The Johns Hopkins Gazette: May 19, 2003
May 19, 2003
VOL. 32, NO. 35

  

The 2003 Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Awards

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Whether it's using Andre the Giant to illustrate a complex organic chemistry concept, designing a chuckle-inducing Web page to help instruct a statistics course, leading an in-class re-enactment of a Middle Ages rite, or pantomiming verbs while belly down on a desk, teachers sometimes resort to whatever means necessary to foster the all-important comprehension of a subject. The students who benefit, meanwhile, sit there and clamor for more.

Since 1992, the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association has recognized university faculty who excel in the art of instruction with its Excellence in Teaching Awards. The award allows each academic division of the university to publicly recognize the critical importance of teaching.

The Alumni Association annually provides funds to each school--this year the amount was $2,000--that can be given to one winner, shared by up to four or attached to another, divisional teaching award. The nomination and selection process differ by school, but students must be involved in the selection process.

The following faculty members are recipients of the 2003 Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Awards.

 

Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public Health

Bernard Guyer, medium class size

Students enrolling in Bernard Guyer's course Principles of Health and Development Across the Lifespan clearly know what the subject matter is. The class Web site opens with the question, "Did you enroll in this school because you were interested in HEALTH, not disease? Have we got a course for you!" It's a course they obviously appreciate, for they've awarded Guyer this year's Alumni Association award--known in the School of Public Health as a Golden Apple--for a medium-sized class. "It is very gratifying to be recognized by your students," he said.

Guyer, a pediatrician and the Zanvyl Krieger Professor of Children's Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says the course covers various approaches to understanding the health of populations, with the emphasis on the health of the population rather than disease. "What it means to be a healthy 2-year-old is different from what it means to be a healthy teenager or a healthy 60-year-old," he said. The course covers aspects of the medical and social sciences. At the conclusion, students demonstrate what they have learned through a virtual poster session.

Guyer recently announced that he was stepping down as chair of the Department of Population and Family Health Sciences. He said he hopes the move will allow him more time to devote to teaching.
--Tim Parsons


James Tonascia, large class size

For most who meet James Tonascia, professor of biostatistics, his sense of humor is obvious. This year's teaching award winner in the large-class category has the word "Geek" in flashing red letters above his picture on the Statistical Methods in Public Health Web page.

Tonascia teaches 210 students in the fourth of the four-term sequence of the statistical methods course. Scott Zeger, chair of the Department of Biostatistics, and one of the professors who teaches the other classes in the sequence, received this award last year.

Zeger said, "Dr. Tonascia is an outstanding educator because he is not only bright, articulate and practical but also totally irreverent. Nothing and no one is safe from his acerbic wit. A brief visit to the course Web site tells the rest of the story. Years after taking his course, students come back to tell me it is the most valuable and entertaining experience while at the school."

Tonascia humbly said, "It's more of a team effort. I work with a great group of teaching assistants, Web designers and other support staff. I'm just the person who gives the lectures."

The students in Statistical Methods frequently consult the course Web page. Weekly e-quizzes were created for students, as well as a number of other Web page features, such as Info Addicts, a Link of the Day and Links Gallery. Though most of these tools have a humorous air to them, with pictures of students and funny graphics, they are all used to enhance the learning environment. Students can download lecture notes and lab instructions, visit the Internet Public Library and look at grades, among other things. The focus of the course is multiple regression models, longitudinal data analysis and model checking.

"The best part of the course is working with the students on their own data. We are able to take techniques and methods the students have learned and put them all together to achieve an analysis of original data. I think the course is useful because we are able to apply the classes the students have taken in the past to the real world," Tonascia said.

Tonascia has been teaching since the 1970s and has taught Statistical Methods in Public Health for eight years. He is no stranger to the Golden Apple, having received that Alumni Association award four times. He said, "It really is an honor. I've received one [Golden Apple] for each decade I've been teaching."
--Kenna Brigham


Alvaro Munoz, small class size

Alvaro Munoz tries to make his course Advanced Methods for the Design and Analysis of Cohort Studies a hands-on learning experience, which is one reason his students have awarded him this year's Alumni Association award, a Golden Apple, for small-class instruction. From the first day of class, Munoz, a professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health, engages students by introducing them to a complex data set compiled from his ongoing research of HIV/AIDS. Over the semester, the students analyze the data set using the methods taught during the term. Ultimately, they will complete their own scientific papers for publication.

