UW-Madison honors eight faculty for outstanding teaching
April 3, 2003
A person could dine out for a good month armed with the rich stock of stories to be found in the University of Wisconsin-Madison 2003 Distinguished Teaching Awards. One professor and his former student, now a colleague, both were honored for their teaching this year. Another recipient makes use of thespian skills by playing Sigmund Freud in class to analyze a literary character; yet another demonstrates - in costume - the honeybee's "waggle dance." Winners from the sciences use popular culture, jokes and unorthodox laboratory sections to make complex concepts accessible to all their students. The experiences and accomplishments give form and graphic substance to the diversity of teaching excellence among the faculty at UW-Madison.
The Distinguished Teaching Award recipients will receive a $5,000 award and will be recognized at a ceremony on Tuesday, April 22 at 3:30 p.m. in the Elvehjem Museum of Art auditorium. A reception will follow.
Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication
"I guess I'm just a frustrated actor," Baughman confesses. Indeed, stories and their performance in class fuel the intellectual concepts in his classes, giving literal character to dry abstractions.
Described by students and colleagues alike as a master storyteller whose style maximizes learning, Baughman teaches news writing and history of mass communication courses on all levels. His own professors at Columbia University (Ph.D.) and M.A.) and Harvard (B.A. cum laude) helped him set the course for his own teaching, he says.
However, research - sometimes his own - has equal time in class. For instance, in 1987 he wrote a book on magazine publisher Henry Luce ("Henry R. Luce and the Rise of the American News Media"), which won a major award from the National Journalism Scholarship Society. At the moment, Baughman is at work on a book examining television of the 1950s.
Just as satisfying to him as telling a good story are the achievements of his own students. Three have won the Association for Education in Journalism's prestigious Nafziger-White Dissertation Award. He takes special pride in the success a former undergraduate student Susan Zaeske, now a colleague in UW-Madison Department of Communication Arts. She too is a 2003 Distinguished Teaching Award recipient - you will read about her a bit further down in this article.
Baughman has been on the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication faculty for the past 23 years.
Professor of Scandinavian Studies
Brantly is particularly skilled at teaching people with different learning abilities and styles. A student suffering from dyslexia wrote, "Your class revived my interest in literature, which had been completely destroyed by the workings of my high school teachers." A student caught cheating wrote to thank Brantly for a second chance. Another, a friend of a student with a mental disability, wrote to commend Brantly for the individualized attention and care she had shown.
Brantly employs the same attention and care to harness technology in the service of learning. A class in the drama of playwright August Strindberg uses streaming Real Media to portray Strindberg's innovative use of scenic design to make dramatic points symbolically on stage. In another class she renders abstract concepts more accessible to students by using slides of paintings that illustrate her points about the literature. During the summer of 2000 she offered a CD-rom distance course that she designed herself. Indeed, Brantly plans to pursue a grant from the Division of Information Technology to put a course on Scandinavian Baroque on CD-rom.
However, Brantly doesn't limit her innovations to technology. In one large undergraduate survey course, she analyzes a novel by putting the protagonist on a psychiatrist's couch and letting Sigmund Freud, played by Brantly herself, make a few comments. In a class dealing with Danish writer Isak Dinesen, she divides the students into two camps, one attacking and the other defending Dinesen's attitudes as a colonial author.
A fellow in the UW-Madison Teaching Academy since 2001, Brantly has been on the faculty here since 1987. Her Ph.D. is from Yale University, and she earned her M.A. from the University of Minnesota. Her B.A. is from Harvard.
Professor of Entomology
Goodman takes two routes to teaching excellence. On his first path he brings together undergraduate students and others in small discussion groups to examine a variety of academic and other issues. He says that confronting problems that setting allows students to freely explore their own beliefs and perceptions.
"I have always been interested in the nontraditional learning process of one-on-one or small group interactions outside the classroom," he says. "It's in these settings that a student's intellectual, social and ethical growth can be more fully nourished by a faculty mentor."
His other avenue is a route less traveled, educationally speaking, he says. In the past few years, Goodman has emerged as a champion of undergraduate research as a way to enhance laboratory skills, writing ability and critical thinking.
"These projects force the students to use and integrate information previously learned in the classroom," he says. In the past five years some 15 students have conducted independent research projects with Goodman, and he says he plans to increase their number by using his teaching award stipend to support undergraduate research projects.
Goodman also is committed to increasing biological literacy of nonscience majors. For example, students in an introductory course raise insects to gain first-hand knowledge of their biology. When discussing ecology, he invites two state assembly members with opposing views on current environmental problems in the state to address the class. Perhaps his most memorable lecture involves a demonstration of the honeybee "waggle" dance, which Goodman himself executes. Students are asked to interpret his movements to find a candy bar hidden in the classroom. "Serious fun leads to serious learning," he observes.
