Ceremony Today to Honor New Meredith Professors

April 14, 2016

Robert Doyle, professor of chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Peter Wilcoxen, professor of public administration and international affairs in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, will be named as the 2016-19 Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professors of Teaching Excellence at a ceremony on Thursday, April 14, at 4 p.m. in the Goldstein Alumni and Faculty Center.

In addition, seven non-tenured faculty members will be given Meredith Teaching Recognition Awards. They are Elizabeth Ashby, Patrick Berry, Michelle Blum, Dawn Dow, Natalie Koch, Kyle Miller and Kevin Morrison.

Tara Helfman will be named as the 2016 United Methodist Scholar/Teacher of the Year.

Meredith Professors

A substantial bequest from the estate of L. Douglas Meredith, a 1926 graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences, allowed for the creation of the Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professorships in 1995 to recognize and reward outstanding teaching at the University. The awards recognize and reward excellence in teaching, encourage faculty members to look upon the many dimensions of teaching as manifold opportunities for constant improvement, emphasize the great importance the University places upon teaching, and improve the teaching and learning processes on campus. The Meredith Professors receive a supplemental salary award and additional funding for professional development for each year of their appointment.

Robert Doyle Professor of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences

Robert Doyle

Robert Doyle
Professor of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences

Doyle loves to teach. “From my time as a graduate teaching assistant to today, as a full professor, it remains one of the highlights of my week to enter a lab or classroom,” he says.

Doyle makes chemistry come alive for his students by making it relatable and accessible. “Chemistry is all around us, in everything we see and do, in everything we wear, eat and utilize,” he says. “An appealing way to attract and excite students is to demonstrate how news headlines, for example regarding new antibiotics, the search for life on Mars or synthetic diamonds, are all examples of chemists at work.”

Doyle says the way he has taught the freshman-level CHE 103, a course for non-science majors, is a good reflection of his teaching philosophy. He approaches his teaching from the perspective of “What about chemistry impacts the life of a typical Syracuse University undergraduate?” This, he says, opens up questions that students are interested in. He also replaced the course’s final exam with a writing project, which resulted in students exploring the chemistry of objects and processes within their own disciplines.

Outside of the classroom, Doyle has worked to bring undergraduate students into his laboratory. “Innovation in teaching chemistry is teaching it through research, in a lab,” he says. He established a core group of high-achieving undergraduates to start in the lab early in their undergraduate careers, devote at least 10 hours a week and be open to applying for nationally competitive scholarships. Over the past decade, the group has developed a strong mentoring model and produced scholars who have excelled—they have been involved in peer-reviewed research and received national and University awards. Doyle has also worked closely with the University’s CSTEP and McNair Programs and the Renée Crown University Honors Program.

“I first met Professor Doyle while taking his honors chemistry laboratory course my freshman year. I remember being amazed that he was giving us the opportunity to explore the scientific process from beginning to end, as opposed to performing designated experiments,” says Allison Roberts, a former student of Doyle. “I felt that he was holding us to such a high standard so that we could realize that the bar we had set for ourselves was actually way lower than what we were capable of. By the end of that course, I not only had a new appreciation for the scientific method and research as a whole, but also had developed a new desire to push myself beyond what I thought was possible.”

“We see in Rob Doyle a gifted and innovative educator whose broad scientific foundations, unique perspective on pedagogy and engaging personal style make him a valuable resource to the department and the college,” says fellow chemistry professor Tim Korter. “His incredible breadth of scientific knowledge allows him to teach a significant number of our department’s offerings in inorganic and biological chemistry and positions him to play a leadership role in developing cross-disciplinary courses and programs.”

Doyle has taught in the College of Arts and Sciences since 2005. And while he maintains a very active laboratory and research portfolio, teaching remains his priority. “I believe that while I have been successful in research terms, my greatest impact will ultimately be made through teaching. I see students who have conducted research under my mentorship and students who have taken my classes change direction or find new, highly fulfilling direction, and that has given me more delight than any grant or paper to date,” he says.

For his Meredith project, Doyle proposes a full-day Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Symposium in the Chemical and Biological Sciences over the course of three years. The symposium will feature eight, 25-minute presentations by undergraduate students who have conducted at least one full semester of research and who participate in, or are eligible for, the McNair Program or the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Program at the University. The goal of the symposium is to encourage and foster the development of first-generation students and women in science and engineering, and to prepare them for national conference participation.

