The University of North Carolina Board of Governors has selected 17 outstanding University faculty members to receive the 2019 Awards for Excellence in Teaching. The recipients, who represent all 16 of North Carolina’s public universities and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, were nominated by special committees at each institution and selected by the Board of Governors Committee on Educational Planning, Policies, and Programs. This year marks the 25th anniversary of this prestigious award. Established by the Board in 1993 to highlight the importance of teaching, the award recognizes the extraordinary contributions of faculty members System wide.
“We take great pride in honoring these recipients. They all bring a high standard of excellence in the classroom through creative teaching methods that impact our students,” said UNC Board of Governors Chair Harry Smith.
Each of the winners will receive a commemorative bronze medallion and a $12,500 cash prize. Awards will be presented by a Board of Governors member during each institution’s spring graduation ceremony.
“This award is an opportunity to acknowledge the great work that’s being done by some of the finest instructors in all of higher education,” said UNC System Interim President Bill Roper. “It represents the talent we have in the UNC System and the high-quality education our students receive.”
The 2019 winners are:
- D. Jason Miller, associate professor, Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment, Appalachian State University;
- David Wilson-Okamura, professor, Department of English, East Carolina University;
- Kingsley N. Nwala, professor, Department of Business and Economics, Elizabeth City State University;
- Paul Boaheng, associate professor, Department of Government and History, Fayetteville State University;
- Valerie Jarvis McMillan, associate professor, Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University;
- Jonathan N. Livingston, professor, Department of Psychology, North Carolina Central University;
- James Patrick Rand, professor, College of Design, North Carolina State University;
- Ameena Batada, associate professor, Department of Health and Wellness, UNC Asheville;
- Donald Thomas Hornstein, distinguished professor, School of Law, UNC-Chapel Hill;
- Tony L. Schmitz, professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Science, UNC Charlotte;
- Dianne H.B. Welsh, professor, Department of Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Hospitality and Tourism, UNC Greensboro;
- Kevin S. Freeman, associate professor, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, UNC Pembroke;
- Herbert Berg, professor, Department of International Studies, UNC Wilmington;
- M. Eric Rimes, professor, School of Design, Production, Lighting, UNC School of the Arts;
- John Whitmire, associate professor, Department of Philosophy and Religion, Western Carolina University;
- Stephanie T. Dance-Barnes, associate professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Winston-Salem State University; and,
- Scott Laird, instructor, Department of Humanities, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.
Read more about the 2019 Awards for Excellence in Teaching recipients, including biographies and photos.
AMEENA BATADA, UNC ASHEVILLE
Although I have been teaching in some capacity nearly all of my teenage and adult life, I believe my philosophy and approach have developed most as an educator over the past seven years, since coming to UNC Asheville. I have been fortunate to have learned a great deal from colleagues, resources, and professional development; however, the most critical force influencing my teaching has been the students with whom I have had the opportunity to interact over the years.
My teaching philosophy is rooted in my belief in the power of making connections, with the course material, each other, and ourselves. When we make these connections, our learning is deeper and long-lasting.
First-Person Inquiry and Classroom Community
I believe that we all learn best when we can connect with the material. This personal connection is clearer when I teach courses in individual health, when students can apply concepts around nutrition, for example, to their own eating behaviors. Since I teach mostly public health courses, the material often is more distant from students. Some (though certainly not all) students haven’t experienced the challenges that the people we study (such as people from lower-wealth communities or people with dark-pigmented skin), and some students haven’t thought a lot about the ways our broader structures or policies influence their and others’ daily lives.
One way for students to personally connect to social and public health topics is to hear and share their experiences, which takes trust that must be built in the classroom. I believe in co-building a safer space in the classroom with students, and emphasizing the use of intentional language, being okay with making mis-takes, and embracing the complexities of thinking holistically rather than reducing some of the deep-rooted health issues we discuss to linear processes. In a world where we can learn almost anything online, I truly believe that I and the group of students taking my course are on a special journey together, intended for that time and place, and that the learning is facilitated greatly in the spaces around the material itself.
Sometimes students can connect personally to a topic without at first thinking that they can relate to it. I see it as my job to help them to elucidate these connections, inside and outside the classroom. Inside the classroom, I create activities that help them to develop a stronger sense of interconnectedness. For example, when we discuss employment conditions around the world, I start by asking them to guess and then look at where their shirt was made. This always stimulates a much richer discussion than starting with stats, a map, or a video. Also, holding multiple truths about the material can help students understand that it is okay, even important, to acknowledge that their own perspective may be vastly different from how the world seems to work. It also is my belief that learning about social issues cannot be only an academic exercise, that we are compelled in studying a problem to also contribute to solutions. As such, students in my courses usually engage in community work to reduce health disparities and/or promote health. The projects we engage in help to address root factors of social problems and our community partners are co-educators in this endeavor, speaking with the students, guiding them, and celebrating successes together.
An Increasingly Expansive Pedagogy
I have always used a multi-modal approach in my teaching because my training in child development and pedagogy instilled in me an awareness of and respect for multiple learning styles, so that various types of learners can have access to course material. I also have come to learn from various sources, and believe very strongly in, the value of teaching that includes the mind, body, and heart for all students. Our bodies often remember experiences that take our mind longer to recall, and when we emotionally feel something, we may learn about it in a way that our mind cannot access. I believe that helping students to connect to the material at more than just a cognitive level increases the likelihood they will absorb and retain the information. More recently, as I educate myself on the history of health disparities and how they are related to historic displacement of land and loss of cultural identity for many, I am recognizing the value of re-introducing modes of learning that have been discounted in the move to more didactive forms of learning and the valuing of certain types of knowledge. In my classes students draw and create and act out skits to critically analyze and embody the material and to deepen everyone’s learning.
Sometimes I wonder if I am a good fit for academia because I do not see myself as the expert on a subject who holds forth on a topic in class. This is due in large part to my training in community-based and participatory research, which is informed by more contemporary thinking around community sovereignty in decision-making and rooted in participatory education. I believe that students come to the classroom with the knowledge and/or tools they need to learn the material and that it is my role to create a structure for discovery and exploration of course concepts on our own, with each other, and in our communities. I care about students’ learning and I care about them. They can, and do, teach me. It is because of what students have taught me that I make time for us to discuss identity and using language intentionally in all my classes. It is because of them that I seek balance in authors and voices in our readings and media. It is because of them that I have acknowledged and practiced a wide range of activities. In my case, I truly feel that the students and I are both teachers and learners.