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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University May 14, 2007 | Vol. 36 No. 34
Hats Off to 2007's Top Teachers

Academic divisions honor their own with Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Awards

By Contributing Writers
Special to The Gazette

A pony-tailed epidemiologist who can make a Friday afternoon class fly by, a devoted engineering professor with a penchant for field trips and a political scientist who just loves to hear his students talk are just a sampling of the outstanding Johns Hopkins faculty whose teaching talents have been recognized with a prestigious award.

Since 1992, the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association has annually 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 nomination and selection processes differ by school, but students must be involved in the selection.

The $2,000 provided to each school by the Alumni Association can be given to one winner, shared by up to four or attached to another, divisional teaching award.

The following faculty members are recipients of the 2007 Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Awards.



Homayoon Farzadegan, Epidemiology, small class

Homayoon Farzadegan, Public Health
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

It's a rare teacher who can hold his students' attention in a class that meets late Friday afternoon. But Homayoon Farzadegan, professor of epidemiology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, is up to the task.
    "The time of the class on Fridays was awful, but he kept it really interesting," said Zunera Gilani, a student this year in Farzadegan's Epidemiology and Natural History of Human Viral Infection. "He's such a warm and genuine person and just made the class fun to be in."
    Farzadegan's abilities to engage students — sometimes under less-than-ideal conditions — earned him the Golden Apple, as the teaching award is known at the school, in the best small class category.
    "I strongly believe in stress-free learning," said Farzadegan, who won his first Golden Apple in 2002. "My teaching philosophy is to provide a relaxed environment to diffuse knowledge and exchange ideas."
    On the faculty since 1985, Farzadegan is an easily recognizable figure around the Bloomberg School's Wolfe Street building, with his grayish hair pulled back in a short ponytail. A native of Iran, he first came to the United States in 1969 to complete his graduate studies, then taught at Tehran University School of Medicine. He emigrated to the United States in 1980, following the Iranian revolution in 1979, and became a U.S. citizen 18 years ago.

Besides Epidemiology and Natural History of Human Viral Infection, which earned him the Golden Apple, Farzadegan's annual course load consists of the Public Health Impact of HIV/AIDS, Advanced Topics on Controls and Prevention of HIV, and Applied Aspects of Cohort Studies.
    Farzadegan and Keerti Shah, professor of molecular microbiology and immunology, developed the Epidemiology and Natural History of Human Viral Infection course in 1999 and taught it together. The course covers the biology, epidemiology and progression of diseases caused by human viruses. Since 2002, when Shah cut back on his teaching schedule, Farzadegan has taught the course solo.
    He augments his course lectures by opening his classroom to a "parade of experts" from Johns Hopkins' various schools and centers to talk about their work in human viral infection and epidemiology. He also has students get together in small groups to review the latest literature and findings on a selected topic and lead a class discussion.
    Often, Farzadegan draws on the expertise of his students, some of whom have impressive resumes in public health. An MPH student from India talked to the class about working on HIV prevention programs there. Another student discussed her research on HIV and malaria co-infection.
    "I learn a lot," he said. "And I'm sure that students, by exchanging their ideas and opinions, learn a lot, too."
    In addition to his teaching duties, Farzadegan has been involved in HIV/AIDS research for more than 25 years in two of the oldest and largest ongoing cohort studies on the disease — the Multicenter AIDS Cohort (MACS), which began tracking the occurrence and consequences of HIV in a group of homosexual and bisexual men in 1984, and the AIDS Linked to the IntraVenous Experience project (ALIVE), for which Farzadegan oversees the virology component. The study has followed HIV progression in injection drug users since 1988. He also designed the school's first biosafety level 3 lab for work with potentially lethal infection agents.
    "In research, what I gain is relatively narrow in my area of expertise, but when I teach, the horizon is expanded," he said. "That's why I look forward to going to class." — Jackie Powder