"This is not a passive class. You have to come and participate," Munoz said. He and his fellow instructors try to keep the class as interactive as possible. After each lecture, the 15 students take turns discussing their ongoing analyses. The students also benefit from the instructor's intimate knowledge of the research data, which Munoz said he feels is one of the keys to the course's success. He is especially appreciative of the assistance of Stephen Cole, he said, for bringing new insights to the analysis of cohorts.

"Participation of the students, that is the most exciting," Munoz said. "Every year I learn new things, which is wonderful. There is no substitute. It is easy to teach this class because they are a great group of students."
--T.P.

 

Krieger School of Arts & Sciences

David Nirenberg

In one class, David Nirenberg might have a student propose marriage to another, as a way of dramatizing the way gestures and rituals carry forth from the Middle Ages into modern society. In another, he may have students re-enact the ritual of a knight receiving land from his feudal lord.

In medieval times, rituals and other important events had to be dramatic so they would be memorable. And that's part of the reason Nirenberg, a history professor, brings that approach to his teaching of the Middle Ages--and also part of the reason he was chosen as the 2003 recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award.

"The whole point is to make things dramatic," Nirenberg said. "If you just said these things, it would be more hot air. All of it--the performance, the embarrassment, the humor of it--make it more memorable."

Nirenberg was chosen from nine finalists by a group of undergraduates, who reviewed nomination letters and discussed their own experiences with the professors in question. Jackie Chan, a junior international relations major, chaired the student group that chose Nirenberg, and also took a class of his last fall.

"He's a phenomenal teacher," she said, noting that the number of nominations for him and the quality of those nominations "were really striking."

Adam Falk, vice dean for faculty and academic programs and a past winner of an Excellence in Teaching Award, sat in on all of the student deliberations. "The students feel that he is one of the most amazing lecturers they have ever had," Falk said. "He brings to life something they feel is hard to bring to life. Many of them signed up for a medieval history class not expecting it to interest them, but it did."

"I believe teaching is not about imparting information," Nirenberg said. "It's about showing why something matters, and once someone knows why something matters, they're drawn into the subject."
--Glenn Small


Jason Labonte, teaching assistant

When he came to Johns Hopkins University from Grove City College in Pennsylvania two years ago, chemistry graduate student Jason Labonte quickly signed up to be a teaching assistant for a course that is an infamous source of undergraduate dread: organic chemistry.

Inspired in part by his organic chemistry teacher at Grove City, Labonte had some innovative ideas about making the course, which runs for two semesters, more manageable for his students.

"I try to get away from having them memorize--that's one of the things that organic is known for, having lots of reactions to learn," Labonte said. "It can seem like an impossible task because there are so many to learn."

Instead, Labonte focuses his efforts on helping students understand why reactions work in a particular manner.

"That really makes the memorization easier because you can see that most of the reactions are related in some way," Labonte said.

He likes to use analogies, comparing the unfamiliar intricacies of "orgo," as it's often known among students, to more familiar processes and even, on occasion, events or characters in a popular movie.

"To explain why bigger molecules are better at attacking other molecules, I once referred to the scene in The Princess Bride where Andre the Giant's character is trying to walk through a crowd of people with his Spanish friend," Labonte said. "The Spanish guy asks people to step aside and has no luck at all until Andre the Giant starts in asking people to get out of the way. Similarly, when you have a reaction in a solution, the bigger molecules can attack other molecules more easily because they're not stopped by the smaller solvent molecules," Labonte explained.

Labonte's unusual approach and his devotion to helping his students learn have earned him one of two Krieger School of Arts and Sciences Teaching Assistant Awards given this year. A nine-member panel of undergraduates selected Labonte for the award on the strength of nominations submitted by the undergraduates in his class.

