Gazette
masthead
   About The Gazette Search Back Issues Contact Us    
The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University May 19, 2008 | Vol. 37 No. 35
 
At the Head of the Class

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

Contributing Writers
Special to the Gazette

Students might ace an exam, but do they fully understand the material? Some professors will go to great lengths to ensure that they do.

Whether it means having students dress up in Roman costumes, artfully plotting elaborate and colorful chalk use or injecting some fun into biostatistics, an outstanding group of Johns Hopkins faculty step outside of the box or go the extra mile to have their students live and breathe the course subject, not just read it in a book.

These and other efforts have not gone unnoticed by students who clearly appreciate their teachers' classroom talents, nominating them this year for 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 2008 Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Awards.

 

Bloomberg School of Public Health

Thomas Glass, Epidemiology, small class

Thomas Glass, School of Public Health
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Challenging a student's conceptions about learning is no easy task, but for Thomas Glass, rethinking traditional teaching methods is all in a day's work.

Glass, an associate professor in the Bloomberg School's Department of Epidemiology, is this year's winner for a small class. He received his first Golden Apple, as the award is known in the school, for teaching Advanced Seminar in Social Epidemiology. Glass attributes much of his success to his unconventional teaching style.

Using a seminar teaching model he first experienced as an undergraduate, Glass invites his students to set the tone by posing questions that arise from their readings and previous classroom discussions. He said he believes this model is more beneficial to his students' comprehension of the course materials.

"Although challenging, by moving away from a traditional lecture I am able to bring a different experience to public health courses and the big programs here," he said. "You can't control where the seminar is going if it is based on the students' questions, but you can provoke students' willingness to be involved if you are willing to answer their questions."

Glass admits that for some students the idea of speaking out in class can be intimidating, but he has found that injecting a little humor into a discussion helps some students to relax — a tool he learned in his first job after college, traveling to schools and community centers talking to children about sex. "Sex ed is the best way to learn the skills needed to be a successful teacher. You learn how to craft a message by being open to questions, knowing the material and being able to admit you don't have all of the answers."

It was during these presentations, Glass says, that he began a practice that he continues today- -answering a random collection of handwritten questions from his students' pertaining to the course materials.

Glass says that many students view him as a tough teacher because his classroom trademark is to shout — lightheartedly, he claims — "Wrong answer" when a student answers a question incorrectly.

"It's OK to be wrong sometimes, but I've noticed students don't like to take risks. Most of my students are all-star high achievers, but they play it safe. I hope to encourage students to take risks by taking risks myself and by asking them to join me."

Glass says he is honored to win the Golden Apple award — "sometimes you have the biggest impact when you least expect it" — but that he is most thankful for his students, who inspire him to be a better instructor and researcher. "Some of my best work," he said, "has come about when students asked questions."
— Natalie Wood-Wright


Brian Caffo, Biostatistics, medium class

Brian Caffo, School of Public Health
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Modesty prevents Brian Caffo, an associate professor in Biostatistics, from taking too much credit for his Golden Apple teaching award, but there are a couple of things he's happy to crow over. He chalks up his success in the classroom to two things: good students and good material. "What I like about the class is that I get the best students in the school."

What makes his course so good? The yearlong Methods in Biostatistics (Caffo teaches Part I in the fall) encourages quality over quantity, covering fewer topics in greater depth and concentrating on core ideas.

"We don't just teach the how," he said, "we teach the why."

And that emphasis on central concepts — such as linking data to a population and the fundamentals of probability — draws enthusiastic students. He estimates that only 10 percent of his students are required to take the class — the other 90 percent enroll out of interest.

"Very few of my students have to take this class," Caffo said. "They come for the layer of abstraction."

Of course, Caffo brings considerable skill to the classroom. Having taught this course for three years, he says he knows what can make or break a class. What works: a loud-enough speaking voice, ample office hours, attention to details and emphasis on the important points. In addition, he's able to use some innate gifts. "My students think I'm patient," he says, a talent for which he credits his mother.

