Awards for Teaching Excellence

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April 24, 2007


UNC Board of Governors Presents University-wide Awards for Teaching Excellence


CHAPEL HILL – The Board of Governors of the 16-campus University of North Carolina has selected 16 of its most outstanding faculty to receive the 13th Annual Awards for Excellence in Teaching.  During a recognition luncheon to be held in conjunction with the Board’s May 11 meeting, a faculty member from each UNC campus will receive a commemorative bronze medallion and a $7,500 cash prize.

The 16 recipients, representing an array of academic disciplines, were nominated by special committees on their home campuses and selected by the Board of Governors Committee on Personnel and Tenure, chaired by Charles Mercer of Raleigh. The awards will be presented by UNC President Erskine Bowles and Board of Governors Chairman Jim Phillips of Greensboro.

Winners include Melanie Greene, associate professor of curriculum and instruction, Appalachian State University; Matthew Mahar, associate professor of exercise and sport science, East Carolina University; Claudie Mackey, professor of psychology, Elizabeth City State University; Dianne White Oyler, associate professor of history, Fayetteville State University; Mary Smith, associate professor of biology, NC A&T State University; Sylvia Jacobs, professor of history, NC Central University; John Toia, director of stage management, NC School of the Arts; and William Swallow, professor of statistics, NC State University.

Other winners are Melissa Himelein, professor of psychology, UNC Asheville; Stephen Birdsall, professor of geography, UNC-Chapel Hill; James Holt McGavran, Jr., professor of English, UNC Charlotte; Kevin Lowe, associate professor of business administration, UNC Greensboro; José D’Arruda, professor of physics, UNC Pembroke; Sherrill Martin, professor of music, UNC Wilmington; Julia Barnes, associate professor of mathematics, Western Carolina University; and Irene Phillips, associate professor of occupational therapy, Winston-Salem State University.

Established by the Board of Governors in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to reward good teaching across the University, the awards are given annually to a tenured faculty member from each UNC campus. Winners must have taught at their present institutions at least seven years. No one may receive the award more than once.


Melanie Greene, Appalachian State University

A member of Appalachian’s education faculty since 1999, Greene believes in making a difference in each class she teaches and student she touches – one at a time. A former student notes that this commitment to daily connection has inspired her to pursue a doctorate in education. Starting her career as an instructor for the Watauga County School System and time spent teaching in China have rounded out Greene’s skill set, which was recognized when she received the Reich College of Education’s Outstanding Teaching Award in 2001. Greene holds baccalaureate and master’s degrees in early childhood education from Appalachian and earned her doctoral degree in educational supervision from East Tennessee State University. 


Claudie Mackey, Elizabeth City State University

For over 40 years, Mackey has dedicated himself to public education, motivated by a personal philosophy that “education is a process in which individuals help each other to clarify personal learning.” That interaction combined with high expectations are the reasons so many students and campus peers respond to Mackey’s leadership. At ECSU since 1977, he was honored in 2005-2006 as the faculty mentor who generated the largest dollar amount for new campus programs. Mackey earned his baccalaureate degree in business education from ECSU, a master’s degree in education from Hofstra University, and a certificate of advanced graduate studies and a doctoral degree in education from Virginia Polytechnical Institute and State University.


Matthew Mahar, East Carolina University

Upon entering his classroom each day at ECU, Mahar’s note on the board reminds him that each of his students is experiencing that class for the very first time. Motivated by this thought, Mahar sets out to help students learn to think critically and to develop a sense of responsibility.  He believes that building his students’ confidence, keeping them actively involved in the learning process, and demonstrating true care for their well-being are the best ways to spark students’ need to make contributions to society through scholarship. An ECU faculty member since 1993, Mahar has received ECU’s Distinguished Professor for Teaching Award, as well as the Scholar-Teacher Award in the College of Health and Human Performance. He received his baccalaureate degree from the State University of New York at Cortland and his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Houston.


Dianne White Oyler, Fayetteville State University

White Oyler understands that many students approach history courses with a negative attitude based on past experiences. For that reason, she searches for ways to capture her students’ interest through the use of the humanities and the words of those who love history. The attention White Oyler pays to ensuring her students learn visually and through hands-on activities pays off as they are inspired to make connections between past and new knowledge, while developing the skills needed to discuss their new understanding of historical topics. At FSU since 1998, White Oyler earned her baccalaureate degree in history from Jacksonville University.   She also holds a master’s degree in history and a doctorate in African history from the University of Florida. 