Clive Shiff, Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, small class

Clive Shiff, Public Health
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Among Clive Shiff's many gifts is one of understatement; asked to explain the appeal of Biology of Parasitism, one of two courses that he teaches cited in this year's Golden Apple teaching award, he offers a bemused smile. "Well, I've got a fair amount of experience with parasites," he says, "so I fit nicely with the subject."
    In fact, Shiff, spent close to 30 years working as a field biologist and medical entomologist in the ministries of health and agriculture in the former Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where he was born and raised. Today he's an internationally known malaria expert and associate professor in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health — and a two-time Golden Apple honoree. He last won in 1990.
    Shiff left Rhodesia in 1979, during the country's tumultuous transition to an independent Zimbabwe, and began his teaching career at UCLA. He arrived at Johns Hopkins in 1986 but returns to Africa at least twice a year to visit the malaria research station he helped found in Macha, in rural southern Zambia. The center is not far from the Zimbabwe border, and his beleaguered former homeland is never far from his thoughts: On his office wall hangs a vintage postcard of Zimbabwe's capital city of Harare, its serene streets lined with blooming jacaranda trees. "I'm third-generation African — that's all I know," he says. "I feel completely invigorated whenever I go back."
    His deep background in the region provides vital material for his teaching. He developed Tropical Environmental Health, a two-unit course, to take advantage of the work he once did as a government health official creating efficient pit latrines and water pumps for use in remote villages. When it comes to parasitology, there are few African bugs that Shiff has not encountered over the course of his career. "That's the beauty of having field experience," he said. "You can use personal anecdotes. I come from there, so I know what people are up against."
    With his droll manner and courtly accent, Shiff makes a charming tour guide, but the emphasis is on practical advice. His courses draw a diverse assortment of students, from Peace Corps veterans to engineers, and he frequently receives letters from former students who employ his teachings in the field. "It's interesting to see the reverberations," Shiff said. "It's nice to know that at least some of these principles are useful."
    Inspired by a former chemistry professor who could weave beautifully structured lectures from notes scribbled on a pack of cigarettes, Shiff works without written notes, and his courses emphasize student participation. "In a small class you have plenty of time to interact with the students," he said. "That's the best aspect — you can really get to know them."
    He also believes that sometimes the best teacher can be another student. "I try to get students to talk about their own experiences," he said. "It gives the others an opportunity to see what might be in store for them." — David Dudley

Sharon Krag, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, medium class

Sharon Krag, Public Health
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

For Sharon Krag, the Bloomberg School's associate dean for graduate education and research, the Golden Apple couldn't have been sweeter.
    When Krag retires next month after more than three decades at the school, she leaves behind a long and substantive list of accomplishments in teaching, administration and research, but until this year the school's annual teaching award had eluded her.
    "It's funny," said Krag, professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. "I was thinking about four or five months ago, 'Well, I'm going to retire, but I'll never win a Golden Apple.'"
    But it turns out that Krag wrote herself off too soon. When the 2007 awards were announced last month — two and a half months before her retirement — she was among the winners.
    "It feels spectacular. I couldn't be more excited," said Krag, who, despite winning the 2002 Stebbins Medal — one of the school's highest honors — for her contribution to the teaching program, wanted to retire with a Golden Apple. "The Stebbins Medal is given by the faculty," she explains. "What makes the Golden Apple extremely special is that it's from students. It's their feelings coming out."
    The award recognized Krag's course Public Health Biology, designed to provide students with an understanding of the biology of infectious diseases, inherited diseases and cancer, as well as how these diseases affect populations in terms of public health. Other courses developed and taught by Krag, who joined the faculty in 1976, include Biochemistry, Molecular Biology of Disease, Research Ethics and Public Health Perspectives in Research.
    As a professor, Krag says it's important to her to engage students in discussions, a challenge in a course like Molecular Biology of Disease, which typically numbers between 50 and 70 students.
    "You have to walk around, and you have to make eye contact," she said of her teaching style. "You have to enjoy interacting with students in order to pull that off."
    Named associate dean for graduate education and research in 1992, Krag is responsible for the PhD, ScD and ScM programs and oversees research compliance in general, including the school's Human Research Protection Program, animal research, export controls and issues related to scientific misconduct. Since her appointment, she has kept up a punishing workload, continuing her teaching and research, which currently focuses on maximizing N-glycan occupancy in therapeutic glycoproteins.
    Now, "I'm ready to do other things," she said. "To me, this is a 24/7 profession, and so in the last third of my life — and I intend to live for 40 more years — I want to do whatever the hell I want to do," Krag said. "I want to read all those books that I've bought and never had a chance to look at. I want to write a couple of books. I'm very interested in bringing science to the lay public. I especially want to spend more time with my family, and I want to do my birding and anthropology."
    Krag's last day at the school is June 29. When asked what she will miss the most, she doesn't hesitate. "Oh, the people — my colleagues, the students, the staff. It's just the people." — Jackie Powder