But diligence factors into his success as well. "There's no amount of prep that goes to waste."

On the role of a biostatistics teacher, Caffo stresses that he emphasizes the core components of the subject and how to extend those lessons to other cases. "What I mostly hope my students get out of the class is not a toolbox but a mechanism for figuring out what tools to go find, and how to come up with their own tools," he said. "This is an academic class, not a how-to."

Caffo posts all the course materials to the class Web page. Despite their virtual existence, there's something that brings the students to the brick and mortar classroom. "They come for the annotated notes," he said. "Class is pretty interactive. I get a lot of questions. Statistics is fun."

Statistics is fun? Caffo points out that the field is rich with colorful characters, including, for example, William Gosset, a Guinness Brewery statistician who developed the t-test to covertly monitor the quality of beer brews.

With all his notes and assignments online, Caffo finds it easy to spread the Methods of Biostatistics joy. He makes all his materials available to OnlineCourseWare so that students of biostatistics worldwide can tap into his lessons. "I'm a big believer in keeping everything open," he said.

With this first Golden Apple, Caffo's come a long way since his undergraduate pursuit of a major in fine arts.

"Most people fall into statistics," he said, "and that's probably the case with me." But he doesn't find biostatistics to be artless. "Plotting and graphics have some artistic component. And there's a lot of creativity that goes into research."
— Christine Grillo


John McGready, Biostatistics, large class

John McGready, School of Public Health
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

John McGready's faculty page on the school's Web site features a photo in which he's holding aloft what appears to be a three-foot, three-tiered, tin foil–covered trophy topped with his photo. He looks ridiculously happy.

The tall shiny object is in fact a trophy, and McGready keeps it on the window ledge in his office, where it towers over his desk.

For the assistant scientist, it represents the crowning achievement, to date, of his eight-year teaching career at the School of Public Health. In December 2007, the 110 students in his Statistical Reasoning in Public Health class presented him with the "Most Statistically Significant" award at the end of the term. They also arranged to have a class picture taken, and it hangs, covered with student signatures, next to the trophy.

"That is a fantastic trophy, my most treasured award," McGready said. "They really went over the top. I was so blown away and grateful."

He continues to accumulate teaching honors and this year won a Golden Apple — his third — in the large-sized class category for the trophy-winning course, Statistical Reasoning in Public Health.

After eight years of teaching the class online and five on campus, the course still feels fresh to McGready. "The best way to learn statistics is to teach it many times," he said. "And I certainly learn more about the discipline every time I do it."

McGready didn't set out to teach biostatistics. While working on a master's degree in the field at Harvard, he found the time he spent as a teaching assistant to be the most rewarding part of the experience. After finishing his degree in 1996, he went to work for the Urban Institute, using statistical methodology to analyze criminal justice policy data.

Two years later, McGready was itching to get back to the classroom and took a job teaching high school math at a Washington, D.C., charter school. He also wanted to broaden his understanding of urban education issues beyond the think tank.

"I thought I needed this connective experience," McGready said, "something less research- centric and more hands-on."

In 1999, he joined the Bloomberg School's Biostatistics Department as a teaching assistant. One of his first projects was to coordinate the development of the online version of Statistical Reasoning in Public Health. He soon decided to pursue a doctorate in biostatistics.

"I was so enamored with teaching that it made sense to further my formal education," he said.

McGready began his doctoral studies and continued to teach. He was co-instructor and developer of Data Analysis Workshops I and II, offered in the school's summer and winter institutes, worked as a lab instructor and advised MPH students.

This week, after five years as a part-time doctoral student, McGready will receive his PhD. His thesis title: "Two Studies Related to Statistical Education."

"At one time grad school seemed like an unreachable entity," he said. "I feel very privileged to be here."
—Jackie Powder


Thomas Burke, Health Policy and Management, Internet class

Thomas Burke, School of Public Health
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Thomas Burke has high expectations for his students.