Mary Smith, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Smith believes that excellence in teaching requires ongoing professional development, a commitment to developing students as independent learners, and a focus on building a student-centered learning environment. Recognized by her colleagues as an “innovator in classroom instruction,” she is continually seeking out effective approaches to motivate and engage students in learning science. She regularly leads summer student-faculty research teams at venues such as the Argonne National Laboratory and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, exposing her students to cutting-edge technology while developing their research confidence. A professor of biology at A&T since 1995, Smith received her baccalaureate and master’s degrees in science education from Morgan State University and a doctorate in plant physiology from Cornell University. 


Sylvia Jacobs, North Carolina Central University

A professor of African history, Jacobs epitomizes excellent teaching and how one’s teaching is improved through individual scholarly achievements. Her path to college professor was rooted in her mother’s insistence that she should one day become an elementary school teacher. Jacobs recalls, “I have always believed that my mother wanted to be a teacher herself, but American society was even more circumscribed for black women when she was growing up than it was for me.” Given her own personal struggle between pursuing the business world or academia, Jacobs seeks to prepare every student for life after college – whether in the field of history or not. At NCCU since 1976, Jacobs holds a baccalaureate degree in elementary education and master’s degree in management from Wayne State University, as well as a doctorate from Howard University. 


John Toia, North Carolina School of the Arts

Toia teaches his stage management students in the School of Design and Production the life skills of adaptability, humor, patience, anticipation of challenges, and calm in the face of disruption and turmoil—and he practices what he teaches.   In addition to his teaching, Toia serves as an assistant dean, prepares NCSA’s master production schedule, coordinates the School of Design and Production’s portfolio review and job fairs, serves on the NCSA Faculty Council, and manages commencement. This year he has also played an important role as production manager of NCSA’s production of West Side Story.  At NCSA since 1989, Toia holds a baccalaureate of fine arts degree from Wayne State University and a master’s of fine arts degree in lighting and stage management from Florida State University.


William Swallow, North Carolina State University

As a professor of statistics, Swallow believes that the use of multiple teaching styles is the best and most critical way to empower students. At NCSU since 1980, he has personally mentored hundreds of undergraduate students and scores of master’s and doctoral students. In addition, he has served on 200 graduate committees for curricula from across the campus. He is known for directly influencing Ph.D. students in a way that inspires them to remain in the classroom, rather than join the private sector. He has been named to the Academy of Outstanding Teachers, serving as its chair, and was a member of the founding editorial board for The Journal of Statistics Education. Swallow received his baccalaureate degree in social relations from Harvard University and holds a master’s degree in fishery biology and a doctorate in biological statistics from Cornell University.


Melissa Himelein, University of North Carolina at Asheville

Himelein focuses on making education relevant, accessible, enriching, and applicable to real-world problems. She always provides thoughtful commentary, engaging students to think harder about real issues.  Last year, Himelein expanded her interests in childhood obesity by designing and launching the GIFT Program (Getting Into Fitness Together).   GIFT, which offers assistance, awareness, and an exercise program to families striving to be physically fit, initially targeted minority families in the Asheville area but has expanded to include obesity and diabetes issues with the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation. Involving her students in GIFT illustrates her belief that education extends beyond the traditional classroom setting.  At UNCA since 1992, Himelein is the Breman Professor of Social Relations. She received her baccalaureate degree in psychology from Brown University and earned master’s and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology from the University of Kentucky.


Stephen Birdsall, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Birdsall’s geography classes are known to be clear, interactive, and fun. A member of the UNC-Chapel Hill faculty since 1967, he is renowned for memorizing the names of every student, regardless of class size.  He developed three new geography courses, prepared the technology to support them (digitizing thousands of images, preparing outlines for computerized presentations, and incorporating online materials), and published a related geography teaching journal. He continues to meld his ongoing research on landscapes, myths, and memorials with his teaching, especially in his first-year and honors seminars. Birdsall has received many distinguished awards from the Association of American Geographers, an organization he has served as treasurer, vice president and president. He received his baccalaureate degree in earth sciences from Antioch College and his master’s and doctoral degrees in geography from Michigan State University.


