Northwestern University: Five honored with University Teaching Awards

Five faculty members are being honored with the 2022 University Teaching Awards. The annual recognition is given to professors who demonstrate excellence and innovation in undergraduate teaching.

Over the past two years, the unpredictable nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has placed an even greater emphasis on the need for preparation, adaptation and creativity in classroom and remote instruction.

“This year’s McCormick Teaching Award honorees have turned their ambitions into actions that have enhanced our students’ learning experiences,” said Provost Kathleen Hagerty. “They not only serve as some of our greatest examples of Northwestern’s commitment to innovative teaching, but also as role models for our students on the value of lifelong learning.”

The recipients were nominated by the deans of the schools, or colleges, in which they have their principal appointments. Winners were selected by a committee chaired by the Provost and made up of senior faculty members, University administrators and a student representative.

The award includes a salary stipend for the next three years as well as funds for professional development. The term commences at the start of the 2022-2023 academic year.

The 2022 University Teaching Awards Ceremony is scheduled for Tuesday, May 17, in Guild Lounge on the Evanston campus. The event also will be livestreamed.

Michael Beltran
Charles Deering McCormick Distinguished Lecturer
Michael Beltran’s pedagogical approach combines “the theoretical classroom learning environment and practical hands-on experience,” providing students the opportunity to apply engineering fundamentals.

Michael BeltranMichael Beltran
Described by his chair as a “campus leader in design and manufacturing education,” Beltran employs design thinking principles to develop curriculum that promotes problem-solving. Students describe his classes as “organized (and) well thought-out” with “dynamic and animated lectures,” which his chair notes include “storytelling, humor, or using examples of products to convey a concept.” A student wrote, “Professor Beltran … wants students to walk away from his courses feeling empowered by the knowledge we gain and ready to apply the knowledge taught in class to real-world engineering problems.”

Students experience his classroom as “diverse and collaborative open spaces in which personal experience and contribution is valued as essential to learning.” Beltran anticipates that students enter with different experience levels or preconceived notions of gender roles and “seeks to empower every student to push their knowledge to the next level and reach a state where they are confident in applying what they have learned to a real project.” Students describe their personal growth as a cornerstone of their class experience. A student explains, Beltran “works tirelessly to push me and his other students to be the best possible engineers, but the context in which he teaches propels us to be more conscious individuals.”

Beltran is a senior lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Segal Design Institute, and he is director of the 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping Lab. He earned his master’s degree from Northwestern.

Thomas Bozza
Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence
Thomas Bozza brings interactive, experiential learning to the undergraduate science courses he teaches, including large sections with more than 200 students. As he explains, “People learn best by seeing, experiencing, and exploring.” He has used carefully integrated group activities, labs, animations, discussions and scientific writing opportunities to stimulate inquiry and active learning.

Thomas BozzaThomas Bozza
A student writes, “I quickly realized that Dr. Bozza is unlike any professor I had in the past. His uniquely engaging approach to education inspired in me a sense of insatiable curiosity. … I began to learn for the sake of learning.” Distilling years of student evaluations and with extensive knowledge of Bozza’s teaching and mentoring, his chair writes, “Tom has continuously shown extraordinary and unselfish commitment to teaching and training, as well as a nearly unparalleled versatility and ability of instruction.”

Bozza’s intentionality and care for students were particularly evident during the pandemic. To combat the impersonality of remote lectures, he met virtually with each individual student. Several described “Meet the Boz” as a meaningful opportunity to connect with a STEM professor about themselves and their interests. As a student describes, “I heard anecdotal lore amongst my fellow undergraduates that Dr. Bozza was a gifted rarity, a once-in-college-experience kind of professor that delivers masterful lectures and is truly invested in helping students achieve their potential. I learned that they were quite right.”

Bozza is an Associate Professor of Neurobiology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. He earned his Ph.D. from the Department of Neuroscience at Tufts University School of Medicine.

Melissa Foster
Charles Deering McCormick Distinguished Professor of Instruction
Melissa Foster draws on a “broad toolbox of techniques” and “contemporary vocal teaching methods” to help students “cultivate the voice of an authentic artist.”