"The young people here have the drive and strength to change the world," said Burke, professor in Health Policy and Management and a four-time winner of the Golden Apple award. Students honored him this year for teaching the best Internet-based course, Introduction to Risk Sciences and Public Policy.

He credits the success of the course to his students' drive and to help from his teaching assistants.

"Our students are extremely motivated, and that's what makes this class so rewarding," said Burke, who brings a wealth of experience to the classroom, drawing on his previous, nonacademic life as deputy commissioner of health in New Jersey.

"The class uniquely combines science with case studies of real-world events to help students learn how to apply risk assessment to public health decision making," Burke said. "The competencies gained in this course will be used by the students after graduation in their jobs in the field. Hopefully, they also learn that public health is more than just measurements and experiments; it is about making change to improve people's lives."

Burke's passion for teaching came early in his career as a science teacher in an alternative high school. It was then that he first learned how to connect with his students — by joining them on the basketball court. "We shared a respect for the game and each other that ultimately translated into the classroom," he recalled.

The value that Burke places on the give-and-take between teacher and student partly explains the reservations he had about teaching an online course.

"A major part of teaching is mutual respect, and the basic interaction between instructor and student," he said. "I was concerned the Internet would interfere with my interaction with students, and [that] the prerecorded lectures could not be as current and would therefore seem less relevant."

He credits his tech-savvy teaching assistants with the success of the live online lectures that allow him to keep his class content up-to-date and to interact with students.

Burke admits he is living his dream and believes his passion and enthusiasm for public health make him a better professor. The best part of his job? "When my students go on to succeed in the field, and watching our relationship grow from that of instructor and student to professional colleagues."
—Natalie Wood-Wright

 

Carey Business School


Tom Naugler, Information Technology

Tom Naugler, Carey Business School
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

For some, love comes later in life — the love of teaching, that is.

Consider the case of Tom Naugler. After a career in corporate America, including the last 21 years when he worked in design engineering and business management for Hughes Network Systems, the instructor in the Carey Business School's Department of Information Technology finds himself happily ensconced in the classroom, engaging a passion that had waited patiently for the opportunity to blossom.

It all started about 12 years ago, five years before he retired, with a suggestion from his wife, Paula, then a student in the school's Master of Science in Information and Telecommunication Systems program.

"She said she thought I would be a good teacher," Naugler recalled. He decided to pursue that thought, and, as it turns out, he's never looked back. "I fought the wars for 40 years in business — no more management politics for me," he said. "I'm now doing something I love."

Naugler, who was responsible at Hughes for product design and development, product marketing and management, satellite network operations, customer service management and management of technical training, teaches Business Statistics and Quantitative Decision Making for Business. He started as an instructor in the telecommunications area but later gravitated to one of his long-held passions, applied mathematics. It's a discipline that "never grows old or obsolete," he said.

He also formed what he describes as a "simple philosophy" concerning teaching: While institutions create the teaching environment, and teachers create the learning environment, it's the students who construct their own knowledge. "It's the student who turns on the light bulb; the teacher doesn't," he said. To that end, Naugler "facilitates, nurtures and lectures, but the students ultimately construct the knowledge."

As a seasoned industry professional stepping into the classroom, Naugler was initially in unfamiliar territory and admits to a few butterflies on occasion. " I was assigned a Business of Medicine class, to teach business statistics to these high-powered, focused physicians, and I felt a little apprehensive at first," he recalled. But it soon proved to be a "stimulating and enjoyable" experience as his students provided him with relevant, thought-provoking questions. "I enjoyed being challenged," he said. "It energized me."

Naugler, who holds bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins and an MBA from St. Mary's University, said he is especially gratified when students write to him five to 10 years after graduation to say how well their classwork is still serving them. Maybe it's the role-playing that helps. "One student e-mailed me that she has never forgotten how an Internet router works because 'I was one in your classroom for a while,'" he laughs.

