Challenging Teachers Win Students’ and Colleagues’ Respect


This year’s outstanding teaching award winners at the University of Virginia, honored Wednesday at a dinner, were recognized as consummate role models, showing respect for their students, innovation in their subject matter and enthusiasm for lifelong learning.

“We are here to honor your excellent teaching and also your service as the protectors and inventors of the knowledge that passes from one generation to another,” U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan said.

“To teach is also to make order out of disorder, to transform confusion into understanding. The act of turning incomprehension into knowledge, transforming inability into skill and defining ethical sensibilities is profoundly creative,” she wrote for the awards brochure.

Each fall, the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost issues a call for nominations and the Teaching Resource Center administers the awards program. (Click here for information.)

The event’s program brochure included the following descriptions and complimentary remarks from deans, colleagues and students.

2013 Teaching Award winners

All-University Teaching Awards

  • Gary Ballinger, McIntire School of Commerce
  • Susan Chaplinsky, Darden School of Business
  • Michael G. Collins, School of Law
  • Linda Columbus, chemistry, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Avik Ghosh, electrical and computer engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Science
  • Claudrena Harold, History, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Kelsey Johnson, Astronomy, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Dr. William A. Petri Jr., School of Medicine
  • Joel Rini, Spanish, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Excellence in Education Abroad Award: James G. Maxham III, McIntire School of Commerce
  • Excellence in Faculty Mentoring Award: Daniel J. Burke, biochemistry and molecular genetics, School of Medicine
  • Resident Teaching Award: Dr. James Addington, neurology, School of Medicine

Graduate Teaching Assistant Awards

         • Class of 1985 Fellowship for Creative Teaching: Emma S. Solberg, English

         • Frank Finger Graduate Teaching Fellowship: David M. Hondula, environmental sciences

All-University Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Awards

  • Jennifer Holm, French
  • Neil Peterson, nursing
  • Claire Timperley, politics

Cavaliers’ Distinguished Teaching Professorship: Daphne Spain, James M. Page Professor, Urban and Environmental Planning, School of Architecture

Spain has been a faculty member of the Architecture School since 1985. Cherished for her inspired teaching, scholarship and leadership, she is additionally renowned for her brilliance, generosity and approachability.

The first female faculty member in the department, she became a role model for those who followed, and created a new course to address the challenges faced by female students in the discipline.

Spain also helped developed a “Common Course” that has been a cornerstone of the cross-disciplinary curriculum that contributes to the school’s high national ranking and sets it apart from peer institutions. Colleague Reuben Rainey noted that as an administrator, Spain emphasized “social justice as a responsibility for designers and advocated work in the public realm – values at the very heart of the School of Architecture’s mission.”

Many people share the sentiments of the student who wrote, “I want to be Daphne Spain when I grow up.”

National Endowment of the Humanities Richard A. and Sarah Page Mayo Distinguished Teaching Professorship: Paul J. E. Kershaw, associate professor, Corcoran Department of History, College of Arts & Sciences

Kershaw is “a simply stunning lecturer,” wrote departmental chair Paul Halliday, “a great teacher, too, in small settings, because he engages so directly with every person he encounters.”

Kershaw said that he brings to his teaching much of what he saw as a student at King’s College, London, where teachers and students met on an equal footing, and history was “an ongoing, changing and constantly renewing field of ideas and debates, pursued by scholars who did so with enthusiasm and who shared what they found with warmth, energy and humor.”

Colleagues and students find his medieval history courses lively: “Professor Kershaw always imparted information and inspiration in equal measure,” said former student Paul Gazzoli.

SCHEV Outstanding Faculty Award (announced in January): Dr. Erik L. Hewlett, professor of medicine, infectious diseases and international health, School of Medicine

“From my special relationships and subsequent experiences, I have concluded that the ability to treat students, at whatever level, with respect for their experiences and confidence in their ability to contribute, is the essence of being an effective and successful teacher.” Hewlett’s philosophy of education has served him well over the decades.

He has taught students, practiced travel medicine and conducted research since 1980. A major priority in Dr. Hewlett’s career has been participation in the cultural transformation of research at U.Va., which has included enhancement of translational research and establishment of an environment for commercial partnerships and technology development. He also served as associate dean for research from 1992 to 2010.