His creativity even extends to methods of testing. For one course, he dispenses with standard tests and assesses the students' knowledge with the "Phizzquiz," a team endeavor in which students answer questions formulated by other study groups.
"Since no one wants to let the team down, the motivation to study is extremely high," he says.
Specializing in insect physiology and endocrinology, Goodman has been a member of the UW-Madison faculty for 24 years. He earned his Ph.D. from Northwestern, and his M.S. and B.S. from the University of California-Davis.
Assistant Professor Electrical and Computer Engineering
Emil H. Steiger Award
When Hagness applied for her position at UW-Madison in 1998, her vita contained a statement of teaching philosophy.
Hers was the only vita that did.
"If I didn't care a lot about teaching and being the best teacher possible, then I had no justification in taking an academic job," she says.
She got the position.
The basic principles in her teaching statement guide her classroom style to this day.
"Students learn most effectively when they are engaged in active learning environments. Students also have different learning styles, and find learning more meaningful and enjoyable when they control the process," she says.
To wit, research opportunities, weekly online quizzes, "visual electromagnetics" computer simulations, spontaneous small group sessions, interrupting long lectures with short "problem-solving" breaks, illustrating her points with popular culture as well as other techniques keep her students engaged and energized. For example, she used clips from the movie "The Matrix" to show applications of electromagnetic wave phenomenon. A pioneer in her department in the use of interactive technology, Hagness has devised a self-testing system through which students receive instant feedback on their work. However, she does not restrict her attention to undergraduates; during her first year on the faculty here she helped establish the Society of Women Engineering Graduate Affairs (SWEGA), designed to bring together graduate engineering students as well as those in other graduate science organizations.
Herself a renowned researcher, Hagness was named a TR 100 Young Innovator by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2002, received a 2000 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from the National Science Foundation and an NSF CAREER Award. She holds Ph.D. and a B.S. from Northwestern University.
Professor of Development and Applied Science
Van Hise Outreach Award
Neighbors can help each other. People with common interests can organize self-help initiatives. Professionals and lay people can form advocacy alliances to improve their situation.
Williams has become a catalyst for all of the above activities, specifically in the areas of farm families in financial and emotional crisis, struggling with mental illness, and men and boys charting a path through changing gender roles.
For the past two decades, he has dedicated himself to giving back to various communities what he has accumulated from rural people in terms of knowledge, attitudes and values. Raised on a Waukesha County farm founded in 1847, Williams developed his Neighbor to Neighbor support program shortly after the farm crisis began in the 1980s. He also organized the federally funded Farm Family Support Network Project following the massive floods of 1993. He currently is one of the leaders of Sowing the Seeds of Hope Project, offering services to farm families in distress. Two of his model programs, Neighbor to Neighbor and Farm Couples/Farm Family Weekend Getaways, have been adapted for use in several other states and at least two Canadian provinces.
Williams' approach to wellness observes that in terms of intervention and prevention, too little is done, too late in the human services system. Consequently, he worked with the Dane County Alliance for the Mentally Ill to create a national Alliance for the Mentally Ill and the Alliance for the Mentally Ill-Wisconsin. He also was a founding member of the Wisconsin Prevention Network, which fosters prevention and wellness programs across the state. He helped create an early definition of prevention and currently is involved in defining a new concept of prevention and identifying the best practices in the field.
Williams' belief that society does a poor job of helping men make the transition from boyhood to adulthood has resulted in the development of his Boys to Men Project, focusing on rites of passage and mentoring for adolescents. Other continuing education programs that Williams has initiated include Finding our Fathers, Celebrating Dads, Men in Therapy, Men Who Batter, The Gift of Anger, Isolation to Intimacy, Men and Shame and many more.
Williams currently teaches classes in stress management, team building, conflict resolution, farm and rural issues and men's issues. In the future, he says that he would like to pursue programs in mind-body medicine and conflict resolution/mediation. Williams has been on the UW-Madison faculty for 17 years. He is an alumnus of UW-Madison (Ph.D. and M.S.), and received his B.S. from Wisconsin State University- River Falls.
Joseph O. Hirschfelder Professor of Chemistry
His students say they have no doubt that Skinner wants them to love theoretical chemistry as wholeheartedly as he does. For example, he has found humor to be a particularly effective teaching tool in his introductory level course. He also has discovered that timing is everything.