When asked what he gets back from his students, Naugler replies simply, "Everything." He adds that he "expected the student quality to be high," but that his classes exceed those expectations. "I'm impressed with their thirst for knowledge," he said.

For someone who worked on his share of groundbreaking and intriguing projects over the decades, including satellite and terrestrial communications initiatives, Naugler says the corporate experience, while challenging and stimulating, wasn't as fulfilling as the time he now spends in the classroom. As he puts it, "That was a profession. This is a vocation."
—Andy Blumberg

 

Krieger School of Arts and Sciences


Joel Grossman, Political Science

Joel Grossman, School of Arts and Sciences
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Joel Grossman learned he was chosen a winner of this year's Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award in the Krieger School just as he was wrapping up his 45th year as a professor.

"You don't teach for awards but for the fun of it," said Grossman, a professor in the Department of Political Science. "But it's nice to be recognized. It tells me that I'm still doing OK and that I'm ready for the next 45 years."

Grossman spent the first 33 years of his career at the University of Wisconsin and the past 12 teaching constitutional law at Johns Hopkins. He came to the Homewood campus in 1995 as a visiting professor but stayed on when he was offered a spot on the faculty. Grossman says he still enjoys teaching undergraduates the ins and outs of constitutional law, the interpretations of which change with each new ruling issued by the Supreme Court.

"I can't just give the same lectures every year," Grossman said. "There are issues that keep changing. In the last four years, we've had three major cases involving terrorist activities and the military tribunals and so on, so there is a progression in cases and the students can understand how the law develops. And they learn that there are few bright lines and absolutes, and that there are many options in interpreting a 'living' constitution."

Like the law they are studying, Grossman's students have evolved since he first stood at the front of a lecture hall, the 71-year-old professor said. Today's undergraduates have grown up in a computer-dominated world, and they have instant access to knowledge via the Internet. They're a savvy bunch, he said.

"But as smart as Hopkins students are — and they are very smart — they need to understand that the Supreme Court and its interpretation of the Constitution can only be understood in context," he said. "For example, the court's obscenity decisions of the 1960s and early 1970s are bewildering to students who can't understand the sexual hang-ups of that era.

"This is a very different generation than when I first started," Grossman said. "The students are very ahistorical, and I think that's a fault of the educational system. The gap is just absolutely enormous. If you don't bridge that gap, if you don't get them involved, then you're going to lose them."

In nominating him for the teaching award, Grossman's current and former students wrote of a professor who is both professionally and personally engaging and supportive, whether taking time to attend a senior's recital at Peabody or helping a grad student deal with the death of a family member. Several students wrote that they were certain they'd be intimidated by someone so erudite, but the word they used more than once to describe him is "disarming."

"Joel's warm disposition is certainly present in out-of-class encounters, but in class as well he gives off the air of someone who has nothing to lecture but rather has something to learn as well," one graduate student wrote. "This is quite disarming coming from a person who can recall complex details of case law, political history and legal theory at will."

Another graduate student put it this way: "While viewed among colleagues as an excellent scholar, he maintains a disarming demeanor that allows him to connect consistently with his students in a meaningful way. He brings out the best in us, as scholars, as people."

Grossman's students think so highly of his skills that they have created and maintained (tongue in cheek, of course) a "Grossman for Supreme Court" site on Facebook. Maybe that says it all.
—Amy Lunday


Doug Barrick, Biophysics

Doug Barrick, School of Arts and Sciences
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Chalk up at least some of Doug Barrick's success as a teacher to, well, chalk. Lots of it.

Barrick teaches in 308 Krieger Hall, a space that he'll gleefully tell you is home to some of the best chalkboards on campus. These slates, which cover three of the room's walls, provide ample space, he says, for his elaborate scribbling.