Peter Wilcoxen Professor of Public Administration and International Affairs in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs

Peter Wilcoxen

Peter Wilcoxen
Professor of Public Administration and International Affairs in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs

Wilcoxen says he has been fortunate over the years to teach material that he cares a lot about. “When I put together a syllabus, I pick a set of skills and topics that I feel students should know, not just a list of traditional topics or whatever is in a textbook,” he says. “I know exactly why I want to cover each topic, can explain that to the students, and I go to each class excited to talk about that day’s material.”

Wilcoxen wants his students to be able to perform economic analysis themselves, and not simply accept what they read in a textbook. He fosters this learning in several ways, and has even developed his own interactive, web-based simulation games to help students practice using key concepts in realistic conditions.

In one classroom exercise on the significance of income transfers and economic inefficiency, Wilcoxen asks for $10 each from two student volunteers. He then gives one $10 bill to a random student and cuts the other bill up with scissors. “In the end I give each student $20 for volunteering, but in the meantime, the shock of seeing me giving away or destroying someone else’s money drives the point home in a way that few people forget,” he says.

Wilcoxen is the co-creator of five interdisciplinary team-taught courses, three for undergraduates and two for graduates. The undergraduate courses, MAX 401, PHY 398 and PHY 498, support Maxwell’s Citizenship and Civic Engagement major and the Arts and Sciences Integrated Learning Major on Energy and Its Impacts. The graduate courses, “Climate Change: Science, Perception and Policy” and “Smart Grid: Security, Privacy and Economics,” are cross-listed and bring together faculty from across the campus to give students an interdisciplinary perspective on an issue that involves complex, fundamental challenges that mix science, engineering, economics and the legal system. He is extensively involved in the Maxwell professional education program, its undergraduate program in civic engagement and other interdisciplinary departments across campus, including those in engineering, law and with SUNY-ESF.

“Even in classes that are not explicitly interdisciplinary, I integrate concepts from natural science, engineering, philosophy, politics and psychology. I try to treat students as the best versions of themselves: as though they have really absorbed all they’ve been taught in a liberal arts education.”

“Professor Wilcoxen is well known in the school for having long lines of students waiting to meet with him because of his accessibility and the time devoted to working with students,” says David Van Slyke, associate dean and chair of the Department of Public Administration and International Affairs and Louis A. Bantle Chair in Business-Government Policy. “Teaching is clearly a priority for Professor Wilcoxen. He does it very effectively and works tirelessly in and out of the classroom on behalf of his students.”

Students in Wilcoxen’s fall 2015 PAI course echoed Van Slyke’s comments. “Professor Wilcoxen
is an extraordinary teacher who takes his duties as an educator beyond pure instruction and into the realm of empowerment,” they said. “Each and every student in class can easily speak to how much we treasured our time in his class. He taught us to make sense of complex policy decisions in a rational economic way and empowered us to communicate that knowledge easily and understandably,” they said. “Students with no interest or background in economics found a new love of the subject and have claimed that his class has been foundational in their future career choices and framing of public issues.”

Wilcoxen has been in the Department of Public Administration and International Affairs since

For his Meredith project, Wilcoxen plans to build an extensible, multi-layer suite of interactive online materials to support flipped-classroom or hybrid approaches to teaching core topics in microeconomics to students with heterogeneous backgrounds. The materials will build on best practices, be flexible and be available for use by other instructors at the University and SUNY ESF.

United Methodist Scholar/Teacher of the Year

The Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church has sponsored the University Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award at Syracuse University annually since 1982 to recognize the teaching and scholarship of an outstanding professor. This award gives explicit emphasis to the dual nature of a faculty member’s responsibilities as a scholar or creative artist and a teacher. This award carries a stipend of $2,000.

Tara Helfman Associate Professor in the College of Law

Tara Helfman

Tara Helfman
Associate Professor in the College of Law

Helfman teaches two large first-year required doctrinal courses: “Contracts” and “Constitutional Law I.” In both, she has offered students the option of forming study groups (usually consisting of 2-5 members) that have standing weekly appointments with her. During these weekly voluntary meetings, students solve challenging legal problems under her supervision. Students do not receive any sort of credit for these study group meetings; they are purely voluntary. The meetings help students to develop a deep and practical understanding of legal doctrine and cultivate strong analytical skills, among other advantages.

