At the Head of the Class
Academic divisions honor their own with Alumni Association
Excellence in Teaching Awards
Special to the
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
The following faculty members are recipients of the
2008 Alumni Association Excellence in
Bloomberg School of Public Health
Thomas Glass, Epidemiology, small class
Thomas Glass, School of Public
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
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
"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
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
— Natalie Wood-Wright
Brian Caffo, Biostatistics, medium class
Brian Caffo, School of Public
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
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
"We don't just teach the how," he said, "we teach the
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
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
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
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
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
"At one time grad school seemed like an unreachable
entity," he said. "I feel very privileged to
Thomas Burke, Health Policy and Management, Internet
Thomas Burke, School of Public
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS
Thomas Burke has high expectations for his
"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
He credits the success of the course to his students'
drive and to help from his teaching
"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
Carey Business School
Tom Naugler, Information Technology
Tom Naugler, Carey Business
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
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
"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
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
Krieger School of Arts and Sciences
Joel Grossman, Political Science
Joel Grossman, School of Arts and
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
"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
"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
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.
Doug Barrick, Biophysics
Doug Barrick, School of Arts and
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
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
"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
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
To be announced at the school's diploma ceremony.
McGregor Boyle, Computer Music, Composition
McGregor Boyle, Peabody
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
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
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."
School of Education
W. Brad Johnson, Counseling and Human Services
W. Brad Johnson, School of
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
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
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
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
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
He also noted one other difference: His Naval Academy
students stand at attention when he
enters the class.
Patricia Smith, Public Safety and Leadership
Patricia Smith, School of
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
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
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
School of Nursing
To be announced at the school's diploma ceremony.
School of Medicine
Daniel Max Raben, Biology Chemistry, Physiology and
Daniel Max Raben, School of
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
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,"
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
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
"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.
Whiting School of Engineering
Hai-Quan Mao, Materials Science and Engineering
Hai-Quan Mao, School of
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
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
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
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
Despite the demands of this research, he continues to
maintain a close rapport with his
students, fielding questions even outside of his regular
"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."
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