"By the end of every class, I have drawn all over the main boards in different-colored chalk as a way of illustrating the concepts we are talking about," said the professor in the Thomas C. Jenkins Department of Biophysics. "The drawings and derivations really seem to help my students grasp what I am saying."

Helping students decode and fathom even the most abstract of concepts is a challenge that Barrick says he relishes. He's not satisfied, he says, when students merely memorize facts and parrot them back on exams; instead, he works diligently and creatively to ensure that his students actually understand the subject at hand.

"Let's face it: As a subject matter, what I teach can be very dry, very abstract and very formal in terms of the mathematics involved," said Barrick, who received his doctorate from Stanford University and came to JHU in 1997 from the University of Oregon. "My goal is thus to give students an intuitive sense of what is going on, and what it all means. For instance, when we talk about the laws of thermodynamics, they can learn them in very short, terse form — but not understand them. So my challenge is to come up with illustrations and metaphors that help them really get it."

Students contend that they appreciate this creative approach, which not only makes difficult concepts understandable but also renders class time fun.

But best of all, they say, is the fact that Barrick somehow is able to combine complete mastery of his subject matter with a down-to-earth, accessible personality that turns the classroom into a place where questions are welcomed and two-way dialogue is encouraged.

"I like to try to be the kind of teacher that students feel they can come to if they are wrestling with the material," he said. "My style tends to be informal, and because I am quite excited about what I am teaching, I hope that comes through to the students."

The students say that it does, indeed.

"He has a special talent for making his lectures interesting and entertaining; he engages the audience through his candor, humor and ability to make the subject relevant," wrote one undergraduate majoring in biophysics in recommending Barrick for the award.

Another biophysics major tried to pin down what was most special about Barrick: "Perhaps it was his innate ability to inspire intellectual curiosity among his students that made whatever he said or did incredibly captivating. What makes Dr. Barrick a shining star among the distinguished faculty at Johns Hopkins? For starters, his teaching style is always engaging and clear."

Barrick is, naturally, gratified to hear such comments, especially because he did not have any background in teaching when he came to Johns Hopkins.

"If you think about it, we in the sciences never went to school to learn how to teach; we train only to be scientists," he said. "So it's a little bit of a shock to suddenly be in an academic setting where we are expected to pass along our knowledge to others. I have been inspired by the good teachers I had along the way and impart what I know the best way I can, putting into practice the things I learned from others about how to do that."

In the end, Barrick said he believes that he gets as much out of teaching as do the students.

"Teaching at Johns Hopkins is a real treat. The students here are inspiring because they are very smart and they care. They want to learn, which makes me want to teach them," he said. "Teaching has helped me as a researcher because it has given me a deep understanding of the fundamentals behind my own research, and of others in my field. It's been a win-win situation."
—Lisa De Nike

 

Nitze School of Advanced International Studies

To be announced at the school's diploma ceremony.

 

Peabody Institute


McGregor Boyle, Computer Music, Composition

McGregor Boyle, Peabody Institute
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Peabody faculty artist McGregor Boyle, Greg to his students, said that he can't imagine any honor greater than receiving the Excellence in Teaching Award, especially since it's a result of a student-led letter-writing campaign. "Peabody students are amazingly talented, and working with them allows us to talk about and make music on a very high level," he said.

The admiration is mutual. Several phrases are seen over and over again in Boyle's student nominations — "unselfishly dedicated," "supportive," "enthusiastic," "fosters creative growth." As if his dual roles as chair of the Composition Department and faculty member in Computer Music don't keep him busy enough with teaching and administrative duties, his students point out that Boyle attends all Composition recitals and most other concerts at Peabody. This is no small feat when hundreds of concerts are performed throughout the school year. As the resident electronics expert at Peabody, he's also always willing to give a hand in a dress rehearsal, Conservatory Avant Garde Ensemble concert or opera performance. In short, according to his students, he always goes above and beyond.

