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Celebrating Great Teaching, Great Learning
Pablo Jenik (r.), assistant professor of biology, works with Rukhshana Tuli ’12 in one example of great teaching and learning at Franklin & Marshall.
It happens inside a classroom, in a professor’s office or on a campus walkway every day. A Franklin & Marshall student and faculty member have a conversation about a particular subject, and the student comes away with a fresh perspective on his or her world. The chat might have focused on chemical equations, national security policy or Hindu mythology, but the result is the same: great teaching and learning have taken place.
The stories of F&M students and faculty members will take center stage throughout the 2010-11 academic year during “Great Teaching, Great Learning,” an initiative to celebrate the College’s core strengths in the liberal arts. Announced by Interim President John F. Burness ’67 at Convocation on Aug. 31, the program will consist of a series of events highlighting the work of F&M students and faculty members. It also will bring to campus leaders in higher education and public life.
“In my initial meetings with students and faculty members, I’ve been struck by stories that are very rich and emblematic of what the liberal arts and this place are all about,” says Burness, who credits his own experience as an F&M student with helping to shape his life and career. “The liberal arts is about educating for a lifetime, and I don’t think we talk about it enough. It prepares you to think, to analyze and to discuss.”
Burness began thinking about a way to celebrate F&M’s teaching and learning at Commencement exercises in May, when the College awarded the Dewey Award for Outstanding Scholarship and Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching.
“As it turns out, this is the 20th anniversary of the Dewey Award,” Burness says. “I started thinking about what a great thing these awards represent, and it dawned on me that we don’t celebrate it enough. Students all talk about faculty members who have had an impact on their lives. It just seems logical to focus on the narrative that comes out of these stories.”
Burness discussed the initiative with Provost and Dean of the Faculty Ann Steiner, who thought it was a good idea. Burness then appointed Dick Fluck, associate dean of the faculty and the Dr. E. Paul and Frances H. Reiff Professor of Biology, as chair of the “Great Teaching, Great Learning” committee.
Other members of the committee include Laurie Baulig, director of the Center for the Liberal Arts and Society; Joel Eigen, Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology and Ware College House don; Sam Houser, secretary of the College and executive assistant to the president; Jason Klinger, director of publications; Amelia Rauser, associate professor of art history; Chelsea Schein ’11; and Mary Woolson, associate vice president for development.
The committee will provide funds to enhance events already on the campus calendar and fund events that have yet to be determined. Funding proposals are due to the committee by Oct. 1. The committee is also running a contest for a student-created logo that will be used to publicize events throughout the year.
“This is certainly an interesting conversation to be having in a year in which we’re searching for a new president,” Fluck says. “It will provide a context in which to think about what great teaching and learning mean at F&M."
Much of the conversation will include personal stories, such as the one Burness shared at Convocation about his learning from John Vanderzell, emeritus professor of government. Vanderzell sparked a conversation about authority by conducting a classroom experiment that stuck with Burness decades later.
“I suspect that every student has his or her own John Vanderzell story,” Burness says. “This is what we’re all about. We want to celebrate the extraordinary day-to-day interactions that occur everywhere on this campus.”