She developed her own course materials to teach “International Law,” striving to engage her students as world citizens with a strong understanding of the international legal system. Diplomatic correspondence, speeches, video footage of Security Council meetings and press conferences, and news reports regarding international incidents are among the learning tools she uses. “Professor Helfman’s decision to eschew the traditional approach to teaching international law and develop an innovative approach provides her students with a dynamic educational experience that assures that she will achieve her objective of producing engaging and critical world citizens. In other words, this is not your parents’ international law,” says Christian Day, professor of law and associate dean for academic affairs. Helfman also teaches the “Law of the Sea, Freedom and the Framers” (a new one-credit tutorial) and her contribution to the College of Law’s new Practice­Ready Option: “Introduction to Legal Practice: Applying Contracts, Torts, & Civil Procedure.”

In 2011, Helfman started the 1L Faculty Mentoring Program at the College of Law. First-year students meet with their designated faculty mentors for luncheons at various points during the academic year. At these luncheons, students and mentors discuss everything from study habits to summer job searches. The program is aimed at helping first-year student students settle into law school.

Meredith Teaching Recognition Awards

The Teaching Recognition Awards program was established in 2001 through an expansion of the Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professorship Program. The Meredith Professors themselves proposed that the Teaching Recognition Award Program recognize excellence in teaching by non-tenured faculty and adjunct and part-time instructors. Recipients are selected for teaching innovation, effectiveness in communicating with students and the lasting value of their courses. To be eligible, candidates must have completed two years of service to the University and not yet received tenure. Each recipient is given $3,000 to further his or her professional development.

Elizabeth Ashby Assistant Professor, Economics, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and College of Arts and Sciences

Elizabeth Ashby

Elizabeth Ashby
Assistant Professor, Economics, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and College of Arts and Sciences

Ashby taught her first economics course in the summer of 2002, after completing her second year in the University’s economics Ph.D. program. That experience confirmed for her that she wanted a career in teaching. She joined the Department of Economics in 2005 towards the completion of her degree.

She has offered a number of different courses, but has taught ECN 203, “Economics Ideas and Issues,” consistently for the past several years. This course is the gateway to the economics major and a requirement for many programs and majors across campus. “Some feel apprehensive, arriving with the misconception that economics is too difficult for them to learn. This is my challenge,” Ashby says. “I enjoy this diverse community of learners and helping them to appreciate the relevance of economics.” She aims to help students connect the classroom to the greater world and to cultivate student interest in economics.

From 2011 to 2015, she served as the director of undergraduate studies (DUS) in economics and currently serves as director of advising. One of her significant contributions to the department has been in co-founding the “Networking Night for Economics Majors.” Held each semester, this event offers economics majors the opportunity to meet with potential employers and learn about internship and career opportunities. “Creating this opportunity for students was not a part of the DUS job description. But Beth didn’t define her DUS responsibilities by the job description. She defined them by what is best for our students,” says Jerry Evensky, professor of economics and Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence. “That’s dedication. That’s going above and beyond. That’s Beth.”

Patrick Berry Assistant Professor, Writing Program, College of Arts and Sciences

Patrick Berry

Patrick W. Berry
Assistant Professor, Writing Program, College of Arts and Sciences

During his five years at Syracuse, Berry has taught a total of 12 different courses. His doctoral seminars have included core courses in composition history and theory and composition pedagogy, along with a special topics course that brings together his expertise in literacy studies and digital humanities.

Berry says his teaching and curricular innovations have involved rethinking the relationship between course content and real-world experiences, studying the place of contemplative practices in teaching and learning, and in finding opportunities to extend learning beyond the classroom. During the 2013-14 academic year, he designed courses in listening in rhetoric and composition, which received support from the University’s Humanities Center. “One way to improve engagement is to attend to listening, which I believe is something we need to teach. Even if everything is an argument, as some writing researchers contend, students need to learn to deepen engagement, question assumptions and develop writing that is ethically and culturally responsible,” Berry says.

When a group of writing majors decided they wanted to establish a student organization in the spring 2014 semester, Berry offered support to make the Writing Program Student Organization a reality. He has also connected students with the highly respected HASTAC program (Humanities, Arts, Sciences, Technology Alliance and Collaboratory), a national organization that supports collaborative ventures among graduate students doing innovative work in the digital humanities. Five SU composition and cultural rhetoric Ph.D. students have been named HASTAC Scholars over the past four years. In 2014, the composition and cultural rhetoric Ph.D. program’s Graduate Circle honored Berry with their annual outstanding faculty mentor award.