"The reason he stands out from other TAs is because he loves teaching," one student wrote. "His exceptional teaching techniques have really helped me better understand difficult concepts and begin to enjoy the course."
--Michael Purdy


Manuel Colas-Gil, teaching assistant

Teaching assistant Manuel Colas-Gil may insist that he's quiet and shy, but don't be surprised if he suddenly jumps up on a desk and starts pantomiming the definition of a Spanish verb.

The students in his Spanish Elements sections will tell you that this soft-spoken graduate fellow in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures is quick to ham it up if it means they will readily remember new vocabulary words and have a good time in class.

"Every time we learn a new verb, Manuel does his best to act out the definition instead of telling us," one student wrote in an e-mail nominating Colas-Gil. "This included swimming on the desks, climbing the walls and dancing across the room."

Colas-Gil's animated teaching style has as much to do with holding his students' interest as it does with expressing the joy he finds in being in front of a class.

"I think an instructor's task is not just to work with students but to love what you are teaching," said Colas-Gil, a native of Spain. "I think a lot about that every single day. Whatever you are teaching, you have to get your students to love it, too."

Earning recognition for doing what he loves "was totally unexpected," said Colas-Gil, who taught for two years during his master's studies at Villanova University before beginning his doctoral studies at Johns Hopkins last fall. But judging by the nominations from his students, Colas-Gil's win comes as no surprise.

"I hadn't been exposed to the language at all before last semester, but Manuel made me comfortable with the language right away," another student wrote. "His teaching style has helped me to really understand Spanish instead of just memorizing information to do well on tests."

"He was the best teacher I ever had," said a third student. "He brought in music from both Mexican and Spanish groups as a way to introduce us to different types of accents in the Spanish language è . Manuel greeted us every morning and asked us how we were doing. I think that shows just how polite and courteous he is toward his students."

"We have mutual respect for each other," Colas-Gil said of his relationship with his students. "If you make them feel comfortable, then they won't miss class and they'll learn," he said. "I just love it and believe in what I do. I dedicate this award to my students."
--Amy Cowles

 

Nitze School of Advanced
International Studies

To be announced at commencement.

 

Peabody

Peter Landgren

Soloist, recitalist, chamber and orchestral musician, lecturer, teacher and clinician--these words well describe Peter Landgren's life as a professional musician. In 1978, a successful audition for the position of third horn with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra brought him to Baltimore; he joined the French horn faculty at the Peabody Conservatory in 1981, the same year he was promoted to the associate principal's chair with the orchestra.

He is widely recognized as a champion of new music, having commissioned several new works for horn and premiered others. He has recorded two highly rated compact discs, A Golden Horn, with pianist Ann Schein, and Mozart Distilled, with the Atlantic Quartet, colleagues from the Baltimore Symphony.

According to one of the students who nominated him, "Peter allows his students to interpret music on their own and to express themselves through their horn playing. He never imposes his ideas but rather encourages each student to find his own style and voice."

In the teaching studio, Landgren presents his students with real-life challenges based on his vast professional experiences. "Everything that I do in professional music translates to what I do in the studio--from human relations to audition techniques to preparing for a recording session. It all adds to my vocabulary that I bring into the studio," Landgren said.

His students attest that he is a dedicated teacher and mentor of the "complete" person, offering not just lessons in music but also a sincere interest in their professional and personal development. His persistent guidance and support have fostered the careers of students who are performing in major orchestras and chamber ensembles and winning prizes in competitions.

Landgren's dedication continues to all facets of the Peabody community. He is an active chamber music coach, serves on countless committees and volunteers to speak to students about subjects such as practice techniques. Landgren's enthusiasm for teaching is evident in these multiple roles. "I love to share with young people what I have learned from my teachers and from on-the-job playing with other professionals," he said.
--Kirsten Lavin

 

School of Medicine

Craig Hendrix

For Craig Hendrix, associate professor in the departments of Medicine, Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences, and Epidemiology, it's always been about teaching.