Melissa FosterMelissa Foster
Her chair lauds the “breadth of knowledge students gain in her studio, from the physiological mechanics of vocal production to the emotional and intentional qualities inherent in songs.” One student shares, “I will never forget the first thing Melissa said to me: ‘Your voice is a Ferrari; you just don’t know how to drive it yet.’” Another student adds that her “eagerness to support my academic and artistic goals, and her belief in me from day one are core components to her identity as an educator.”

Foster has a reputation for her commitment to diversity and inclusion and for her impact on training students of color. A student describes her classroom as a “safe space to discuss race and how that affects our lives and careers as performers.” One student writes, “When I told her that I wanted to find more material that reflected my Latina identity, she immediately began researching songs and had various suggestions prepared by our next lesson.” In line with her goals of broad support for vocal students, Foster is currently writing a book titled “Hip-Hop: Rap and R&B: A Performer’s Guide,” which will be published by Rowman and Littlefield.

Foster is an Associate Professor of Instruction in the Department of Theatre in the School of Communication. She earned her master’s in Music Education from Northwestern. Foster is in her sixth year of serving as a faculty in residence.

Amy Stanley
Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence
Amy Stanley’s innovative assignments and novel twists in course design inspire “boundless thinking.”

Amy StanleyAmy Stanley
She reimagined Global History: The Early Modern to Modern Transition, a notoriously difficult course, by sparking students’ curiosity about everything from the history of printed cotton dresses to the struggles of Korean prisoners of war in 16th-century Japan. Her chair attests to the “gold rush” of students seeking the “magic” of Stanley’s dynamic in-person courses, offering rich illustrations of the “great teaching, passion, clarity, coherence, high standards and genuine interest in her students” that lead to transformational learning experiences.

Stanley describes the convergence of her scholarship and pedagogy: “When I write, I disguise argument as story. When I teach, I reveal story as argument.” Her classrooms come alive with the unexpectedly connected histories of recurring characters, the collective unpacking of dense historical texts, and the openness of conversation. As one student reflected, “We were all there to learn, without any pretentiousness or postulation.” Her engaging, refreshing and courageous teaching techniques lead students to surprising discoveries coupled with careful feedback that respects students as if they were “actual historians.” Stanley’s dedication to mentorship not only motivates, but also helps students feel seen and understood. A former student who is now an appellate litigator shared: “Working with Professor Stanley on my thesis made me a more disciplined and effective writer, and not a day has gone by that I haven’t used those skills.”

Stanley is the Wayne V. Jones II Research Professor in the Department of History in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. She earned her Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Shirin Vossoughi
Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence
Shirin Vossoughi teaches about educational justice and aims for students to experience educational justice as they engage in her classes.

Shirin VossoughiShirin Vossoughi
Vossoughi pays close attention to the “relational and intellectual qualities of learning environments,” striving to disrupt classroom experiences that reproduce educational inequalities and instead “embed the development of complex ideas and practices in a community of support, creating an experience of educational dignity and possibility, and cultivating new relationships with learning itself.” One student describes Vossoughi’s classroom as “culturally affirming and humanizing,” adding that Vossoughi’s “intentionality and deep concern for her students’ well-being has redefined how I see learning.”

Central to her teaching is a focus on introducing concepts in ways that invite students’ questions and ideas, allowing for “collective grappling and ongoing reflection.” Her dean explains that as students explore the foundations of research on culture, cognition and social change, “Shirin stresses the importance of emerging ideas, rough drafts, and the importance of multiple perspectives.” Similarly, a student stated, “Dr. Vossoughi made us feel heard and respected as fellow thinkers while also pushing us to clarify and deepen our thinking about issues of inequity.” Another student shares that Vossoughi inspires her students and provides them with the tools to “make the same critical impact on their communities” as Vossoughi does in her research on transformative learning spaces.

Vossoughi is an Associate Professor of Learning Sciences in the School of Education and Social Policy. She earned her Ph.D. in Education and Information Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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