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Faculty Members Honored for Teaching Excellence

Six receive university-wide awards.

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May 20, 2009
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Six Northwestern University faculty members have been honored with university-wide awards for teaching excellence. They are:

Susan M. Piagentini and Charles Samuel Yarnoff: Charles Deering McCormick University Distinguished Lecturer

Karl A. Scheidt: Alumnae of Northwestern Teaching Professor

Wendy Nelson Espeland, David M. Meyer and Laurie Zoloth: Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence

Susan M. Piagentini, senior lecturer in music theory and cognition in the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, oversees the music theory and aural skills program for all freshman music students and serves as a mentor for teaching assistants and lecturers in that program. She also offers a successful graduate course on music theory pedagogy. Piagentini addresses the challenge of teaching undergraduate students who enter her course at different levels, employing various techniques, including listening, composition, singing and peer teaching. She has attracted national attention for her innovative uses of technology, including the development of a set of interactive computer-based programs that enrich the teaching of music theory. The attention she devotes to the individual success of every student routinely leads to extraordinary student evaluations. The application of theory to practice, coupled with her passion for music, makes her an exceptional educator. Piagentini, who joined the faculty in 2000, was elected to the Associated Student Government Faculty Honor Roll in 2006. She serves on the Academic Review and Doctor of Music Oversight committees, assists with new student advising, and serves as the theory coordinator for the National High School Music Institute.

Charles Samuel Yarnoff, Distinguished Senior Lecturer in the Writing Program, has taught writing to approximately 3,000 students. Since joining the faculty in 1979 has taught at all levels of the undergraduate curriculum and teaches courses in American Literature in the School of Continuing Studies, for which he has received the school-wide teaching award. Yarnoff encourages critical thinking, engages students in a peer review process, and meets frequently with students on an individual basis. Yarnoff is a freshman adviser and has been the chair of the Weinberg Freshman Seminar Writing Awards competition committee since its inception in 1997. He also serves on the Engineering Design and Communications core planning committee and the board of directors of the Students Publishing Company.

Karl A. Scheidt, the Irving M. Klotz Professor of Chemistry, joined the faculty in the department of chemistry in 2002. He became one of the youngest faculty members ever to receive a Weinberg College Distinguished Teaching Award in 2005. He teaches the first-quarter organic chemistry course, a challenging class. Although the class can enroll as many as 100 students, Scheidt knows the students by name and can engage each student during the lecture. Scheidt also teaches a challenging graduate course, Advanced Organic Chemistry. His success in the classroom reflects his ability to motivate students by making them feel as though they are part of a team as they explore new material. He makes complex concepts comprehensible through innovative strategies and individual attention to each student. Scheidt serves as a mentor for graduate and undergraduate students, currently leading a laboratory with 20 coworkers. An expert in the areas of catalysis and chemical synthesis, his research is supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and numerous foundations.

Wendy Nelson Espeland, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in the department of sociology, is highly regarded for her devotion to her students' learning and her understanding of the central role a teacher can play in a student's academic experience and development. Her one-on-one work with students sets her apart, whether she entices first-year students into sociology with her Freshman Seminar on Chicago Landscapes, or challenges advanced students in one of her many independent studies or lecture courses. In 2001-03, using a Northwestern Cross-School Initiative Grant, Espeland and two colleagues developed and co-taught a yearlong course that incorporated community service components. An innovative, perceptive and caring educator, Espeland, who joined the faculty in 1991, received the Weinberg Distinguished Leader in Undergraduate Community Award in 2003 and the Weinberg Distinguished Teaching Award in 1998.

David M. Meyer, professor of physics and astronomy and director of astrophysical studies, is a gifted lecturer with the unusual ability to make difficult scientific concepts clear to students of all backgrounds in courses ranging from small seminars to large introductory courses. He has taught 4,000 students in the past 22 years. His innovative approach to teaching is exemplified in his introductory "Highlights of Astronomy" course. By exploring the latest Hubble Space Telescope images in the classroom, he utilizes technology to widen students' understanding of astronomy as a constantly evolving field that provides a framework for critical thinking and testing ideas about the universe. Meyer also encourages his students to directly observe the night sky themselves with the Dearborn telescope. Through such efforts, he has stimulated generations of students to pursue further the field of astronomy. Meyer, who joined the faculty in 1987, has also contributed to the undergraduate educational experience by serving as a freshman adviser in Weinberg for 18 years. He received the Koldyke Outstanding Teaching Professorship in 2002, the Weinberg Distinguished Teaching Award in 1999 and the Northwestern Alumni Excellence in Teaching Award in 1998.

Laurie Zoloth is an outstanding educator with a dedication to teaching and to the classical mission of the University. Primarily an ethicist, her interests range across philosophy, religion, Jewish studies, law, justice theory, bioethics and medical ethics. Her versatility as a scholar and passion as a teacher are evidenced by her appointments as Professor of Medical Humanities and bioethics in the Feinberg School of Medicine, Professor of Religion in the Weinberg College, and with a courtesy appointment in the School of Law. She has introduced new courses in all three schools. In the medical school she focuses on bioethics, research ethics, and medical humanities, attracting students from both the medical and law schools with her course on Bioethics and Law. In Weinberg, her courses address the tension between research in bioethics and medicine and between religious theory and moral philosophy.
Zoloth serves as the director of the Center for Bioethics, Science and Society and as director of the Brady Program in Ethics and Civic Life.