork’s course on the literary and television phenomenon “Game of Thrones”) “… [T]he articulate, analytical responses of Lisa’s summer students to the queries of reporters left no room for doubt that real intellectual work was going on in her classroom (alongside a serious dose of fun). … She has done exactly what teaching faculty should, at their best, strive to do: focused her intellectual training and pedagogical skills on a cultural moment (present or past), reaching students ‘where they live’ in order to introduce them to the lifelong rewards of humanistic interpretation.”
What her colleague says: “Quite often, when encountering a talented undergraduate who has the potential to pursue a doctorate in the social sciences or humanities, I ask them: ‘Have you taken Professor Woolfork’s class?’ … One reason for this is the high expectations she places on her students with regard to their research projects. … Such rigor partly explains why Professor Woolfork has played a crucial role in preparing so many of our alums of color who are now pursuing advanced degrees.”
What her student says: “In her contemporary African-American literature seminar … the results were transformative: we learned how literature created opportunities to develop knowledge with implications for all sorts of disciplines. And more importantly, we learned what it means to be an independent thinker.”
What Lisa Woolfork says: “I like to think that students find my classes memorable because…I value and respect their contributions, and because I prioritize the learning enterprise that we’ve committed to embark upon together.”
Peter A. Maillet, lecturer in global strategy and finance, associate dean for global initiatives, Commerce School: Excellence in Education Abroad
What his nominator says: “Beyond his regular teaching, Peter has been a leader in ‘globalizing’ business education at McIntire, spearheading the truly international learning experiences that many McIntire students now enjoy. He was responsible for developing and then implementing McIntire’s M.S. in Commerce Global Immersion Experience, in which groups of 20 to 25 students spend four weeks abroad, now in five dispersed geographic areas of the world: Southeast Asia, North Asia, Central/Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East/India. Peter, himself, led four of these trips in the past six years – two in Latin America; two in Southeast Asia and one in China.”
What a group of his colleagues say: “Peter has opened the world to students in ways that transcend the classroom. Due to his leadership, vision and tireless efforts, global issues and experiences are now an integral part of life at McIntire. He melds more than 20 years of living abroad with a U.S. academic perspective in a way few can. As a result, students rave about him.”
What a group of his students say: “His ‘Global Finance’ course embodies the quintessential McIntire School experience by requiring students’ best efforts, capturing their full engagement and driving them to expand their own worldviews. … His teaching style effectively blended relevant materials with his own professional experiences while also motivating students to contribute to the classroom learning environment with their own independent research.”
What Peter Maillet says: “I hope to convey the genuine excitement and passion I have for all things global, whether it be culture, capital flows and political systems or emerging technologies from abroad. ... I seek to transmit that enthusiasm for the betterment of students’ lives and our society.”
David A. Leblang, J. Wilson Newman Professor of Governance and chair of politics department: Excellence in Faculty Mentoring
What his nominator says: “A critical aspect of faculty mentorship is leading by example. And this is perhaps where David’s record is most remarkable. He has been a tireless leader of our department and an astoundingly prolific researcher (both at the same time).”
What his colleague says: “His mentorship was not confined to formal annual meetings, but took place every day, as he left his door open and invited junior colleagues to stop by or knocked on their doors to discuss various issues.”
What his mentee and colleague says: “He always acts as if he has all the time in the world to listen to your problems and help you solve them. He remembers details. He reminds you, by example, of why being a professor is fun. He is straightforward about what he thinks. … He is extremely creative and resourceful in finding answers to problems.”
What David Leblang says: “My goal is to help foster a climate where colleagues can achieve their personal and professional goals. I am especially proud of the investments –both personal and financial- we have made in nurturing and developing female faculty.”
Amanda Beer, radiology resident: School of Medicine Resident Teaching Award
What her nominator says: “Amanda has been able to seamlessly integrate teaching into the daily clinical workload. … Calm, yet inspiring, efficient while finding time to interact with her colleagues, Amanda is one of those residents who make the flow of the day both efficient and fun for those working with her, including the staff and [attending physicians].”
What her student says: “She has a great ability and intuition of how to read our understanding of the subject and then scale the teaching appropriately. In that way, I never felt as though I knew nothing when there was much more I needed to learn.”
Before she learned to see the world through the eyes of a historian, University of Virginia history professor and director of the American Studies program Grace Hale had always taken her grandfather’s version of their proud family history at face value. Discovering the truths he left out shaped Hale’s approach to research and to life.