“In addition to excelling in every aspect of his classroom teaching and mentoring, Patrick has left a profound mark on the Writing Program through his efforts to make additional opportunities available to students,” says Lois Agnew, director of the Writing Program.

Michelle Blum Assistant Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science

Michelle Blum

Michelle Blum
Assistant Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science

Blum is in her fourth year in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. She utilizes active learning techniques in large class settings, specifically, the undergraduate “Computational Methods” course and the undergraduate “Material Properties and Processing” course. She has developed a variety of courses for the mechanical and aerospace engineering department, including resurrecting the “Finite Element Applications” graduate course. Blum has also been in charge of the extensive revision of several key mechanical engineering courses, including the senior capstone design sequence, and “Machine Design,” which is a key junior level mechanical engineering course. “Professor Blum has been a college leader in implementing dynamic approaches to teaching,” says Mark Glauser, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and associate dean for research and doctoral programs in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. “She has made an outstanding effort to vary course material and present it in different and unusual ways. Dr. Blum is receptive to new ideas, and constantly looks for innovative methods to present course content.”

Blum also strives to increase academic excellence within the college through inclusion. She continually works to help promote reform by encouraging the continuing education of women and underrepresented minorities in scientific fields. She also has a passion for outreach, being on the conference committee for Project ENGAGE at Syracuse University, a one-week summer camp in biomedical engineering for eighth-grade girls hosted on campus. For this event, Blum developed and taught a laboratory-based module on mechanics and materials development through biomimicry. The activity was so successful that it was published and presented at the 2015 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition. She is also a founding member of the Leadership Council for a collegewide initiative that created the WiSE: Women of Color in STEM group.

Dawn Dow Assistant Professor, Sociology, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and College of Arts and Sciences

Dawn Dow

Dawn Dow
Assistant Professor, Sociology, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and College of Arts and Sciences

Dow is in her fourth year in the sociology department. Even though her classes cover sensitive topics, including race and ethnic inequalities, her students say she has created an environment in which they can discuss, debate and learn.

Dow approaches her teaching with four main goals in mind: to help her students become engaged learners; to empower students to tackle controversial issues through respectful debate and discussion; to support diversity; and to mentor and advise. Her classroom discussions are rooted in contemporary events, related to the course materials, to promote engaged learning. Her classes have included discussions of Trayvon Martin and the trial of George Zimmerman; the Supreme Court case Fisher v. University of Texas, proposed changes to census categories; celebrity appropriation of gender and racial images; the DREAM Act; Michael Brown’s shooting in Ferguson, Mo.; and voting rights.

“Dawn Dow is one of the most extraordinary teachers we have had in the sociology department,” says Madonna Harrington Meyer, chair of the sociology department and Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence. “She has a very organized and embracing style of teaching that allows students to relax both in the knowledge that they know what is expected and that they can, and will, discuss sensitive topics in a safe classroom environment.”
Dow says she encourages students to become self directed, independent and critical consumers of knowledge, and lifelong learners. “My aim as a professor is to ensure that my students become critical thinkers who are willing to explore creative solutions to social problems,” she says.

She has served as a mentor in the McNair Scholars Program and is a member of the National Center for Faculty Diversity and Development, a professional development organization that is dedicated to the advancement of underrepresented groups within the academy.

Natalie Koch Assistant Professor, Geography, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and College of Arts and Sciences

Natalie Koch

Natalie Koch
Assistant Professor, Geography, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and College of Arts and Sciences

As a faculty member in the geography department for the past four years, Koch has taught everything from 100-level courses to advanced doctoral seminars. She has developed new courses on urban geography, political geography, sports and the Middle East, and revived old courses such as regional geography.

Realizing that geography graduate students did not have strong backgrounds in political geography, she restructured her graduate courses to provide that necessary introduction. A lifelong athlete, she sees her relationship with her students in comparison to a coach and a team. “The coach is there to provide guidance and facilitate a safe and healthy environment, but ultimately the team members are the ones who must play the game,” Koch says. “And like a successful team, I believe that learning is most productive when it is collaborative and when diverse ways of thinking and approaching a problem are welcomed by all.”