Boyle is especially known for his flexibility and hands-on approach to teaching. His students say that he readily encourages open-ended projects that are contoured to the students' specific interests and abilities. His lessons are designed to encourage and guide students to their individual goals. One student said in a recommendation for the award, "He is genuinely excited to help people with their projects, small or grand, always helping to further the growth of new music in whatever direction it takes."

His nurturing and informal teaching style helps to maintain an open classroom atmosphere, students say. He can explain complex computer music technology in a way that makes it fun and accessible. One nomination stated, "He caters his classroom style to the questions of his students, and all of the classwork and homework is based in practical experience." While his students say that he rarely can't answer a question, his teaching philosophy is explained as, "Ask me anything. I may not know the answer today, but I will tomorrow."

Boyle has been part of the school community for more than 20 years, receiving both his master's degree in guitar performance and doctorate in composition from Peabody. He's active as a composer, performer and music educator, with a primary interest in the use of digital media in music composition and performance. He's been commissioned by fellow faculty artists to write pieces for them, including The Grey Man for cello, bass and electronics composed for Michael Formanek and Michael Kannen.

His work outside Peabody is equally respected. He works with the Evolution Contemporary Music Series at An die Musik and had a work premiered there this year. He keeps abreast of the state of modern music, including the ever-changing environment of computer music, and brings in today's major composers to speak to the composition students.

One of the student nominations states, Boyle's "passion and devotion are infectious. The standard he sets for the department motivates each person not only to meet that standard but also to strive to surpass it."
—Margaret Bell

 

School of Education


W. Brad Johnson, Counseling and Human Services

W. Brad Johnson, School of Education
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Brad Johnson wants students in his Diagnosis in Counseling class to learn good detective skills as part of their preparation to become a counselor. Johnson points out that making an accurate clinical diagnosis is as important as providing appropriate care. "If a counselor cannot accurately identify a problem," he said, "it becomes impossible to match evidenced-based treatment to the clinical syndrome."

Johnson has been teaching the diagnosis course for the School of Education's Department of Counseling and Human Services since 2001. He said he was genuinely surprised upon learning that he had been awarded the Excellence in Teaching Award. "It's a great feeling to know that one's students enjoy the learning process," he said.

Johnson teaches graduate students who will be pursuing degrees in school counseling or clinical community counseling.

In her recommendation of Johnson, Emily Damelin, a student in the school counseling program, praised him as "a very warm and caring person who truly loves teaching and wants the best for his students. He has a unique ability to engage students and use real-life examples to make his classes come alive."

Johnson, who earned his doctorate in psychology from the Graduate School of Psychology of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., is also an associate professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he teaches undergraduate courses in the Department of Leadership, Ethics and Law. He also has authored 10 books and numerous journal articles on diagnosis, ethics and leadership.

Johnson's 15 years of naval experience provide some interesting case studies for his class: for example, the submariner who was knocked unconscious when a hatch closed suddenly as he was leaving the vessel. The sailor went to see Johnson for memory problems, disorientation and extreme emotion. As his symptoms worsened, it became clear that the profile did not fit existing categories of mental illness. Johnson then probed for hidden physical causes, which led to the sailor's revealing the head injury. He uses this case to demonstrate how important it is to be thorough in your diagnosis, including asking questions about physical functioning, accidents, illness and even medications.

In his approach to teaching, Johnson says he has three goals. First, he wants to create an atmosphere of safety and empowerment for students where there is no such thing as a "dumb question" and students can ask anything as long as it is respectful and in the spirit of learning. Second, he wants his class to be affirming to students. And third, he mixes modalities in his teaching to include PowerPoint, video clips, case examples and role-playing.

When asked about the difference between teaching students at JHU and USNA, Johnson noted that both groups are exceptionally bright and talented but are essentially different with regard to educational objective and career goals. At the Naval Academy, students are undergraduates and most will begin military and engineering careers. His focus with them is on leadership and people management. At JHU, students already have their undergraduate degrees and most are working professionals. As a result, they bring a wealth of real-world experiences to the classroom and are looking to advance their knowledge and skills in a particular field.

