Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Thurnau professors to have expanded roles


The five faculty members recently honored as recipients of Arthur F. Thurnau professorships will have expanded roles that will increase their influence and tap their expertise in new ways.

New Thurnau professor Charles Bright, left, receives a gift box from Senior Vice Provost Lester Monts. (Photo by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services)

This year's recipients, Charles Bright, August Evrard, Andrei Markovits, James Walsh and Margaret Wooldridge, were recognized during a ceremony March 2 in the Michigan League Ballroom.

“Your work inside and outside of classrooms, labs and studios is extraordinary,” said Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs, senior counselor to the president for the arts, diversity and undergraduate affairs, and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Music, Theatre & Dance. “For that we owe you a great deal of thanks.”

The event highlighted new initiatives associated with the Thurnau professorships, including creation of a Thurnau Society, inclusion of professors on key teaching committees and expanded sharing of their expertise.

“While all of you have different approaches to teaching, each of you has respect for and a deep interest in your students,” said Provost Teresa Sullivan. “We are proud of how the Thurnaus continue to contribute to education and our campus.”

“The Thurnau professors are an incredibly talented and dedicated group of faculty,” Monts said. “They are all are outstanding teachers, and they make substantial contributions to undergraduate education more broadly, by creating and teaching innovative courses, leading efforts to restructure the curriculum, assisting with recruitment of a diverse and excellent student body, and developing partnerships with communities both locally and internationally.”

The University plans to expand the role of the Thurnau professors as part of an ongoing effort to promote excellence in undergraduate education at U-M, Monts said.
“We will draw more consistently on their expertise,” he said, “and create more opportunities for them to share their passion, commitment and creativity with colleagues on campus.”

New initiatives include:
•Creating a Thurnau Society to provide an institutional mechanism by which Thurnau professors can have a greater impact. The society will meet once or twice a year to learn about and advise the provost on current initiatives in undergraduate education. The Thurnau Society will be coordinated by the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT);
•Involving Thurnau professors on key committees related to undergraduate education and teaching excellence, such as a faculty advisory committee on online student ratings, and the selection committee for the U.S. Professor of the Year Competition;
•Sharing their expertise and creating expanded conversations about teaching and learning. This will be accomplished in two ways. First, by producing videotapes of Thurnau professors demonstrating and discussing the innovative pedagogies they use in the classroom. These videos will be available on the CRLT Web site. Second by offering campuswide seminars on teaching as part of CRLT’s Fall and Winter Seminar Series.

“The combination of the talents and dedication of faculty like the Thurnaus, plus the rich resources and diversity of U-M, make this university an unparalleled educational experience for our students,” Sullivan said. “These efforts to expand the role of Thurnau professors will help us build on and expand our record of excellence in undergraduate education at the University of Michigan.”

The Thurnau appointments, approved Feb. 19 by the Board of Regents, are titles the five will retain throughout their careers at the University.

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.