Leon Gordis, Epidemiology, large class

Leon Gordis, Public Health
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

One might think that Leon Gordis would have mastered Principles of Epidemiology by now. Not only has the veteran professor taught the course for more than three decades, giving generations of students their official introduction into one of medicine's core disciplines, he also wrote the book: His Epidemiology, now in a recently updated third edition, is one of the field's essential intro texts. Still, Gordis isn't phoning it in yet. "Even after all these years, I spend hours on every lecture," he said. "You have to have a little anxiety, a little adrenaline. If you get too comfortable up there, that's a bad sign."
    A senior faculty member at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and a professor of pediatrics at the School of Medicine, Gordis first took the stage for "Epi 1" in 1974, when longtime chairman Abe Lillienfeld suffered a coronary while teaching the class (he was revived by students) and Epidemiology faculty scrambled for an emergency substitute. "No one else had taught it before," he said. "There was a tremendous amount of anxiety." The next year, Gordis, then department chair, officially inherited the big 8:30 a.m. class. It's a required rite of passage for most Public Health students, and enrollment has sometimes swelled to more than 400. "Back when we were in the East Wing auditorium, they weren't even in the same room," he said. "You could only fit about 230, so we ran overflow rooms."
    From a teaching perspective, engaging this vast and sometimes drowsy crowd can be difficult. Recent curriculum changes mean only about 175 students are currently enrolled for Gordis' class — a comparatively intimate gathering by historical standards — but the professor's strategy remains the same. "I try to read their faces," he said. "And I try to be interactive, even with large groups. I pause a lot to let them ask questions. The challenge is learning to wait — one has a tendency to just forge on."
    An informal question period with students after every class also helps personalize the multitude. The course has changed location several times over the years, but Gordis prefers the older facilities over the newer halls, with their stadium-style seating and stage lighting. "It changed from being a place for a class to a place for an audience," he said.
    Also in flux is the course content, which needs to reflect the present state of the field. The study of populationwide disease incidence and prevalence has seen dramatic developments over the decades, and Epi 1 has kept pace. "I always bring in new material," said Gordis, who notes that teaching also helps him keep his textbook updated. "You learn a lot from your students. They're very insightful. And you can't have a better milieu for it than here."
    Obviously, the respect is mutual: This year, Gordis pockets his sixth Golden Apple. "It's nice when you hit 72 and people still remember your name," he said. — David Dudley

Edyth H. Schoenrich, Health Policy and Management, Internet class

Edyth Schoenrich, Public Health
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Edyth H. Schoenrich is trying to figure out how to slice up a Golden Apple. This month, Schoenrich will receive her first Golden Apple for Current Issues in Public Health, an Internet-based course. But she insists that she does not deserve the entire award.
    "This class is a collaborative effort," said Schoenrich, a professor in the Bloomberg School's Department of Health Policy and Management. "Slices belong to all of the faculty members who have shared their knowledge and wisdom, to the extraordinary teaching assistants and to the technology support staff. Two factors have strongly contributed to the success of this course. One is the quality of the presentations made by the faculty. The other is the hunger of our Internet students to be more closely involved in the intellectual life of our school."
    Current Issues in Public Health is offered from September through May during four terms, each of eight-week duration. Every two weeks, a faculty member records a presentation that is uploaded onto the Internet for the students to download at their convenience. The next week, that faculty member participates with Schoenrich and the teaching assistants in a live talk with the students. Students can also, at any time, communicate through online bulletin boards.
    An expert in clinical education and practice in internal medicine and general preventive medicine, Schoenrich is also director of part-time professional programs and associate chair of the Master of Public Health Program.
    Her motivation to teach the course is related to personal experience. Schoenrich received her master's in public health from Johns Hopkins in 1971, while she was working full time for the Maryland State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. "I remember leaving work each day, catching a bus, dashing into the school to listen to a lecture and then immediately leaving to catch a bus back to work," Schoenrich said. "So I have a special understanding of the difficulties part-time and Internet students face. They don't have the same access to academic resources and to the intellectual life of the school that full-time students receive when they personally interact with their classmates and instructors. I wanted to open these opportunities to our Internet students, who are spread all over the world."
    Current Issues in Public Health is unique in that it isn't a required class for any particular program of study, and students earn just one credit toward their degrees. "For prospective students, the course allows persons to explore options for a future in public health," Schoenrich said. "For matriculated degree candidates, it broadens the perspective of persons who are committed to improving the health of the world's people and the environment in which they live." — Kenna L. Lowe



Robert Rajewski, Real Estate

Robert Rajewski, Business
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Bob Rajewski talks of how his degree in real estate from Johns Hopkins opened doors for him, including the one that brought him full circle, back into the classroom.
    A member of the Edward St. John Department of Real Estate practitioner faculty since 1996, the year after he received his master of science in real estate degree, Rajewski couldn't wait to share his Hopkins experience with others in an academic setting. He teaches in both the part-time program and the full-time offering, the first such program of its kind in the Carey Business School.
    "I always promised myself that I would give back to the industry on a frequent basis, when I had the chance to do so," said Rajewski, who manages a portfolio of 24 assets for a financial institution in Baltimore. He credits an instructor with providing the spark to teach. "Shawn Krantz, a fellow teacher, brought me into the program as a spot instructor, and that led to my present teaching duties," Rajewski said. "He instilled in me a sense of teaching that lasts to this day."
    Rajewski teaches Real Estate Analysis I and II, and the Real Estate Practicum, a course that he was instrumental in creating. The practicum functions as the capstone course, where students put their newly acquired knowledge and skills to the test in working on an actual real estate or development project. Projects vary widely. "Some students analyze a real estate investment, in theory 'buying' a property; others look at the capital markets, or zoning regulations, or the buying and selling of commercial property," he said.
    Students' needs and interests differ significantly as well. "Full-time and part-time students have different sets of needs, so we customize lectures and materials as much as possible," he explained. "Our full-time students average around 23 to 24 years of age, while our part-time students skew older, in their mid-30s. Whereas the older students tend to bring more experience into the classroom, the younger ones may be more familiar with newer practices and technological tools, so it's an interesting contrast."
    Rajewski sees two major developments occurring in the real estate industry. The first, he says, is that the discipline is far more integrated into the capital markets, demanding a greater understanding from students of these markets and how they function; the "back of the envelope" approach to analyzing transactions, he says, is long gone. The second is that the industry finds itself in the middle of an economic cycle, the first of its kind since the mid-1980s. "If a market correction occurs, it could pose a challenge in maintaining a return on investment with an acceptable risk, whether you're a lender, appraiser or owner," he said. "That's a real challenge my students not only can learn about but see happening for themselves."
    Mike Anikeeff, professor and chair of the Department of Real Estate, said, "Bob Rajewski has used his professional experience and teaching talent to create a new class unique to real estate academic programs in the country. He makes a tremendous contribution to the success of the real estate program here at Johns Hopkins." — Andrew Blumberg