He also noted one other difference: His Naval Academy students stand at attention when he enters the class.
—James Campbell


Patricia Smith, Public Safety and Leadership

Patricia Smith, School of Education
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

If you happen to visit the Columbia Center on a Saturday when Patti Smith is teaching her class on Leadership and the Classics to veteran police officers in the School of Education's Public Safety Leadership Program, you may see these officers dressed in costumes and performing lines from Homer's Iliad, Sophocles' Antigone or another ancient Greek or Roman play. The presentations are usually followed by a lively discussion in which class members express continued amazement at how relevant the classics are to today's world.

Smith's enthusiasm is contagious, and she keeps her class engaged and involved for the eight- hour Saturday sessions. "It's hard to have a boring time when discussing such exciting thinkers as Aristotle, Homer, Euripides and Sophocles," she said. "The classics help us understand who we are, where our system of government comes from and how we as a society fit into the overall scheme of things." In her classroom, Smith uses the Socratic method of teaching, which focuses on giving students questions and not answers. "It is still the most powerful teaching tactic for fostering critical thinking," she said.

Since most of her students will be leaders in law enforcement, the themes discussed have relevance and applicability to the situations they may face on a daily basis. These include a review of the powers of the state, especially police powers; establishing a democratic form of government; and struggles faced by the great and the not-so-great leaders through history.

Smith earned her law degree from the University of Maryland and a master's in classical languages from Indiana University. She was a prosecutor in the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office, worked for the Maryland attorney general and taught environmental law. She currently teaches legal writing at the University of Baltimore and works as editor of Policy Regulation for the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.

In 2003, Sheldon Greenberg, associate dean of the Division of Public Safety Leadership, approached the former prosecutor and classically trained instructor about teaching. The division offers a liberal arts education for police, fire and emergency personnel that is considered one of the most comprehensive interdisciplinary public safety programs in the country.

"Patti has an excellent teaching style that exemplifies what we are looking for in an instructor," Greenberg said. "She brings a unique knowledge of law and the classics to her classroom."

Smith said she was "surprised and humbled" when told of the teaching award. "I was, especially, to be honored by people you work with and have great respect for."

She also had praise for the support she receives from Greenberg and the many resources Johns Hopkins offers its students, such as the George Peabody Library in Baltimore and the regional campus library in Columbia.

"I love teaching this course because there is so much we can learn from the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans," Smith said. "The issues of leadership, ethics and the exercise of power are as applicable to us today as they were 2,000 years ago."
—James Campbell

 

School of Nursing

To be announced at the school's diploma ceremony.

 

School of Medicine


Daniel Max Raben, Biology Chemistry, Physiology and Oncology

Daniel Max Raben, School of Medicine
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Daniel Max Raben, professor of biological chemistry, physiology and oncology, was honored for his instruction of metabolism in the first-year medical student course Molecules and Cells. He covers the principles of metabolism, including carbohydrate, lipid and protein metabolism; metabolic dysfunctions that contribute to disease; and metabolic therapeutic targets.

Raben, who says he is driven "by sheer curiosity's sake," was taken aback by the award. "Teaching extremely bright young men and women — exceptional human beings with a passion for their future careers — is an honor. I am honored to receive this award. I actually nominated a colleague for the same award, and was genuinely surprised when I got it," he said.

Raben joined Johns Hopkins in 1986. He currently teaches the metabolism course for medical students and courses on lipids and membrane lipid signaling for graduate students. His own research focuses on understanding how fats and the enzymes that metabolize them are involved in cell communication.

Teaching first-year medical and graduate students is a joy, he said, "because they are excited and bright" and have "infectious youthful enthusiasm."

He said he thinks that his success as a teacher and mentor comes from treating his students as colleagues, providing information useful in their careers. He often incorporates relevant points made by graduate students into his lectures.