Alumni Association Distinguished Professor Award: William H. Guilford, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, School of Medicine

One student exclaimed, “It’s impossible not to learn from him!” Guilford embodies the highest art and science of teaching. His inventive and creative ideas have benefited his department, as well his students.

Guided by his own deep ethical obligations, Guilford sees his teaching as an opportunity to make real differences in his students’ lives. His innovative engineering approach to teaching provides an authentic learning experience reflective of all aspects of professional practice: academic debate, peer review, online research and construction projects. He draws the utmost respect from students, whether working beside them in the workshop, illustrating dynamic presentation techniques or instilling confidence as a faculty adviser.

Alumni Board of Trustees Teaching Award: Stéphanie Bérard, assistant professor of French, College of Arts & Sciences

Bérard is a gifted classroom teacher, mentor and committed educator who shares her unique combination of energy, dynamism and passion with her students.

Her extensive personal experiences of the Caribbean not only enrich her own classes, but also contribute to the intellectual and cultural life of the U.Va. community.

Bérard espouses an interdisciplinary approach and links the teaching of literature and culture with history, sociology and politics. She tells her students to always “be open to the unexpected, to grab all the opportunities that arise, to be curious and open to the unknown, despite or because of the mystery it represents.”

All-University Teaching Award: Gary Ballinger, associate professor, McIntire School of Commerce

Ballinger is a tireless educator whose teaching aspires to promote students into that “smaller and more exclusive group of leaders that sets the vision and standards for any enterprise.”

His class is structured as a developmental learning environment where he can nurture students’ talents, and where his adapted experiential exercises allow them to participate in managerial problem-solving, an integral step in connecting with the material. He knows that having a process that enables students to master and embrace complex material is the key to creating and maintaining an advantage in their careers.

Ballinger has become a scholar of national standing whose research has both theoretical and practical relevance and is valued by academics, scholars and students alike.

All-University Teaching Award: Susan Chaplinsky, Tipton R. Snavely Professor of Business Administration, Darden School of Business

Chaplinsky is called a “triathlete” by her dean: a high-performing colleague in scholarly research, teaching and service to the community.

Her popular classes are eloquently scripted and skillfully choreographed, captivating students and in turn producing significant results. Through her warm wit and uncompromising intellectual toughness, she commands the classroom. Chaplinsky is methodical in her approach, providing critical structuring, yet still encouraging explorative and creative thought. She embraces the Jeffersonian learning tradition of a rigorous and collaborative approach that cultivates in students their capability for informed judgment and decisive action, and fosters the Darden mission to improve the world by developing responsible leaders.

All-University Teaching Award: Michael G. Collins, Joseph M. Hartfield Professor of Law, School of Law

Collins teaches some of the most unfathomable procedural topics in the Law School, yet a former student claims that Collins could teach a cow “Federal Courts,” and that both he and the cow would have a great time doing it.

Collins claims the key to his teaching is seeing the course through his students’ eyes, anticipating the points that will be tough to grasp and getting students to think critically about the material. Students fill his classes and form long lines outside his office seeking his sage counsel. In every class Collins has taught, virtually every student has given him a perfect “five” rating – an impressive response.

All-University Teaching Award: Linda Columbus, assistant professor of chemistry, College of Arts & Sciences

Columbus is a rare example of an assistant professor who has achieved national recognition in research, teaching and service early in her career.

Her impact on undergraduate education and curriculum development is astounding. She designed and implemented an impressive new discovery-based program whose students produce publishable work; she was awarded a National Science Foundation grant, among others; and she is deeply involved with several national education initiatives.

A recent study identified Columbus as “the most successful undergraduate research mentor in the University.” A student remarked that it was important to have a female chemistry professor, saying it is “awesome that she is an encouragement to girls who want to go into chemistry.”

All-University Teaching Award: Avik Ghosh, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Science

The hallmarks of Ghosh’s teaching – his patient communication skills, his innovative use of technology, his enthusiastic dissemination of teaching methods and his determination to value lifelong learning – are all important parts of his consistent record of excellence.

He is known for his energy and his ability to generate energy and passion for his subjects in his students. His use of fully narrated lectures viewable online, summaries, practice tests and homework reviews illustrate his commitment to parsing difficult ideas for his students.

One student wrote: “Dr. Ghosh is one of the very best teachers I have ever had in my life. Thank you so much, Dr. Ghosh!”