Matthew Crenson, Political Science

Matthew Crenson, Arts and Sciences
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Krieger School Excellence in Teaching Award co-recipient Matthew Crenson doesn't follow a particular teaching philosophy. But he does have a mantra of sorts: Always overprepare for class. Having several conversation starters at the ready in advance of his courses in urban politics makes him more confident that a class meeting will be sparked with debate.
    "I hate dead air, and sometimes it's hard to get students to talk," Crenson said. But when they do talk, that's about as good as it gets for a professor, a lesson he learned while working with a mentor, Francis Rourke, a political scientist who had joined the Johns Hopkins department in the 1950s. Crenson also channels Maurice Mandelbaum, the professor of philosophy who taught the first big lecture class that Crenson took as an undergraduate at Hopkins. "Today when I lecture, I find myself using his turns of phrase," he said.
    Crenson, who is set to retire on June 30, has ventured into mentor territory himself, according to the students who nominated and voted for him.
    "Throughout my four years here, I have had many inspiring professors and am grateful to all of them, but Dr. Crenson has inspired me and other students to be an asset to the community and city in which we live," one senior wrote. "If I were asked by a prospective student, who can I talk to about making a difference, I would send that student to Dr. Crenson."
    "He is an embodiment of the university motto, 'Truth is Freedom,' one whose efforts have resulted in the original research on his part and the part of his students that explores the truth about his native Baltimore," another student wrote. "His tireless effort at his duties as a professor in the Political Science Department have affected for the better all the students, politicians and journalists who over the past several decades have sought and received his aid."
    The Crenson legacy includes his mentorship of a new group of students as the lead faculty adviser for the university's Baltimore Scholars program. As a Baltimore native and former undergraduate himself, Crenson was uniquely qualified to offer guidance to the scholars — graduates of Baltimore City high schools — whose numbers grow each year; 34 were offered admission for fall 2007.
    Through the years, Crenson says, he's kept alive his interest in teaching by leaving it once in a while to do other things, including a stint as interim dean of the Krieger School and writing books, something he says he'll do more of in retirement. He also plans to spend more time with his first grandchild, a grandson named McGregor, whose photos cover the wall behind his desk in Mergenthaler Hall.
    Though his last day as a professor is approaching, Crenson says he'll maintain close ties with Johns Hopkins, and as one of the university's professors most quoted in the media, he will continue to take calls from reporters looking for insight into local elections. "I'll probably just move to a smaller office down the hall," he said. — Amy Lunday

Claude Guillemard, German and Romance Languages and Literatures

Claude Guillemard, Arts and Sciences
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Claude Guillemard, a senior lecturer of French in the Department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures, says she was really touched when she learned that she was the co-winner of the Krieger School's Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award. "It is so comforting to know our students appreciate our efforts," Guillemard says. "It makes it all worthwhile."
    Guillemard offers a couple of theories about what might make her stand out, but only after she's pressed to do so. Mostly, she attributes her nomination not to any intellectual quality but to some traits of her personality well-suited to teaching.
    "I think that I have a lot patience," she said. "That's not some skill I've developed — it's just who I am."
    Guillemard thinks her master's degree in counseling also serves her well, helping her to be empathetic with her students when they encounter problems in their learning process, or even outside the classroom. While she's understanding of the difficulties students may have academically, socially and at home, Guillemard also makes sure that her students are aware that she expects the best from them all the time.
    "I have high standards for myself and also for my students," she said. "I'm going to give you my best, but if you end up in my class, you're going to work, too."
    Guillemard admits that can be a tough sell to undergraduates who are taking one of her intermediate French classes just because they have to fulfill a language requirement for their degree and not for a love of the language. Those students can be especially vulnerable, she says, but it's rewarding to get them hooked despite themselves.
    "With a foreign language, there is something deeply personal involved in trying to express yourself in a different code," Guillemard said. "You need to accept that you don't have all the tools necessary to say exactly what you wish to communicate."
    That she is in tune with her students is something her nominators noticed about Guillemard. A colleague wrote that what impresses her about Guillemard is "something in her that no one could easily imitate: her warmth, her gift for putting students at ease immediately, the way that — for all of her immense capacity for painstaking work — she never seemed the least bit hurried or preoccupied when talking to a student, or to anyone else. There seemed to be something about talking to Claude that made students — even shy students, or the very weakest ones — suddenly relax and start speaking better French."
    Guillemard's student nominators noted those qualities as well.
    "Professor Guillemard has been not only my favorite member of the faculty here at Hopkins; she has totally changed my perspective of learning the French language," wrote a freshman. "In high school, I dreaded going to my French classes. However, here at Hopkins, my French classes with Professor Guillemard have been the ones that I enjoy the most. Thanks to her total commitment to not only the French language but also to me, her student, I have become confident with my understanding of the French language." — Amy Lunday