"For as long as I can remember, I have always loved teaching, sharing knowledge, imparting practical skills," Hendrix said. "In a classroom, when you see that 'Eureka!' moment when the light goes on, it's incredible. In many ways the feeling is like having a sick patient and being able to make them better."

When he was in the Boy Scouts, Hendrix took great joy in teaching younger Scouts the things Scouts learn--how to tie knots, for example. After college, he entered the Air Force and, as a second lieutenant, taught pilots and crew about the physiologic changes of flight and oversaw afternoons in an altitude chamber.

"Much of the time, I was training people who outranked me--talk about a hostile audience," he remembered with a smile. "I learned a lot about teaching in that environment--how to gain the students' confidence that I have something valuable to impart. That was a great job."

Fortunately, medical school students and clinical fellows are generally an open bunch to begin with. Even so, Hendrix uses his experiences to make the most of courses he teaches or directs--a set of lectures to second-year medical students, Rational Therapeutics to fourth-year students and Principles of Drug Development for a graduate program in the School of Public Health--and in mentoring clinical fellows.

Just as with fighter pilots and air crews, Hendrix engages his medical students and fellows, incorporating hands-on learning whenever possible. For example, the drug development course, which follows the process from basic research discovery to FDA approval, requires student teams to create a development plan for a hypothetical drug--focusing on designing appropriate clinical trials--and present their final projects to actual FDA reviewers.

"The tension in teaching is between how much information you can actually present in the time allotted, and how much of that information a student can reasonably retain," he said. "I try to be sure to teach not just concepts but skills."

Hendrix added that the Alumni Association Awards are particularly important recognition in an environment that so far hasn't really found a way to quantify the contribution of teaching to its three-pronged mission of teaching, research and patient care. But each year since 1996 or so, Hendrix finds himself once again donning a uniform and marching to considerable pomp and circumstance in honor of new graduates, which satisfies him to no end.

"Being able to take medical students and turn them into physicians, watching them walk across the stage and get their diplomas, that's where the contributions of all teachers across the institution are recognized," Hendrix said. "This is, after all, a university."
--Joanna Downer

 

School of Nursing

Marie Nolan, graduate award

Marie Nolan credits one of her professors with her decision to become a researcher. "My own undergraduate research instructor made me see how exciting research could be and pushed me to think about getting a doctorate," explained Nolan, an associate professor who teaches research design in the School of Nursing graduate program and conducts research in clinical ethics and end-of-life decision making. "It makes me wonder how many more students would go on to further their education--to get a master's or doctoral degree--if we could help them to visualize themselves doing it."

So Nolan strives to instill that same excitement in her students. "I try to encourage and help all of my students to create the vision," she said. It's not always just the A students, she points out. "Sometimes you'll have a student who doesn't always earn a perfect score on an exam but who has the persistence, the creativity and, most importantly, the passion to have great potential to contribute to the nursing profession through research."

Nursing students in Nolan's classes describe her as gracious, respectful, enthusiastic and supportive. She demonstrates the characteristics that epitomize an ideal professor, said one student in her nomination, adding, "Dr. Nolan has the ability to convey her genuine love and passion for research as she educates. I hope that one day I, too, can give of myself in a way that will inspire and truly move others in and into the nursing profession."

Another student said Nolan "brings research to the nurse at the bedside and helps nurses envision how research can be done by us for the benefit of our patients, ourselves and one another."

Nolan came to Hopkins in 1989 as a nurse researcher for nursing administration at The Johns Hopkins Hospital with a joint appointment at the School of Nursing. She became a full-time associate professor with the School of Nursing in 2001. "Johns Hopkins attracts such a bright group of nursing students," she said. "It's a pleasure to teach them."
--Ming Tai


Kate Lears, undergraduate award

When Kate Lears talks about her students, her high esteem for them is evident. "I have a great amount of respect for my students. They come to us with such an incredible amount of knowledge and experience," she said. "My goal is to meet them where they are, to assess their status as learners and then to take them as far as they can go, to help them reach their highest capacity for learning."

