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Faculty Honored for Teaching Talents

Select group of Northwestern faculty to receive University Teaching Awards

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May 1, 2014 | by Erin White

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Six Northwestern University faculty members will be honored with 2014 University Teaching Awards at a ceremony Tuesday, May 20, from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Guild Lounge, Scott Hall, on the Evanston campus.

Two faculty members -- David J. Corr and Jeanne Weiland Herrick -- have been named Charles Deering McCormick University Distinguished Lecturers or Clinical Professors. Three faculty members -- Rebecca Claire Gilman, Todd David Murphey and Neelesh A. Patankar -- have been named Charles Deering McCormick Professors of Teaching Excellence. The winner of The Alumnae of Northwestern Teaching Professor award is Susie Phillips.

These University Teaching Awards recognize individual faculty members who have consistently demonstrated outstanding performance in classroom teaching or who have developed significant innovations that have also influenced the methods and teaching effectiveness of other faculty.

The winners were nominated by undergraduate deans and selected by a diverse committee of Northwestern faculty, administration and staff.

Charles Deering McCormick University Distinguished Lecturers or Clinical Professors:

David J. Corr is a clinical associate professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Corr has distinguished himself as a highly effective professor within McCormick. Administrators and fellow professors have recognized his dedication to students, as evidenced by his receipt of the McCormick “Certificate of Teaching Excellence” in 2011. Teaching courses that contain both graduate and undergraduate students, Corr works creatively to ensure all students understand basic engineering concepts while continuously challenging those who are ready to apply the concepts.

Filled with practical learning experiences, case studies and real world examples, Corr’s classes are among some of the most popular classes of engineering students. His Forensic Engineering course is the only one in the United States taught by a full time faculty member who has forensic engineering experience. Corr has been lauded for the time he dedicates to answering questions in and outside of class.

In fact, one student remarked, “I have rarely encountered such dedication to his students’ mastery of the material.” In addition, his peers have commended Corr’s impact on the civil and environmental engineering curriculum. He has collaborated with others to ensure cohesiveness among courses and has also created projects that require realistic problem-solving skills.

As a practicing engineer, Corr learned firsthand the importance of teamwork and communication, so he believes it is essential to teach these skills as part of his courses. Corr first came to Northwestern in 2003 as a postdoctoral research associate. He served two years as research assistant professor before joining the consulting engineering firm Exponent, Inc. He returned to Northwestern in 2008 and has since earned a solid reputation for his research with the Infrastructure Technology Institute. Corr earned a Ph.D. and M.S. from University of California, Berkeley and a B.S. from Notre Dame.

Jeanne Weiland Herrick is a senior lecturer in the writing program in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Herrick’s main goal is to create active learners. Her students will tell you she has surpassed that goal and her impact goes far beyond academic learning. As one student attested, “Teaching from the heart and life experiences, not just from books, is what separates Professor Herrick from the rest.”

A faculty member at Northwestern since 1999, Herrick has had a profound influence on countless students across the university. She teaches students at every level from freshmen to graduate students, in several schools, including McCormick, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Continuing Studies, where she received the Distinguished Teaching Award in 2006. Herrick is admired for her uniquely themed courses and development of new pedagogical techniques. For example, she has successfully incorporated team conferencing into the peer review process for each of her students and she has created courses that enable her students to discover the voices of marginalized communities in Chicago.

Herrick is passionate about teaching writing to underserved populations, such as first generation college students and non-native English speakers. As one colleague described, “Jeanne has, for many years, taught courses that require excursions into different Chicago neighborhoods and that introduce students to primary research methods.” Herrick is noted for sharing her innovative teaching techniques with others: she mentors new faculty and collaborates with peers from several disciplines in engineering and communication. She has been a key contributor and instructor in Design Thinking and Communication, an innovative interdisciplinary collaboration between Weinberg and McCormick.

Outside the classroom, Herrick is an academic advisor for Weinberg freshman and faculty master of the Women’s Residential College. She also serves as the University Faculty Senate representative for the Weinberg lecturer faculty. Professor Herrick holds a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago, a M.A. from Northern Illinois University and a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Charles Deering McCormick Professors of Teaching Excellence

Rebecca Claire Gilman is an associate professor in the department of radio, television and film in the School of Communication.

Gilman has gained worldwide recognition as a gifted playwright, but to her students she remains grounded in her teaching and helping them succeed as writers with unique voices. One of her students noted, “I saw her play ‘Luna Gale’ a few weeks ago and was completely blown away. I had known her for a year and not once had she mentioned her own talents as she had been solely focused on helping us learn.” She is so focused in fact, that several of her students’ writing pieces have won awards at the Chicago Dramatists’ Ten-Minute Play Workshop and Theatre Masters’ Ten-Minute Play Festival. National and international juried film festivals have also chosen her students’ films to be screened at their events.

Gilman’s own writing has won Time Magazine’s Top Ten Plays of the Decade (Boy Gets Girl, 2010). She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and was a finalist for the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for her play, ‘The Glory of Living.’ With all of her success, Gilman is as committed to her students as she is to her craft. Her goal is “to help my students become successful artists by helping them cultivate a strong voice, a unique vision, and an open and collaborative spirit.”