To be announced at the school's diploma ceremony.



Boris Slutsky, piano faculty

Boris Slutsky, Peabody
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Moscow-born pianist Boris Slutsky blazed onto the world music scene at the young age of 19. His studies with Anna Kantor, alongside famed pianist and lifelong friend Evgeny Kissin, prepared him to win numerous major international competitions.
    Now, he is teaching his students at Peabody to be winners as well. At home and abroad, his students are winning top honors, including Peabody's Harrison Winter Concerto Competition, the Baltimore Music Club Competition, the Hilton Head Piano Competition and the Iowa Piano Competition. The upcoming William Kapell International and the Queen Elizabeth competitions will have representatives from Slutsky's studio as well.
    Slutsky began his studies with Kantor as a young boy at the Gnessin Institute for Gifted Children in Moscow. In 1977, he left the Soviet Union with his parents, who would eventually play violin and viola in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. After completing bachelor's and master's degrees at Manhattan School of Music, he joined the Peabody faculty in 1993.
    Kantor's influence on Slutsky is evident in the comments from his students. As Kantor balanced the individual needs of her pupils, so does Slutsky. "I have ... progressed to a level of musical maturity that allows me to form my own ideas and communicate them," said one of his students in the Graduate Performance Diploma program, which is designed for students with exceptional artistic talent. Another GPD student remarked, "He has the ability to adopt and communicate with each individual student, which I find extremely valuable in a teacher, as each and every one of us is different."
    Slutsky has one of the largest and most sought-after piano studios at Peabody, with more than 20 students. He balances his rigorous teaching schedule with an active performance career. His orchestral, recital and chamber performances have taken him worldwide with appearances in major American venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, and abroad to France, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Latin America and Asia. Although his busy schedule is taking him to Korea during the commencement ceremonies at Peabody, his students say they always feel that he is "consistent with our lessons and makes every effort to ... hear us 'one more time' before a big performance or competition."
    Dedication and effort from his students inspire Slutsky as well. "The most important factor in my enjoyment of teaching is curiosity," he said. "I like to see students who are curious about different kinds of music, different ways of looking at things. I want someone who has initiative, who does not wait to hear what to do but presents me with their own visions, their own ways of hearing things. I love teaching as much as anything else." — Kirsten Lavin



Michael Houck, Public Safety Leadership

Michael Houck, Education
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

When it comes to the fine art of research, Mike Houck is "Mr. Librarian" for both the Carey Business School and the School of Education. What many of his in-house clients don't realize, however, is that Houck also uses that expertise as a veteran instructor for Education's Division of Public Safety Leadership.
    Working out of Johns Hopkins' Columbia Center, Houck has the official title of "regional campus librarian." In that capacity, he answers the research and information needs of students, faculty and staff of both schools, a job he has been doing at Hopkins for 11 years. Houck, who has a master's in library science from Catholic University (in addition to two other master's degrees), guides his clients through the maze of online and on-the-shelf journals, databases, periodicals and other sources of information available to them through the vast offerings of the various Hopkins libraries. The amount of information available is staggering — "there are tens of thousands of electronic journals alone available," he said — and the levels of comfort and expertise demonstrated by users accessing this information varies considerably. Houck also identifies and locates hard copies of books and other texts for delivery to his customers.
    "I come at it from a business perspective," Houck said. "We have fine resources to offer, but [due to the amount and complexity of the material], it's not an intuitive thing for most people to access. That's why I work one-on-one in addition to working with groups. I learn people's specific needs, time constraints and whether the need for information is immediate or will be more useful down the line."
    Today's students, Houck says, need a different skill set to conduct research than their predecessors did. "The irony with so much information available is that it can be overwhelming. Students have to be editors to weed through a mountain of information to find what they actually need," he said.
    Houck sees working in his virtual library and the explosion of information available via the Internet as a "sea change analogous to Gutenberg and movable type. It's just my good luck to be doing this exciting work now."
    Houck started his teaching career with the Division of Public Safety Leadership almost by accident, "pinch-hitting" for a colleague for one class and "never leaving." He teaches Information Sources in the Social Sciences, as well as a one-day workshop, to the division's police, fire and emergency medical services personnel, introducing basic tools of the trade and a research system his students can apply to their schoolwork, career and personal pursuits.
    Some of his students, such as those in investigatory areas, are "natural detectives" who can "comfortably rummage around" online sources of information, Houck says; others, "not as much." Houck makes a fitting analogy of his students visiting a pistol range: Some are "natural shots," while others need further practice. "I want to give all of them a skill set to last them for their careers," he said.
    Doug Ward, director of the Division of Public Safety Leadership, said, "When it is difficult to locate a badly needed reference, Mike is the greatest friend a student or faculty member can have. I see him regularly carrying large piles of books and articles for delivery to our students. Mike truly goes above and beyond what is expected from any librarian. All of our students and faculty are very appreciative of his excellent work." — Andrew Blumberg