Lears teaches Community Health Nursing to undergraduate students. She received her M.S.N. from the School of Nursing in 1997 and also holds an M.P.H. from the School of Public Health, where she is currently a doctoral candidate. She has been an instructor with the School of Nursing since 1998.

"Kate Lears exemplifies all that is excellent in the profession of teaching," said one of her students. "She is an intelligent woman, an expert in her field and a phenomenal lecturer. She is a dynamic presenter, using very creative approaches to her subject matter. In addition, she is a com- passionate, thoughtful and respectful professor."

Another student said Lears is "a wonderful role model and a great motivator. She is not only a great instructor, but most importantly she is passionate about nursing and exhibits respect toward all of us in her classroom."

"Being a professional role model is crucial," Lears said, "because students need to be able to apply all their knowledge in a professional manner.

"I get back a lot from my students," she added. "The greatest pleasure in life is to see the 'Aha!' look on a student's face."
--M.T.

 

School of Professional Studies

Kenneth Seidl, Division of Undergraduate Studies

To say that Kenneth Seidl relates to his students is an understatement. As a graduate of both the undergraduate and graduate programs of the School of Professional Studies, he knows how hard it is to be an adult part-time student, and that, he said, makes him a better teacher.

"SPS students are extraordinary people," he said. "They work all day, many raise families, and yet they come to class week after week because they're driven to improve their professional opportunities. Their commitment and sacrifices inspire me to be the best instructor that I can be."

Seidl, a faculty associate in the SPS undergraduate division, still remembers when he was a driver for the United Parcel Service. "I would carry my textbooks on the truck and study in between stops. We had a young family then, and it was a struggle to go to school at night," he said. "The thing that kept me coming back was that the class material was relevant and applicable to my day-to-day operations. The immediate application made professional advancement a reality, not a dream."

Today, Seidl is the national account training manager for the United Parcel Service. At Johns Hopkins, he teaches Strategic Management, Process Operations Management, Professional Writing, Management Theory and Strategy, and Managerial Communication.

Why then, after finishing his graduate degree, would he approach the administration for a teaching position and continue to come back to Johns Hopkins at night? "By the end of my graduate program, I knew I wanted to teach and help other adult learners," he said. "I have enormous respect for these students, and I understand firsthand their needs and the sacrifices they make. Since many of them are working full time, they're tired, and the real challenge for an instructor is to present the methodology in an interesting and memorable way. Retention is key."

Students comment that Seidl's teaching style is "energetic" "dynamic" and "interesting," and that he "understands professional needs." Seidl shuns any praise, commenting that his students are not only a pleasure to teach, they're easy to teach. "Essentially, all of them are practitioners, and when they receive new information, they immediately apply it to real-world situations," he said. "This has a synergetic effect on class discussion, and education just takes place."

Seidl still hasn't tired of his long days at Johns Hopkins, he said. "I love teaching adult leaders, especially at the undergraduate level because they have such a longer walk to walk." And Seidl knows because he has walked in those shoes.
--Chris Godack


Christopher Helmrath, Graduate Division of Business

Christopher Helmrath, a member of the M.B.A. capstone faculty and coordinator of the M.B.A. capstone courses, never had a chance. He comes from a family of teachers. His father and brother are in academic medicine, and his mother was a kindergarten teacher. Helmrath knew he was in trouble when, as a competitive tennis player in college, he quickly discovered that he enjoyed teaching the game more than playing it.

His passion for teaching continues today. "I just can't get it out of my blood," he said. "Teaching provides a stimulus that I can't get out of my day employment." During the day, Helmrath is the director of financial services for American Express Tax and Business Services, where he manages the investment banking and financial advisory services for middle market companies in the Baltimore-Washington area. In addition, he is a frequent contributor to the Baltimore Business Journal, writing on a variety of issues including business strategy, mergers and acquisitions, and valuing and buying businesses. In 2001, he was recognized by the BBJ as one of the top 40 business professionals under age 40 ("40 under 40") in the Baltimore region.

"It is incredibly rewarding for me to prepare to teach a class, challenge others and be challenged in the process," Helmrath said.