In his long career of service both in the military and academia, dean of the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy Allan Stam has also learned a few things about the truth. He wants students to know the true meaning of leadership and what a valuable resource it is for the world.
On Wednesday evening, Hale and Stam shared these life lessons with students as a part of Housing and Residence Life’s 24th edition of the Last Lecture Series. An annual spring tradition, the Last Lecture invites the University’s finest faculty members to impart their wisdom and knowledge to students as if it is their very last opportunity to do so.
Hale opened the evening by advising students on “why history is vitally necessary to the Earth.” Drawing upon her own personal history growing up in the South, she spoke of learning to see all sides of history.
Hale was born in Georgia in the 1960s, at the peak of the Civil Rights Movement. She lived in a culture that she said was characterized by “silence and absurdity.” All around her, the world was changing; schools were being integrated, “white only” signs were being removed, and for the first time, an African-American woman was hired to work in the same courthouse where her grandfather was sheriff.
Although there were obvious signs of change, Hale’s family and many of the other white Southerners they knew never openly discussed this cultural shift. The changes were ignored and old racist attitudes were kept alive through unspoken agreement.
When Hale reached college and began to do her own historical research, she understood the dangers of this silence and how it could whitewash the telling of history.
“I saw the omissions that white Southerners used to hide the truth,” Hale said.
Armed with this new understanding, Hale traveled to her grandparents’ small town in Mississippi to research her own family history more deeply. Growing up, her grandfather had often told her the story of the night he saved a black prisoner from a lynch mob.
“In my grandfather’s story,” said Hale, “he was the ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ Atticus Finch-like character who protected an African-American man accused of raping a white woman from a lynch mob.”
Her grandfather painted himself as the sheriff who sat by the jail door all night to protect the man’s right to a fair trial.
When Hale began looking into the event with the eye of a trained historian, she quickly realized that while her grandfather never lied, he did omit the truth. He did protect the prisoner from the mob that night, but he never told his granddaughter the events of the next day. According to the local paper, Hale’s grandfather and two deputies took the prisoner back to the crime scene at his behest. They testified later that the man tried to escape and grab a gun from one of the deputies. In the tussle, three shots were fired and two killed the prisoner.
Reading the article, Hale realized that her grandfather – the man she looked up to and who first sparked her interest in history – was likely also a killer. By discovering the truth of her family history, she learned the importance of investigating all facets of the past.
“History isn’t easy and it isn’t neat. It doesn’t make you feel good,” Hale said. “It makes you think.”
She closed by explaining that the only way to make a better future is to have a true understanding of the past.
“Real history – not the nationalistic textbook version – makes us humble,” Hale said.
Stam took the stage and opened by asking students about the importance of learning another truth: the true meaning of leadership.
“Academics don’t much like to talk about leadership in the sense of defining what it is,” he said. “We talk about it in broad terms or about how to make better leaders, but very frequently we don’t address actually what leadership is.”
Stam pointed out that outside academia there are three major areas that frequently discuss leadership and are heavily invested in it: the military, the business world and athletics. All of these groups have one major thing in common: they keep score. They tally the best use of people and resources, sales and growth, and wins and losses.
“Unfortunately, keeping score has become unfashionable in certain parts of society,” Stam said.
He noted the generational trend of shielding children and young adults from failure as much as possible, arguing that it is harmful to make everyone a winner instead of keeping a true score. He advised instead that we teach young people the true meaning of leadership.
There are all kinds of leaders, but at its core, leadership means one thing – and Stam believes that the Batten School motto says it best: “Leadership is the art of getting things done.”
“If leadership is the art of getting things done, then how should we balance our failures against our accomplishments?” he said.
He told students that there are two sides to every leader: what he or she does, and what he or she fails to do. As an example and without naming him, Stam listed the many moral and political failings of Thomas Jefferson. He then listed Jefferson’s numerous accomplishments and asked students to consider which list ultimately impacted the world more.
“To assess true leadership, you have to ask, ‘Is the world a better place for someone having existed?’” he asked, adding that in Jefferson’s case, there is no doubt that he had a lasting positive impact on the world.
He asked students to ponder that as they prepare to leave the University and go out into the world. Failures will happen, but Stam said that it’s more important to focus on what you want to accomplish and how your achievements can improve your community.
“Find a vision that inspires you,” he said. “With that in hand, help others push the rock up the hill and reach toward a better world.”