Carl Herbert, Teacher Development and Leadership

Carl Herbert, Education
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Retirement" is a relative term — just look at the distinguished career of Carl Edward Herbert.
    After a 34-year career in public education, which began in 1968 and concluded in 2002, Herbert still is going strong, teaching six courses for the School of Education's Department of Teacher Development and Leadership, as well as serving as adviser for the master's degree in education. Altogether, he now counts a full decade of teaching at Hopkins.
    Herbert, who received a master's degree in school administration and supervision from George Washington University, began his career as an elementary school teacher in Prince George's County, Maryland, and quickly became interested in the field of gifted education, serving those students with exceptional talents and learning potential. "I realized that there was very clearly a discrepancy between the performance of some academically talented students and the curriculum available to them," he said. It led, he adds, "to a very defining decision" regarding his life's work.
    Herbert continued his career in both the Prince George's and Calvert County public school systems, becoming an administrator working with principals and teachers on curriculum and classroom management, long-range planning and instructional strategies, among other areas. During this time, the U.S. Office of Education created the National State Leadership Training Institute, which focused on field sites across the country dealing with developing programs for gifted learners. Herbert was asked by Prince George's County officials to participate in the county component of the program.
    His growing expertise in gifted education was soon to be repeatedly tapped. From 1987 to 1994, Herbert held several key positions in the Maryland State Department of Education, including staff specialist in gifted education, chief of the School Improvement and Program Enrichment Section and senior state specialist in gifted education. Most recently, he served as coordinator for gifted and talented education for the Frederick County public schools system, and in several other leadership roles associated with gifted education.
    "Only in the last several decades has there been a sustained interest in looking at high-ability learners — a pronounced emphasis," he observed.
    For the School of Education, Herbert, who co-developed the Gifted Education Certificate Program, teaches the Gifted Learner; Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment of Gifted Learners (Parts I and II); Seminar in Gifted Education; Practicum in Gifted Education; and Curriculum Theory, Development and Implementation.
    Herbert freely shares his enthusiasm for his students. "They're a small, clearly defined population of educators who have a commitment to improving student performance," he said. "It's a wonderful group to work with. They have consciously and deliberately decided to pursue additional studies in the area of gifted education, and they're very committed."
    His colleagues and students recognize his commitment to the field as well. "Carl is a selfless team player who has a terrific sense of humor and is simply a wonderful person to work with," said Edward Pajak, professor and chair of the Department of Teacher Development and Leadership. "His course evaluations are consistently among the strongest in the department. As one of his students recently noted, 'Carl is by far the best teacher I have had in my undergrad or graduate level classes.'" — Andrew Blumberg