James Holt McGavran, Jr. University of North Carolina at Charlotte

McGavran, who has taught at UNCC for more than 30 years, still believes that “if I can help my students to become more incisive readers and thinkers and more persuasive writers, they will know themselves better and build a stronger, freer, more just society.” He is recognized by his peers for incorporating generosity, modesty, humor and dignity into his teaching style. Perhaps most important—he never hesitates to compliment students. A former student wrote, “The assignments not only covered the subject matter, but made me think about my own life and how I have related to nature. This is the first class where I learned something about me.” On the UNCC faculty since 1973, McGavran was the recipient of the 2006 Bank of America Award and the winner of the 2005-2006 English Graduate Faculty Member of the Year. He received his baccalaureate degree from the College of Wooster, his master’s degree from Columbia University, and his doctoral degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. 


Kevin Lowe, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

A former business student of Lowe’s stated, “I have always felt that his teaching is more than applying wisdom to the knowledge; it is the expression of love and joy for what he does in life.” This quote captures Lowe’s philosophy in teaching a wide range of business courses. In all these venues Lowe seeks “to develop a classroom environment that focuses student attention on appreciative inquiry and collective challenge.” His teaching is creative and innovative, and classroom engagement is a hallmark.  For his success, the Bryan School of Business and Economics has awarded him both its Junior and Senior Teaching Excellence Awards.  Lowe, who joined the UNCG faculty in 1996, received his baccalaureate degree in business administration from the University of Louisville, his master’s degree in business administration from Stetson University Davis School of Business, and his doctoral degree in organizational behavior/human resources from Florida International University.


José D’Arruda, University of North Carolina at Pembroke

A UNCP faculty member for more than three decades, D’Arruda exemplifies high standards of excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service. He is a leader in and out of the classroom and a strong promoter of physics and science education, especially in southeastern North Carolina. Among his many accomplishments, D’Arruda established a Regional Science Fair that attracts thousands of elementary, middle, and high school students. He also opened the UNCP Observatory, which he considers a highlight of his career. He developed a program called Mr. and Mrs. Wizard to enable elementary students to strengthen their science and math skills; and in 2006, he established the José and Dorothy D’Arruda Endowed Scholarship, which benefits a UNCP student majoring in physics. At UNCP since 1974, D’Arruda holds a baccalaureate degree in physics and mathematics from Lowell Technologic Institute. He also earned a master’s in physics and a doctoral degree in theoretical physics from the University of Delaware.


Sherrill Martin, University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Martin credits her participation in three National Endowment for the Humanities seminars with significantly changing the direction of her research, service, and teaching. Formerly a Renaissance scholar, she now includes new editions of music, women in music, Civil War music, and other American and African-American topics in publications and presentations to university, community, and professional groups around the world. Her scholarship, in turn, has inspired her students, who have won several awards in the UNCW Undergraduate Research competition. A UNCW faculty member since 1979, Martin received her baccalaureate degree in piano performance from Samford University, her master’s degree in piano performance from the University of Alabama, and her doctoral degree in musicology from UNC-Chapel Hill.


Julia Barnes, Western Carolina University

Creativity and a determination to discover new ways of presenting complex materials are the hallmarks of Barnes’ teaching.  She uses room-sized graphs, photographs, beach balls, maps, cookies, pennies, and other materials in her quest to tap into the different learning styles and abilities of her students.  Barnes has authored a fairy tale to convey certain principles and also gives writing assignments to her students to ensure they firmly grasp each lesson in a tangible way, which translates into better problem solving. In addition to her teaching, Barnes also acts as an informal advisor to several hundred undergraduates. A WCU faculty member since 1996, Barnes has been honored with the College of Arts and Sciences Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Division of Student Affairs Faculty Member of the Year Award.  She earned her baccalaureate degree in mathematics at the University of Central Florida and her doctoral degree in mathematics from UNC-Chapel Hill.


Irene Phillips, Winston-Salem State University

Phillips strives to integrate service and scholarly activities into the teaching and learning experience. She acknowledges students’ values and beliefs and uses this knowledge about students to help them develop their ability to apply what they learn. Phillips designs group activities that transform the classroom into a clinic where students can practice and manage the tools they will use in a professional setting. In the classroom, she also employs the Socratic method of teaching. In her own research, Phillips focuses on HIV/AIDS prevention education and in 2003 she received the Cedric S. Rodney Distinguished Service Award. At WSSU since 1999, Phillips received her baccalaureate degree in social welfare from the State University of New York at Old Westbury, her master’s in public administration from the University of Southern California, her master's in occupational therapy from New York University, and her doctorate in pastoral community counseling from Argosy University.

Friday, April 27, 2007

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