Students said they appreciate his practical experience in the application of business strategy concepts. "It's all about the application of knowledge," Helmrath said. "I want to give my students the ability to apply what they learn, not just to sit back and learn theory. I love it when you can see the light bulb go on in students."

Lynda De la Vina, associate dean of SPS and director of the Graduate Business and Management Division, said, "Last year, Chris took on the additional responsibility of coordinating all of the M.B.A. capstone courses. In this role, he has done an extraordinary job of strengthening the relationship between Hopkins and the business community while still maintaining teaching excellence in the classroom." In keeping with his own competitive spirit, Helmrath's teams have frequently won the M.B.A. Capstone Competition, an end-of-semester contest for all teams in the course.

Helmrath noted that another benefit to teaching is feedback. "I enjoy getting e-mails and letters from former students who have excelled in their professions," he said. "It's very rewarding to know that you had a small part in a student's goal and journey in achieving success."
--C.G.


Wayne Hunt, Graduate Division of Education

One cannot help but wonder upon meeting Wayne Hunt, How does he do it all? He teaches in the School of Professional Studies while serving as assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the School of Medicine's HIV clinic; chief psychologist and clinical supervisor for the Baltimore region of the Division of Correction; team psychologist for both the Baltimore Police Hostage Negotiation Team and Critical Incident Stress Debriefing Team; and director of training for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, Mental Health Services and Clinical Psychology internship.

"I find the time and energy to teach at Hopkins because I love to teach," said Hunt, who has degrees from Johns Hopkins (M.S., counseling) and George Washington University (Ed.D., counseling and psychological assessment). Hunt joined the SPS education faculty in 1993, and in recent years he has taught the Clinical Community Counseling Internship, Addictions Internship and Advanced Internship. He has consistently received exceptional evaluations, and his students look to him for guidance in their internship experience. In nominating him for the Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award, one student wrote, "He understands the practical real-life issues of the internship placement [including] behaviors of the staff, supervisors and issues other people bring in."

"I enjoy teaching in the internship program because I get a rare opportunity to see students actually change and grow through a process," Hunt said. "Older students utilize their past experiences, and younger students begin to realize their potential."

Hunt said he believes that the purpose of internships is to gain confidence in a field, and he tries to provide a safe environment in his classroom where "errors" are viewed as learning experiences. "It's one thing to learn about therapy from books; it's something completely different to actually do therapy," he said. "In class I speak only after all the students have fully discussed therapeutic issues. Learning happens through their listening and dissecting their own experiences."

Hunt challenges his students by presenting case histories from his experience with trauma, negotiations and critical incidents. "Fortunately or unfortunately, my day jobs provide more than enough interesting, real-life scenarios for study. By using these real-life situations, students are more engaged and therefore better able to see how theories are applied."

At the end of every year, Hunt takes his graduating students to the Hopkins Club for a celebration. "Teaching for me is about giving back," he said. "I know it's a cliche, but it's true. Society isn't going to get any better if we don't teach and challenge others who, in turn, can improve the quality of life in our communities."
--C.G.


Christopher Dreisbach, Division of Public Safety Leadership

Philosophy was an early interest of Christopher Dreisbach's. His father was a retired Methodist minister, and he remembers many lively philosophical discussions in his house. "By the age of 12, I decided to join in," Dreisbach said, and "I haven't stopped since."

Dreisbach, a core member of the Police Executive Leadership faculty, teaches a variety of philosophy courses and played a key role in the growth of the division and its ethics program. His work has been recognized by national academic institutions and law enforcement officials.

"I want my students to become better thinkers in their field of study. I go in assuming that they have no interest in philosophy and don't know that they already are philosophers," he said. "The minute you present a problem for discussion, the students end up arguing about a solution, and that's where I make the connection that philosophy can step in and help." Dreisbach's students aren't typical students--they're members of the Secret Service, the FBI and high-ranking law enforcement officials from the region.

"My goal is to give students an understanding of the central importance of philosophy and its value to leadership," he said. "What better place to introduce philosophy than in public safety? Philosophy isn't about the obvious. I want to give these public safety officials the ability to come to a solution that one time out of 100 when the solution isn't obvious, and lives may be at stake."