Samuel Durso, Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology

Samuel Durso, Medicine
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Colleagues say that Samuel Durso's teaching strengths are his low-key and direct approach. Durso, a pioneer in geriatric medical education, is also the ideal mentor, they say, a thoughtful and insightful professional who shines in one-on-one situations.
    "He includes [students] directly in his patient care and excels in bedside teaching," said William Greenough, professor of geriatric medicine at the School of Medicine. "He has a good sense of humor, but he's not a performer or flashy. His is a quiet approach."
    Durso joined Johns Hopkins in 1995 to become medical director at the newly constructed Oak Crest Village Retirement Community. He joined the full-time faculty at the School of Medicine in 2002 as an assistant professor and was promoted to associate professor in 2003. He is currently an attending physician at the Bayview Medical Center and The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and the clinical director of Geriatric Medicine and director of education for the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology at the School of Medicine.
    Durso's academic interest is education, and he serves as editor for the "Teaching in the Community" column in the journal Advanced Studies in Medicine. He is also the author of Teaching Ambulatory Medicine: Moving Medical Education Into the Office (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002).
    Greenough said that Durso has played a pivotal role in making Johns Hopkins a leader in geriatric education through his development of the school's curriculum in this growing field.
    "He's done a great deal in terms of making students recognize early on in their education the importance of taking care of older people, who often deal with complicated, multiple illnesses," Greenough said.
    Durso said that caring for such patients requires a high degree of medical judgment, which he tries to impart to all his learners.
    "Teaching this judgment is challenging, rewarding and, I feel, highly needed," Durso said.
    His overriding teaching philosophy, he said, is to constantly challenge students to solve problems and use their critical thinking skills. He makes them repeatedly practice physical diagnosis, which he observes and follows with very detailed and timely feedback.
    His reward, he said, is the steady maturation of the students.
    "I like seeing them grow intellectually and professionally," he said. "I also really enjoy seeing people who enjoy their profession as much as the people here do."
    His primary teaching responsibilities are as a member of the faculty for the Osler Service and the interdisciplinary geriatric team at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. He also teaches in the Geriatric Fellowship Program and the Department of Medicine at Bayview.
    Linda Fried, director of the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology in the School of Medicine, said that Durso has been a leader both in title and substance. Fried, who nominated Durso for the Excellence in Teaching Award, described him as a remarkably thoughtful and idealistic teacher who inspires students and faculty alike.
    "He is an outstanding clinician and a wonderful role model," she said. "It is important for young doctors to learn how to better care for a population that is aging so dramatically. He uses very innovative approaches to help those here understand the difference in care needed when dealing with older patients, and how to analyze their needs and optimize the person's well-being."
    When asked to describe Durso's teaching approach, Fried said, simply, "understated."
    "He doesn't do any arm twisting," she said. "He leads by his compelling nature and his concern for the learner. He cares a lot about his students, and I think they know that. In reality, it's inspiring for all of us to have someone like this around, a clinician's clinician who is caring, compassionate and extremely dedicated." — Greg Rienzi



Janice Hoffman, baccalaureate level

Janice Hoffman, Nursing
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Janice Hoffman, to me, is the ultimate teacher," raved one graduating student at the School of Nursing. "I only wish that she could teach every class." Two years after joining the school's full-time faculty, Janice Hoffman has won the hearts and minds of baccalaureate students throughout the school — and the 2007 Excellence in Teaching Award.
    Her achievement stems from her devotion to nursing education, which is the focus of her research and her area of expertise. "I love teaching and mentoring senior nursing students and new nurses in their first few years of practice," Hoffman said. "My responsibility to my students is more than disseminating the factual content of the course. It is to teach critical thinking and mentor young nurses to develop a method of inquiry."
    Throughout her 28 years of nursing, Hoffman has seemed destined for nursing education.
    Her first seven years were spent on active duty with the U.S. Navy, where she was initially assigned to train navy corpsmen but went on to be responsible for staff development of physicians, nurses and support personal. When applying for a nursing position at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, she was hired instead to teach in its nursing diploma program. At North Arundel Hospital, after interviewing for a supervisory position, she ended up assisting with the staff education program for newly graduated nurses.
    In 2001, while working on her doctorate, she joined The Johns Hopkins Hospital as director of a program called SPRING — for Social and Professional Reality Integration for Nurse Graduates — to help new nurses transition to nursing practice. With some advice and nudging from mentors and colleagues, she joined the School of Nursing faculty in 2005.
    Her master's degree, received in 1988, is in the field of nursing education, and her doctoral dissertation was titled "Predictors of Critical Thinking in Baccalaureate Nursing Students."
    According to Hoffman, being on the faculty is a perfect fit for her professional interests and skills. "There's a little entertainer in me," she admitted. "And teaching also forces me to go to a new level of understanding so I can explain it to my students. I love that learning process. Where else do you get paid to read and keep up with what's going on in your practice?"
    Hoffman's Adult Physical Health course is organized as a series of case studies in which students are expected to make correlations between the patient's diagnosis and the nurse's observations. "I want them to know not only what to do but why," Hoffman said. "Baccalaureate nurses need to develop their critical thinking skills. I teach them that it's OK to say 'I don't know' and look things up instead of just doing what they are ordered."
    Her case studies are made more compelling by the fact that she continues to work at the hospital a couple of days a month. "It keeps me fresh, and I maintain my credibility with the students. Just because a nurse gets a higher education doesn't mean she has to leave the bedside."
    Students are drawn not only to Hoffman's deep knowledge of the subject matter and her skill at teaching, they are also impressed with her devotion to her students. Each academic year, she sees 300 new faces and does her best to learn as many names as she can.
    "Dr. Hoffman puts a lot of time and effort into the school and students, and I believe it is time she is recognized for it," one student wrote. "She is more than a teacher — she is a mentor, a counselor and a friend." — Kelly Brooks-Staub