All-University Teaching Award: Claudrena Harold, associate professor, Corcoran Department of History, College of Arts & Sciences

Harold is a quiet, yet intense educator who engenders a passionate commitment in her students. Consequently, her evaluations are dazzling. It is her mission to equip students with the intellectual skills to critically engage contemporary American life as well as the larger world.

Harold’s fields of inquiry are historically grounded, but they cross disciplinary boundaries to capture the depth and complexity of the human experience.

Recently, she co-produced a film, “Sugarcoated Arsenic,” with U.Va. art professor Kevin Everson, examining African-American activism at U.Va. in the 1970s, in which 40 of her students played roles. She is a shining example of an effective and challenging professor beloved by students.

All-University Teaching Award: Kelsey Johnson, associate professor of astronomy, College of Arts & Sciences

Johnson is exactly what one student hoped her professor would be: “completely fascinated by the material she teaches; eager to answer any questions and foster class discussions; inspirational in her encouragement of students to seek knowledge throughout their lives; and grateful of her opportunity to both study and teach astronomy.”

She brings this same enthusiasm to a science-outreach program she developed for younger children, “Dark Skies, Bright Kids,” an extension of her efforts to foster a love of science. Johnson encourages students to pursue science studies by tapping into their natural curiosity and desire to answer life’s big questions – a profound contribution to their lives.

All-University Teaching Award: Dr. William A. Petri Jr., Wade Hampton Frost Professor of Medicine, School of Medicine

During his 35-year career, Petri, who is chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health, has developed four cornerstones to excellent teaching: he conveys the importance of science and medicine; he develops mutual respect with his students; he provides an approach to lifelong learning; and he gives them fundamental understanding of the subject.

Many of his students have gone on to prestigious careers across the globe. A dedicated mentor, Petri is also the founder of an internship program for undergraduates that has been instrumental in recruiting underrepresented minorities.

His love of science and passion for global health has made him a powerful role model who fosters the same commitment in the next generation of scientists and physicians.

All-University Teaching Award: Joel Rini, professor of Spanish, College of Arts & Sciences

“Rini is arguably the leading American scholar in the field of Spanish historical linguistics; his truly original research has helped him transform the discipline and earned him an international reputation,” wrote U.Va. colleague David Haberly, a Portuguese professor, now retired.

Rini said his teaching is a calling that comprises knowledge, passion and humor. Students enter the study of linguistic history, dialectology and phonetics with trepidation, but soon find themselves excited by Rini’s engaging style and enthusiasm. They are eager to live up to his high expectations.

“The worst thing about his class is that it’s over,” wrote one student.

A junior faculty member he mentored calls him “Magnifico.”

Excellence in Education Abroad Award: James G. Maxham III, professor of commerce, McIntire School of Commerce

Maxham’s own global experiences inspired his commitment to help U.Va. students better understand and engage with the world around them. Through the programs and initiatives he developed, they have had transformational experiences, collaborating with students from around the globe, meeting regional leaders and gaining confidence as international travelers.

Maxham’s colleagues recognize that, while maintaining his dedication to strategic service and his other departmental responsibilities, he has been the driving force in global education at McIntire for almost 10 years. Under his guidance, the programs at McIntire have been able to offer students a global commerce experience that transforms their worldview.

Excellence in Faculty Mentoring Award: Daniel J. Burke, biochemistry and molecular genetics, School of Medicine

Burke embodies everything a mentor should be: a dedicated educator, an enthusiastic colleague and an ideal role model as an academic investigator.

He is known as a trusted adviser who always keeps the best interests of others in mind. His mentoring extends not only to faculty: Burke generously shares his expertise with undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral students as part of his commitment to developing new knowledge and the next generation of scientists. His contributions over 20 years at U.Va. have benefited the department and the University community.

Resident Teaching Award: Dr. James Addington, neurology, School of Medicine

In a profession where teaching is the expectation and at an institution where good teachers are the norm, how does one rise to the top? Addington has done so by anticipating the educational needs of the medical students on his rotations and incorporating teaching into every part of the patient care that he and the team provided. Identifying exactly what the students did not know and teaching to those points specifically, making himself available, watching and listening, are all components that contributed to multiple student evaluations calling him “the best resident I have worked with” and “a great role model.”

Media Contact

Anne E. Bromley

University News Associate Office of University Communications