Dreisbach teaches several courses in ethics and leadership in the graduate and undergraduate sessions of the Police Executive Leadership Program. He also teaches graduate courses in the United States Secret Service Executive Development Program and in several of the school's noncredit certificate programs. One course he developed, The Constitution, Ethics and Society, has served as a model for degree programs in other schools throughout the country.

Commenting on Dreisbach's teaching award, Sheldon Greenberg, director of the Division of Public Safety Leadership, said, "Chris is known for giving far more than is asked of most adjunct faculty. When a colleague suffered a major stroke, Chris jumped right in and did the curriculum development work, took on the added classes and handled the student advising. He did these things, and more, while maintaining his role as chair of the Department of Philosophy at the College of Notre Dame."

Dreisbach regularly receives excellent evaluations from his students and is highly respected by other faculty and staff. His academic background (a doctorate from Johns Hopkins) and his work in the religious community (he is an associate at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore) provide a unique foundation for student learning, particularly in public safety.

"There's a reason the last step you take in any field is the doctor of philosophy degree, the Ph.D.," he said. "It's not as important to know philosophy as it is to think philosophically. That's what I try to convey to my students."
--C.G.

 

Whiting School of Engineering

Charles Meneveau

Charles Meneveau has spent more than a dozen years patiently guiding Johns Hopkins engineering undergraduates through the mathematically demanding field of fluid mechanics. This year, his students showed their appreciation by selecting Meneveau, a professor of mechanical engineering, for an Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award.

"This was my first one, so it was extra sweet," he said. "The list of finalists included a lot of highly respected instructors, so I thought my chances of receiving the award were slim. When I got it, I was very pleased."

Meneveau conducts research into "turbulent flow" and serves as director of Johns Hopkins' Center for Environmental and Applied Fluid Mechanics. Yet his classroom duties remain a priority.

One of the students who nominated Meneveau said, "His lectures were very clear, and he was very open to people who were having difficulty in the class."

Another added, "What makes him worthy of this award is not only his teaching but his approachability and helpfulness."

Fluid mechanics focuses on the movement of gases and liquids. "In teaching fluid mechanics, the particular difficulty is in connecting the mathematical descriptions to the real world, to flows happening in the lab, within machinery or in nature," Meneveau said. "And different types of math need to be applied, depending on what you're studying. The flow of molasses behaves differently than the air flow behind a moving car."

To help students who have trouble keeping up, Meneveau maintains an open-door policy, working with students in his office whenever possible.

Apparently, the word about Meneveau's teaching skills has been spreading. In past years, his spring fluid mechanics course has attracted about 10 students. This year, enrollment in the class more than doubled.

"I really enjoy teaching," he said. "I love explaining important concepts. When I see students respond to that, that's the big reward."
--Phil Sneiderman


Wilson Rugh

Wilson J. Rugh, a Johns Hopkins faculty member for more than 30 years and a pioneer in the use of multimedia exercises and quizzes to supplement his classroom instruction, was recognized this year with an Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award.

Rugh's Signals and Systems course provides important basic instruction for future electrical and biomedical engineers. Students who nominated Rugh for the teaching award said he takes a keen interest in the undergraduates who enroll in the course.

"He gets to know the names of the students after just a few weeks," one of the nominators said.

Another said, "Dr. Rugh is one of those professors who so impress their students that the students take his course merely because he is the professor teaching it."

Other students hailed his innovative teaching methods, which include interactive materials posted on a Web site. Engineering educators and industry executives also have paid tribute to Rugh's Web site, naming it the recipient of the 2001 Premier Award for Excellence in Engineering Education Courseware. Students and educators from around the world have made use of the free instructional aids on it.

Rugh, who is the E.J. Schaefer Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has previously been recognized for his skills as an educator. In 1997 he received the William H. Huggins Excellence in Teaching Award.

"I've been teaching a long time, and I take my teaching very seriously," Rugh said after he received the Huggins award.
--P.S.


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