Students consistently praise Gilman for her ability to “nurture what is precious to each student” rather than telling them how to write. Gilman challenges her students to ask themselves and their audiences difficult questions because she hopes her students will be active learners and also educate their peers. Off campus, Gilman conducts national workshops specifically for female playwrights. Rebecca Gilman completed her M.F.A. at the University of Iowa, M.A. at the University of Virginia and B.A. at Birmingham-Southern College.

Todd David Murphey is an associate professor in the department of mechanical engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

A member of the Northwestern faculty since 2009, Murphey has had an impact on engineering education both on campus and nationwide. He created and taught a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) to thousands of learners around the world and continues to share what he learned during that experience with colleagues and university administrators throughout the country. As a result of that effort, he was a featured speaker at a National Academy of Engineering workshop in 2013. Moreover, Murphey brought the online learning experience to his undergraduate Engineering Analysis students at Northwestern.  That course was very well received by the students and received unusually strong student evaluations.

Student feedback in all his courses consistently indicates a comfortable learning environment in some of the most challenging engineering courses on campus. Students appreciate Murphey's ability to explain complex concepts in a way that is accessible to a broad spectrum of learners. His popularity as a teacher can be partly attributed to his willingness to incorporate project-based and experiential learning into the classroom experience. Experiential learning is also something Professor Murphey has studied, including obtaining National Science Foundation funding to develop project-based assessment tools.

Outside the classroom, Murphey has a history of both involving students in his research activities and advising student projects. Beyond campus, Murphey has won the National Science Foundation's CAREER Award and was selected as one of 15 scientists nationwide to participate in the Defense Science Study Group for 2014-15. He is also a senior editor for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Transactions on Robotics journal. Murphey holds a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology and a B.S. from the University of Arizona.

Neelesh A. Patankar is a professor in the department of mechanical engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Throughout his 14 years at Northwestern, Patankar’s main teaching goal has been to “use the language of mathematics to analyze physical phenomena and apply the analysis to realistic problems.” Student feedback indicates he has achieved this goal, and thus has had a lasting impact on many of his students and advisees. Repeatedly emphasized in student feedback is Patankar’s effective teaching style. One summarized it this way, “Since the focus was on concepts versus just memorizing equations, I feel like I will remember the important material of this course.”

Among those he has advised are a Rhodes Scholar finalist and three winners of the Best Undergraduate Research and Innovation Award in Mechanical Engineering. Patankar is one of the top researchers nationwide in fluid dynamics, but he finds time to also mentor student projects. Active in administrative affairs as well, Patankar is the associate chair of the mechanical engineering department and was chair of the curriculum committee. He has also led the departmental honors program and the ABET accreditation review process. Patankar’s work has been cited in many publications, and he shares his expertise as associate editor of Journal of Computational Physics, and is on the editorial advisory board of the International Journal of Multiphase Flow.

Patankar has received recognition on campus for his efforts, including the Cole Higgins Award for Teaching Excellence and was nominated twice to the Associated Student Government Honor Roll. Nationally, Patankar was selected as a member of the Defense Science Study Group (2010-11), received both the NSF CAREER Award and the international Junior Award in Multiphase Flow and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. Patankar earned a Ph.D. and M.S. from the University of Pennsylvania and his B.S. at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, India.

The Alumnae of Northwestern Teaching Professor Award:

Susie Phillips is an associate professor in the department of English in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Bridging the gap between modern life and fifteenth-century culture would be challenging for most, but associate professor Susie Phillips manages the task with ease. She has been described as “the linchpin connecting medieval and early modern literature in the English Department,” where she has been a faculty member since 2003.

Phillips is filled with an infectious enthusiasm for and commitment to her course subject and this passion helps to bring Shakespeare and Chaucer to life for her students in previously unimaginable ways. For example, in one of her classes, she asks students to contribute their favorite songs and poems on the first day, then works to seamlessly weave these modern texts into her syllabus to compare popular lyrics in Shakespeare’s day and our own. She rejuvenates old classroom forms and practices, transforming large lectures into spaces for engaged and intensive discussion. And she inspires in her students a fascination with how texts were produced, published, circulated and read, through eye-opening visits to the Deering Special Collections Library. Those who make this pilgrimage often recount their awe and amazement after seeing centuries-old texts.

Phillips is equally engaged in advising her students. As a result of her mentoring, one student writes, “I have adopted the attitude that the point of attending university is to learn how to learn, to cultivate empathy and the ability to think critically.” Phillips has expanded her teaching repertoire by team-teaching a course in the Kaplan Humanities Scholars Program, and also has served as interim director of the Kaplan Program. She serves on the Faculty Distance Learning Workgroup and has been a Graduate Teaching Mentor through the Searle Center. In addition to this award, Phillips has been awarded the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities Fellowship, URGC Research Grant (twice), Associated Student Government Faculty Honor Roll (twice), and the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences Award for Distinguished Teaching. Phillips completed her Ph.D. and M.A. at Harvard University. She earned a master’s degree from Cambridge University and graduated from Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges with a B.A.