Cynda Rushton, graduate level

Cynda Rushton, Nursing
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

When I teach a class, I begin by assuming that the wisdom is already in the students in my classroom. My job is to facilitate that wisdom coming forward," said Cynda Rushton, an associate professor at the School of Nursing. "I coach them in discovering, learning and recognizing what they already know."
    A nationally recognized expert in bioethics and palliative care, Rushton has coordinated the school's course in health care ethics since 1995. All graduate nursing students are required to take the course Philosophical, Theoretical and Ethical Basis for Nursing, in which Rushton strives to impart the skills required to deal with unique ethical issues that arise in nursing practice.
    "I love teaching graduate students," Rushton said. "Many of them have chosen to come back to school at a major turning point in their careers. Some haven't developed the skill to articulate or defend their sense of right and wrong, and [they] go through their daily work routines carrying that burden. Teaching the ethics course is an incredible opportunity to help practicing nurses reinvigorate their commitment to patients, families, the profession and to themselves. It has the potential to help them fulfill their promise as a nurse."
    Rushton makes her classes very experiential, based on class dialogue. Using a variety of theories and principles, students learn to analyze ethical issues, understand various positions and their justification, and expand their repertoire of tools to advocate effectively. The students facilitate discussion on topics such as informed consent, confidentiality, genetics, advocacy, professionalism, social justice and more. According to Rushton, "Not much is off-limits! I invite them to take time to think about what they really believe and find their voice. I try to give them different ways to think about what to do in difficult situations."
    It is because she sets compelling intellectual challenges for her students that Rushton won this year's Excellence in Teaching Award. According to nominating students, her teaching often helps students change their point of view. "Her presentations of cases and thorough processes involving ethics often made me see the case in another light," wrote one.
    Rushton was instrumental in creating the first pediatric palliative care program in Maryland: the Harriet Lane Compassionate Care Program of the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. She has served as program director since 2000, working closely with other team members to create a 70-member interdisciplinary palliative care network, establish innovative educational programs, create a comprehensive bereavement program for families and health care professionals and develop support systems for health care professionals who care for these children.
    Rushton is engaged in quality improvement initiatives, research involving issues of trust and betrayal, caregiver suffering, end-of-life communication and educational models. Throughout her career, she has participated in national initiatives, delivered testimony to Congress and collaborated with professional organizations to create better systems of pediatric palliative care and to see her vision for improving care at the end of life become a reality. She has received multiple awards and recognition for her work, including being selected as one of 20 Robert Wood Johnson Nurse Executive Fellows in 2006.
    "There's always a group of students who are on fire at the end of the semester," Rushton said. "The subject of nursing ethics just resonates with them. They go back to their nursing practice recommitted to making a difference. For me, that is what makes teaching such great fun." — Kelly Brooks-Staub



Hedy Alavi, Geography and Environmental Engineering

Hedy Alavi, Engineering
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

When the subject is teaching skills, Hedy Alavi gets high marks from the undergraduate and graduate students he instructs and from his colleagues in the Whiting School's Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering.
    They point to the field trips he arranges to show how textbook theories work in real-world environmental applications. They also mention the extra attention and encouragement he provides to students who need help with the demanding curriculum.
    Alavi's efforts received even wider recognition recently when he was named this year's recipient of the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award.
    "Dr. Alavi's teaching style is challenging, entertaining, engaging," wrote one student in a letter of support. "Above all, you leave each class looking forward to the next week. If there is any professor deserving of this award, Dr. Alavi is it."
    Another student described Alavi as "very accessible and helpful." When the class was assigned to prepare reports, the student recalled, Alavi opened his personal library as an additional source of material.
    Several alumni and faculty colleagues also submitted letters of endorsement for Alavi's teaching award.
    "A more dedicated instructor you cannot find," one professor wrote. "Students in his class practically worship him. He conveys a dizzying array of breadth in his course Introduction to Environmental Engineering without sacrificing depth and key fundamentals. He also provides an education in engineering practice through his engagement of students in field trips and team projects. You hear their appreciation of him every time they mention his name."
    Alavi responds humbly to the recognition. "I'm not doing anything unusual," he said. "I'm just an average instructor. I was truly honored to be mentioned with the other faculty members who were also nominated."
    Before joining the Johns Hopkins faculty in 1996, Alavi, an expert in hazardous and solid waste engineering, was a Maryland Department of the Environment administrator.
    Today, he wears several hats within the Whiting School. He chairs the graduate Environmental Engineering, Science and Management Program in the school's Engineering and Applied Science Programs for Professionals. He also serves as assistant to the dean for international programs, helping the school establish research and academic collaborations with universities and industries in other nations.
    But his work directly with students remains a top priority. "I try to devote individual attention to the students and not just consider them as a class," Alavi said. "When my students miss classes or I notice that they're not doing well in their homework, I'll call them into my office and encourage them to work harder and catch up."
    Alavi plans to demonstrate his own dedication to environmental awareness. He said he will donate the monetary prize that comes with his teaching award to the "green roof" project under way on the Homewood campus. — Phil Sneiderman


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