"When teaching medical students, I like to reinforce the big picture and provide kernels of knowledge they can recall while walking down the corridors of a hospital," he said.

"Dan is quick on his feet, quick in the brain, and has a motorcycle delivery," said Peter Pedersen, a professor in biological chemistry and co-instructor of the metabolism section of the class Raben teaches.

"Raben will do anything for anyone else, except himself," Pedersen said, adding that his colleague has a true appreciation and gift for teaching.

Raben said he considers teaching and learning reciprocal. A former trainee recalled that "learning from Dan taught me to stay on my toes just to keep up with him." For a professor who describes metabolism as a "biochemical ballet," staying on one's toes may be just what is required.
—Sasha Klevytska

 

Whiting School of Engineering


Hai-Quan Mao, Materials Science and Engineering

Hai-Quan Mao, School of Engineering
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Hai-Quan Mao recalls his response last semester when one of his students botched the first part of a Thermodynamics of Materials midterm exam. "I was curious and a little upset because I had gone over the material with this student in a tutorial session," said Mao, an assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

The student, among those who nominated Mao for the teaching honor, describes the event a bit differently. "I first realized that Dr. Mao was a unique teacher when, after the first day of the Thermodynamics midterm, he called me on my cell phone because he was 'a little surprised that I did not answer all of the questions correctly,' as we had conversed about the material several times prior," the student wrote on a nomination form. "He requested that I meet him in his office 10 minutes later, and we reviewed the first section of the exam."

This story, the student said, had a happy ending: "Dr. Mao's exceptionally sincere gesture to ensure that I understood all of my errors before the second part of the exam was successful," the student wrote. "I continued to perform well because of his help and ended up with an A in the challenging course."

To Mao, giving extra help to puzzled students is just routine. As a result, the news that he'd won the Engineering School's teaching award caught him off guard. "This was truly a pleasant surprise," said Mao, who also teaches a biomaterials course. "I didn't think I was doing anything special."

Asked to describe his teaching technique, he said, "I try to teach the knowledge required for the course but also how to use that knowledge to solve problems. I encourage in-class discussions and encourage my students to ask questions. That's the best way to find out if they really understand the material."

Another student who wrote in support of Mao's award reported that Biomaterials II, as taught by Mao, was "a wonderful course. He makes the material enjoyable, applicable, and continues to ensure no student is left behind. He answers any and all questions and makes it fun to carry on a conversation about the subject matter. I firmly believe that my great success in the class has been directly linked to Dr. Mao's extraordinary dedication to the material and to the students' progress. Furthermore, Dr. Mao is very accessible and very approachable."

A third student agreed: "You can basically talk to him outside of class whenever you want, and he's always willing to explain stuff to you."

Mao was pleased to hear that his teaching is getting through to his students, particularly because English is not his first language. Mao was raised and educated in China and learned English in high school and college. "At the beginning, I was a little concerned about not communicating effectively with my students," Mao said. "That made me try harder in finding good ways to teach."

His ties to Johns Hopkins go back to 1995, when he became a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. He later spent four years conducting research at a Johns Hopkins affiliate in Singapore. In 2003, he joined the Whiting School faculty, focusing his research on the design, synthesis and application of polymeric materials for drug and gene delivery and tissue engineering.

Despite the demands of this research, he continues to maintain a close rapport with his students, fielding questions even outside of his regular office hours.

"I find it so hard to say no to students when they knock on the door, particularly those who are sincere to learn," Mao said. "But if you do a good job in class, the number of students knocking on the door will eventually go down."
—Phil Sneiderman


GO TO MAY 19, 2008 TABLE OF CONTENTS.
GO TO THE GAZETTE FRONT PAGE.


The Gazette | The Johns Hopkins University | Suite 540 | 901 S. Bond St. | Baltimore, MD 21231 | 443-287-9900 | gazette@jhu.edu