Nominations for Teaching Excellence Awards open

Taylor McDaniel, Staff Reporter

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Having an encouraging, inspirational professor can make an incredible difference in a student’s life. The right teacher can ignite a passion unbeknownst to a scholar, motivate a class in ways they hadn’t been before and give invaluable knowledge, supplies and resources to someone just starting out in their educational career. 

One way to repay a professor for their unwavering support and brilliant words is to nominate them for a Teaching Excellence Award. 

The Senate Teaching and Learning Committee at Oakland University is now accepting nominations from students, faculty or staff for tenure-track faculty, non-tenure-track faculty and online teaching. 

Although the award has existed since 1982, the online teaching category is new — introduced last year.  

Nominating a professor is an anonymous process, as well as being a “super easy form worth doing,” according to Meaghan Barry, associate professor of graphic design and co-chair for the committee. 

The committee, made up of Barry and other university faculty, has a goal of helping facilitate better teaching on OU’s campus. Besides coordinating the Teaching Excellence Award, the committee is also in charge of the vetting process of issuing out grants to faculty, who will use the money to benefit their teaching and the students in their classrooms. 

While the committee is mostly made up of faculty, students from OU Student Congress (OUSC) take part in it as well. Barry said feedback on behalf of the students has been very helpful. 

“[OUSC members] mentioned that the nomination form should be simple, without a lot of legwork since [students] have busy lives,” Barry said. “The committee definitely tried to keep that in mind.”  

Once a professor is nominated through the form, the committee reaches out to said nominee with an invitation to a luncheon to describe the application process to be considered for the award. The application consists of an explanation of their innovation in teaching, a letter of support from someone within their department and two examples of unsolicited student support. 

The winner of the award in each category receives their name on a plaque, a cash stipend of $2,000 and recognition of their teaching. To keep an even playing field, a professor cannot win if they have in the last five years, there is a limited word count on the “innovation in teaching” portion and only two examples of unsolicited student support can be submitted. 

One such professor who has sparkled for students is Special Lecturer Caterina Pieri, one recipient of the most recent Excellence in Teaching Awards. Pieri is an Italian language lecturer in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, who described her teaching style as “personal.” 

“I have an instinctive way of communicating to students, and I try to understand their individual needs,” Pieri said. 

Though Pieri has attributed many wonderful things to OU, she has accommodated the needs of her students by being one of the leading forces behind the Open Educational Resources (OER) initiative at OU. Special Instructor Dikka Berven first approached her with the idea three years ago and — with the help of Julia Rodriguez, associate professor and nursing, health sciences and scholarly communications librarian; and Kevin J. Corcoran, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences — brought OER to OU. 

Pieri said she had “jumped at the opportunity” to have affordable course materials in her classrooms and create accessible educational opportunities  — similar to the way she jumped up and down when she received the Excellence in Teaching Award. 

2019 recipients Pieri, Amy Rutledge and Krzysztof (Chris) Kobus will be speaking at the Teaching Excellence Award presentation Thursday, Oct. 10. Nominations for 2020 are due by Friday, Oct. 18. 

To nominate professors for the Teaching Excellence award, the form and additional information can be found on The Senate Teaching and Learning Committee’s webpage.