Last week, Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek celebrated faculty, staff, and students for their accomplishments throughout the past academic year. Tennessee Today will be highlighting those who received recognition for their efforts to support the campus’s mission.
Several faculty members were recognized with the Alumni Outstanding Teacher Award.
Debora Baldwin, associate professor of psychology, is described as lighthearted, sincere, and encouraging. But she brings serious rigor to her classes, always working to update lessons in numerous areas with current research and cutting-edge discoveries.
To keep her classes free-flowing and dynamic, Baldwin lectures from keywords on index cards rather than slides. She is also a popular advisor within the department, regularly carrying a disproportionately high advising load because so many students request her personally.
Many of her student nominators said how tough Baldwin’s courses can be but also noted the confidence her support has helped to instill and how hard she works to connect with every student. “She has motivated me more than I could have ever imagined, and given me the self-confidence and strength that will carry me forward for the rest of my life,” one student said.
Bruce MacLennan has an ambitious teaching goal: to help students become, in his words, “more intelligent users of their own brains.”
An associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, he teaches courses in the theory of computation, artificial intelligence, future approaches to computation, and mathematics for computer scientists. The topics are abstract and often difficult. But MacLennan’s approach ties them to the arts, humanities, and intellectual history.
“While the class topic itself necessitates groundbreaking ways of thinking, Dr. MacLennan conducts his classroom and interacts with his students in an untraditional manner that fosters such a lofty requirement,” said his nominator. “The course will undoubtedly generate a small cohort of quantum and cellular computing researchers which will be on the very bleeding edge of computational science.”
Anthony Nownes‘s teaching is guided by one simple principle—you should teach people how to think, not what to think.
For over twenty years, the political science professor has built a firm foundation for learning through a mix of lectures and discussions, often changing his lesson plans to pose questions and engage students. He has been adding more group projects and service learning activities. He said he is open to virtually anything that he believes will help his students.
Quizzes and tests, as well as take-home assignments, in-class participation, and short papers, help judge how well students are learning the information. Assigning shorter papers allows him to give substantial feedback on students’ writing, which he said they appreciate.
His nominator agreed, saying, “The greatest thing I got from the course was learning that I was not a good writer and needed to improve.” Citing “tough love comments,” he said Nownes had higher expectations of him and worked with him throughout his time at UT to help improve his writing. “Today, I am a professor myself,” he said. “I never would have made it in this profession without Dr. Nownes.”
As a new faculty member, Marianne Wanamaker faced the challenge of teaching a course that had never been taught before anywhere in the world. The course—Market, Ethics, and Capitalism—would serve as an ethics course for business majors and a gateway course for economics majors. Without the benefit of an existing curriculum or even a textbook to plan the course, Wanamaker, an associate professor of economics, relied solely on her own teaching philosophy to guide her.
The preclassroom work she requires students to complete on their own time prompts them to think critically and creatively about the material she covers. She melds this advance preparation with engaging lectures and well-organized materials.
“She was an immediate success,” said her nominator. “The Market, Ethics, and Capitalism students presented a role-playing activity at the annual college awards banquet. After taking her class, about half the Global Leadership Scholars decided that they wanted to become economics majors.”
The MBA class also recognized her gifts, honoring her as the best teacher in their first year of coursework.