Koch is innovative in her teaching, always looking for new approaches to connecting students with the course material and with each other. Some of her methods include free-writing activities, student-submitted discussion questions, student-led debates and discussions and timed writing exercises, among others. “I believe critical and independent thinking to be the single most important skill students can acquire in the course of their university education,” she says. “As such, my primary objective as a teacher is not to teach students what to think about certain materials, but how to think about and critically analyze different materials, as well as being open to learning and challenging their own ideas.” Through her courses, she aims to help her students understand the meaning of global citizenship as they chart careers in an increasingly global marketplace.

“Natalie meets students where they are and works closely with them to get where they want to be, “ says Jamie Winders, chair of the geography department, associate professor of geography and O’Hanley Faculty Scholar. “She thoughtfully assesses her classroom, seeking ways to reach all students.” Additionally, Koch is the author of 21 articles and eight book chapters, and co-edited one book.

Kyle Miller Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture

Kyle Miller

Kyle Miller
Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture

Miller is a faculty member in the School of Architecture, where he teaches architectural design studios and media courses. In fall 2014, he co-taught ARC 604, a design studio for incoming graduate students, with longtime School of Architecture Professor and Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence Anne Munly. “Our teaching of the graduate students that fall was very gratifying: the coordinated set of studio exercises were effective because we were in agreement on learning goals and teaching methods. … I believe the students gained by the example of our teamwork and also from our different perspectives, which always led to discourse rather than discord,” Munly says. Miller suggested concluding the studio with a student-curated final exhibition, which was highly successful.

This year, Miller and Munly are co-coordinators of the first-year architectural design studio sequence, which includes ARC 107 and ARC 108. In the fall, they oversaw “Cube City,” a student-designed exhibition on display during Family Weekend.

Miller says he strives to develop a skill set that allows him to become effective and influential, locally and globally, as an educator and researcher. With support from the University’s Innovative Program Development Fund, Miller created “Architecture Itself,” a special event comprised of design workshops and a lecture series. In addition to teaching, Miller is a member of the school’s Curriculum Committee and frequently presents his pedagogical research at national and international conferences. Most recently, he presented at the 12th International Architectural Humanities Research Association Conference in Leeds in November 2015, at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Collegiate Schools of Architecture in Toronto in March 2015 and at the National Conference for the Beginning Design Student in Houston in February 2015.

Miller is also co-founder of Possible Mediums; a collaborative research project dedicated to advancing design investigations based in speculative architectural mediums; and, beginning in August 2016, will serve as the director of Syracuse Architecture in Florence.

Kevin Morrison Assistant Professor, English, College of Arts and Sciences

Kevin Morrison

Kevin Morrison
Assistant Professor, English, College of Arts and Sciences

A faculty member in the Department of English since 2009, Morrison has consistently designed new courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels for students in English, history, women’s and gender studies, visual and performing arts, and architecture. He is a scholar of Victorian British literature and culture.

In teaching, he may juxtapose the sermons of the 18th-century Methodist preacher John Wesley with “Oliver Twist,” Charles Dickens’ 19th-century novel, in order for students to see how understandings of the child as being essentially venal or innocent evolved. Or he may teach Mrs. Beeton’s “Book of Household Management,” written in the mid-19th century, alongside the contemporaneously published poem “The Angel in the House” by Coventry Patmore to convey how idealizations of wives and mothers, which still persist, were originally constituted.

“Kevin’s zeal for pedagogical innovation is matched only by his commitment to intellectual integrity,” says Erin Mackie, chair of the English department. “He has a sharp appetite for teaching and has developed a menu of methods and techniques, as well as of content, that is exceptional for any professor, all the more so in one on the first lap of his career.”

Morrison regularly teaches a course on “Literary Urban Studies” as the critical methods course (ETS 305) required for English majors. He teaches at SU London every summer, and has launched three new courses there. For summer 2017, he has proposed a fourth on 19th-century serial killing in London and Paris. This course is cross-listed as: ETS 310, ENG 600, HST 400/600 and WGS 360 and serves undergraduate and graduate students across three disciplines.

“I am an interdisciplinary scholar and teacher; however, I never lose sight of the fact that my principal responsibility is training students in formal literary analysis,” says Morrison. “For both upper- and lower-division courses, I take particular care in designing writing assignments that help students work through conceptually and often rhetorically difficult texts and also improve their analytic and critical-thinking skills.”