2008 Recipients of the McCormick and Alumnæ Teaching Professorships
David L. Chopp, who joined the Northwestern faculty in 1996 as assistant professor of Engineering Sciences and Applied Mathematics, is a specialist of scientific computing and applications. He became an Associate Professor in 2003 and has co-directed the interdisciplinary masters level Computational Biology and Bioinformatics Program since 2006.
Chopp has proven to be a gifted educator, receiving extraordinary scores in his course evaluations. He has been active in course development in both the undergraduate and graduate programs, designing three courses in numerical methods. He has also successfully experimented with new teaching methods such as a web-based tool to identify the best time (from the student’s point of view) to hold office hours. The information allows him to have maximum contact with all students from large classes outside of the classroom, and students have mentioned that this consideration has had a very positive impact on them. He constantly updates and improves his comprehensive lecture notes, and makes them available to his faculty colleagues and his students. Fellow faculty find these notes an invaluable resource for both teaching and research.
Students describe him as having “great confidence in what undergraduates are capable of and challenges us to apply simple problems in complex applications and to take on immense challenges”. His approach to teaching stresses key fundamentals: get the students’ attention, provide content that keeps their attention, and give them plenty of practice as a way to present multiple and differently nuanced problems.
Julia A. Stern, an Associate Professor of English who specializes in American literature, is widely regarded by students and faculty as one of the most outstanding teachers at Northwestern. She offers an impressive range of courses: from Puritanism to the gothic; from early captivity stories to slave narratives to autobiography; from class conflict in the revolutionary period to politics in the civil war era. Students offer passionate testimonials of the “intellectual electrification” her courses provide and regularly describe them as world-altering. In courses like her personal favorite, “The Politics and Race in the Major Novels of William Faulkner,” Stern challenges and inspires her students with an enthusiasm that, they say, “inevitably rubs off on the class.” She cultivates independent thought with a rigorous style, while also fostering an intimate and compassionate learning environment. As one student notes, “she has the ultimate faith in her students and is not afraid to express that confidence to them.”
Stern has directed over twenty honors theses since 1993, worked with numerous students in independent studies, and served as Honors Coordinator for the Department of English and for the Program in American Culture. The excellence of her teaching has been recognized: she was awarded a Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award, given “Teaching Recognition” by the Pan-Hellenic Association, appointed to the Faculty Honor Roll by the ASG, and served as a finalist for “Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year,” awarded by undergraduate organizations.
Stern joined the Northwestern faculty as Assistant Professor of English in 1991. She was promoted to Associate Professor of English and American Studies in 1998.
David E. Tolchinsky, associate professor and currently Chair of the Department of Radio-TV-Film, demonstrates a high degree of integration among his various academic, professional, and production spheres. A practicing writer and artist with several films and screenplays to his credit, he brings his own research, creative issues, and work history to the class. A colleague writes, “I’ve had the pleasure to watch him in action, working closely with students to help them not only improve their work and craft but come to understand more deeply who they are as artists.” Students likewise describe him as “an amazing instructor, an equally amazing writer” and a “master teacher.” In addition to his own classroom teaching, Tolchinsky has organized workshops and panel discussions for undergraduate and graduate students involving guest appearances by creative people from film, television and theatre. Students report that they not only learn about writing from Tolchinsky, but also how to prepare “for this ‘real world’ we keep hearing about.”
Tolchinsky started two innovative academic programs in the School of Communication, the Interdisciplinary Program in Sound Design, and the MFA in Writing for the Screen and Stage. He also directs the Creative Writing for the Media Program. He has been the recipient of many honors including an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Screenwriting, screenwriting commissions from various Hollywood studios, a fellowship to the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and two nominations for Golden Reel Awards from the Motion Picture Sound Editors Guild. Girl, the feature film he wrote and associated produced, is distributed worldwide by Sony.
Lane Fenrich is well-known for the enthusiasm and expertise he brings to the wide range of courses he teaches in History, Gender Studies, and American Studies. Students describe this much sought-after instructor and advisor as a “passionate, innovative educator” who engages and challenges them with humor, genuine concern for individuals’ development, and question-driven methods that push them to always “dig deeper.”
Fenrich approaches his students as partners in the process of intellectual exploration. As he counsels new instructors seeking his advice, “If the past is a puzzle, then enlist students in the work of unraveling it.” Students praise his ability to remind them “why they loved learning in the first place,” and his methods “draw them, as indispensable new voices, into an unfolding dialogue.” Whether as a lecturer in his popular course on U.S. Gay and Lesbian History, as supervisor of the American Studies Senior Thesis Seminar, or as director of a million-dollar “Teaching American History” grant to enhance the teaching at the high-school and middle-school levels, Fenrich has inspired students and colleagues alike “to question, understand, connect, and challenge” the ideas they learn.
Fenrich began lecturing at Northwestern in 1990, and has received numerous honors for his teaching, including the WCAS Distinguished Teaching award. He has twice been named to the ASG Faculty Honor Roll and was chosen by seniors as the WCAS Graduation Convocation Speaker in 2004. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2000 and to Distinguished Senior Lecturer in 2005. As Assistant Dean in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, he oversees Freshman Seminars and coordinates the Freshman Advising Program.
Eric G. Schulz, a Northwestern PhD, has taught more than 7,000 undergraduates at Northwestern, many of them in the largest sections of the core courses in microeconomics. He consistently receives very high praise for his ability to communicate difficult ideas with clarity. He mixes his presentations of often technical material with references to contemporary events, a touch of humor, and patience, often explaining complicated concepts in multiple ways to reach his students. Although he is “no pushover” in grading, students find him very approachable, and they describe his courses as quite challenging and intellectually stimulating. They also appreciate the ways in which he has gone out of his way to serve as an advisor and mentor.
Schulz has also served as a freshman advisor and a faculty advisor to an undergraduate honors society. In addition, he has directed the senior honors program in Economics. One of his contributions to the curriculum was the creation of a new “turbo” intermediate microeconomics course that offers accelerated learning for students in the Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences Program. He also recently developed a very popular behavioral economics course in the crossover area between economics and psychology.
In 2002, Schulz was promoted to Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics, and, in 2007, to Distinguished Senior Lecturer. He received the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Award for distinguished teaching by the lecturer faculty in 2004. Before joining Northwestern University in the fall of 2000, he taught at Williams College.