"His jokes are placed, not to distract us from a particularly difficult section, but to show us that chemistry is fun, an amazing branch of the sciences, and, of course, to reinforce key points in the lecture," writes student Laura Peterson.
Because different people learn differently, Skinner skillfully incorporates opportunities to learn through writing, visual demonstrations, hands-on lab experiments and listening in the lecture hall. Unchanging, however, is the precise construction of his lectures, as well as their flawless logic and extraordinary organization. He also has a gift for breaking down complex concepts into a series of simple ideas, which his students are then able to think through and grasp.
In addition to teaching the department's most basic chemistry course, Skinner regularly offers graduate-level classes in condensed-phase spectroscopy and statistical mechanics, which he developed and refined over the past decade. He also helped establish a unique class to teach graduate students how to give scientific research presentations. Currently he is writing a new textbook on theoretical approaches to spectroscopy in liquids.
In 1990, he left his faculty position at Columbia University to assume the directorship of UW-Madison's Theoretical Chemistry Institute. Skinner earned his Ph.D. and M.A. from Harvard, and his B.A. from the University of California-Santa Cruz.
Professor of Physiology
Yin's laboratories are not your standard labs. In the first place, they often are much more experimental - his "motor lab" decks out each medical student in goggles and has them attempt to throw a dart at a target. The goggles, of course, skew the visual world, but after awhile, a student's brain learns to account for and adapt to the disparity: Arrows begin hitting the target.
The goal of this exercise is to show neuroscience students how the brain works rather than simply presenting facts about it. In addition to participating in some decidedly non-status-quo labs, Yin's students also come into contact with the most current research in the area, and the latest in instructional technology. Students use software programs to form groups and answer questions, engage in discussions and conduct research. Yin also employs PowerPoint presentations, video clips and questions of the day to make his classes come alive. His habit of incorporating data from his often-landmark experiments in easily accessible formats invites his students to become active participants in their own education.
In addition to his excellence in the classroom itself, Yin has been instrumental in developing a neurobiology option for undergraduates majoring in biology. Volunteering over and above his assigned departmental teaching load, Yin organized a neurobiology seminar series for undergraduate students. The series features guest faculty from a variety of disciplines to make research in the field accessible to all.
In coming years he would like to expand field operations, offering them to undergraduates across Wisconsin .
"I'd like to start a summer laboratory course for both UW-Madison undergraduate and graduate students. The course would be run out of one of the university's biology field stations in northern Wisconsin," he says. "During the semester, we would pack our equipment into a 'neurovan' and tour other UW System campuses to offer those students a laboratory experience."
Yin's Ph.D. and M.S.E. are from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. He earned his B.S.E. from Princeton. He has been on the UW-Madison physiology faculty for the past 26 years.
Associate Professor of Communication Arts
When the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, Zaeske immediately went into scholarly action. With input from the class, she completely revamped her already-legendary course on great speakers and speeches to help her students put public discourse surrounding the tragedy into perspective. She completely scrapped her original syllabus (the semester was already underway) and put together a new one that addressed the rhetorical issues that the attacks had prompted. Beginning with a history of crisis rhetoric, the revised course continued with an examination of counterpoint speeches by such notables as Emma Goldman and contemporary figures including Osama bin Laden, former President of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto and United States Representative Barbara Lee.
"Among the parallels she drew were the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Persian Gulf War. She identified significant speeches linked to those earlier events: President Roosevelt's declaration of war on Dec. 8, 1941; President Kennedy's 'Quarantine Speech' and Adlai Stevenson's speech to the United Nations on the placing of Soviet Missiles in Cuba. The final section of the course dealt with the discourse of U.S. enemies and of writers and speakers who opposed or were cautious about U.S. military action in Afghanistan. I am still staggered by the amount of work this entailed," says colleague Stephen Lucas, Evjue-Bascom Professor in the Humanities and fellow rhetorician.
This last-minute revision was the second that Zaeske had undertaken for the course. In 1999-2000, she used her Lilly Teaching Fellowship to select texts from a greater diversity of speakers than had been represented previously. She also expanded the basic principles of rhetorical theory and criticism, and incorporated elements of technology to underscore key points.
"She gave me, and countless other students, the most precious gem of a quality liberal arts education: how to examine critically the information around me, and how to communicate effectively the ideas I generate," recalls former student Katie Givens, who graduated in 2001 and now attends Union Theological Seminary.
In addition to her Great Speakers and Speeches course, Zaeske also teaches classes in classical rhetorical theory, principles of rhetorical criticism and women's rhetoric between 1635-1850. She has been on the UW-Madison communication arts faculty almost seven years and is a triple alumna (Ph.D.-M.A.-B.A.) of UW-Madison.