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Updated 10:30 AM February 20, 2009
 

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Regents honor five with Thurnau professorships

Five faculty members have been honored for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education as this year's recipients of Arthur F. Thurnau professorships. The appointments, approved Feb. 19 by the Board of Regents, are titles the five will retain throughout their careers at the University.

This year's recipients are Charles Bright, August Evrard, Andrei Markovits, James Walsh and Margaret Wooldridge. Descriptions of their work are taken from recommendations provided to the regents by Provost Teresa Sullivan.

Bright, professor of history, professor in the Residential College (RC) and director of the RC, LSA, is described as a teacher who has changed the lives of his students through his dedication to community engagement. He “grasps axiomatically that this world around us has become ever more complexly diverse,” a colleague says, and encourages students to critically engage that world through a variety of unique experiences. Bright co-founded the Semester in Detroit program that places students in internships with Detroit organizations, has created several new undergraduate courses and two undergraduate minors, and recently directed LSA’s Citizenship Theme Year.

In his teaching Evrard, professor of physics and astronomy, LSA, has leveraged new technologies to make “the highly mathematical subject of physics alive and exciting” even in large, required courses. In his term as chair of the LSA Instructional Technology Committee, Evrard guided the instruction of these technologies across the University and a colleague notes that his role was essential in helping “transform large lecture classes from passive receipt to something more dynamic and actively engaged.” His leadership regarding technology also was key to creation of the Academic Reporting Toolkit, which allows faculty to learn more about their students’ academic backgrounds and preparation.

An instructor in five departments, Markovits, the Karl W. Deutsch Collegiate Professor of Comparative Politics and German Studies, professor of Germanic languages and literature, professor of political science and professor of sociology, LSA, is described by colleagues as a “gifted, brilliant and dedicated teacher” with an “astonishing range.” Not only is Markovits an outstanding classroom teacher, the nomination letter states, but he also influences lives as a concerned and rigorous advisor. As senior honors director in political science, he also made significant contributions to the department’s honors program by redesigning the honors seminar from a class that met infrequently to a weekly gathering where students engaged in stimulating discussions of their projects.

Walsh, the Gerald and Esther Carey Professor of Business Administration, and professor of organizational behavior, human resource management, corporate strategy and international business at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. is known as a creative and enthusiastic teacher who engages students through interactive lectures, case studies, in-class simulations and international site visits. Colleagues say he pushes students to balance business practices and ethics, “to see the complexity of these seemingly black-and-white issues.” Walsh also earned a reputation as a generous mentor, meeting students informally, offering lengthy responses to papers and inviting them to be co-authors.

Wooldridge, professor of mechanical engineering and aerospace engineering at the College of Engineering, is described as a superb instructor who energizes undergraduate core courses in engineering. She has created a course on advanced energy solutions and a new collegewide undergraduate concentration on energy. Wooldridge is dedicated to promoting diversity in mechanical engineering through one-on-one mentoring, the creation of an inclusive classroom environment and the use of distance learning tools. Her outreach activities include hosting the Society of Women Engineers Summer Engineering Exploration Camp for high school students and introducing a design contest for sixth grade science students at Tappan Middle School.

Each year Thurnau Professorships recognize and reward a select group of tenured faculty members for their outstanding contributions to undergraduate education. Criteria for the award include a strong commitment to students and to teaching and learning, excellence in teaching, innovation in teaching and learning, a strong commitment to working effectively with a diverse student body, and a demonstrable impact on students’ intellectual and/or artistic development.

The professorships are named after alumnus Arthur F. Thurnau and supported by the Thurnau Charitable Trust, which was established through his will. Recipients receive $20,000 to support teaching activities, including travel, books, equipment and graduate student support.

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