2011 Recipients of the McCormick Teaching Professorships

Wesley Burghardt
Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence

In his 20 plus years at Northwestern University, Wesley Burghardt has successfully taught chemical and biological engineering at the undergraduate and graduate level earning an average 5.4 CTEC score since 1991. He continued to teach while department chair from 2005-2009, and demonstrated his dedication to students by also continuing to serve as a student advisor, a rare task for a department chair to continue. In his teaching, Burghardt focuses on bringing clarity to very difficult concepts. He teaches some of the most rigorous and challenging courses in the chemical and biological engineering curriculum. While committed to teaching through participatory lectures, Burghardt also emphasizes the importance of experiential learning.  In fact, he plans to reintroduce a lab component to an undergraduate fluids course that had been dropped in the 1990s. Comments in his CTECs underline that he challenges his students with difficult concepts, but provides students the tools and explanations to master the material.  One student says, “The material is challenging and continues to get more challenging; however, Wes presents difficult concepts such as partial differentiation and approximation methods in a digestible way.”  Burghardt’s department chair adds, “[Students] come away with a mastery of, and even a thirst for, what is often considered to be one of the most onerous subjects in chemical engineering.”  Burghardt helps students achieve this high level of understanding through personal attention during office hours.  His colleagues often walk by his office to see a crowd of students huddled over a problem while receiving clues and direction, never the answer, from their professor. His dedication to teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels is clear in and outside of the classroom, evidenced by his more than 80 research publications, his 100 lecturer invitations, and his supervision of over 30 graduate and research students.  He received his M.S. at University of Illinois and his Ph.D. at Stanford University, both in Chemical Engineering. 


Dylan R. Penningroth
Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence

Undergraduate and graduate students alike praise Dylan R. Penningroth as a demanding and inspiring teacher, equally adept at captivating them in lectures and challenging them to take and defend positions in classroom discussions. His research and teaching focuses on African American and legal history. Students admire the engaging and clear style of his lectures, especially in his mainstay course on the Legal and Constitutional History of the US Since 1850.  He emphasizes a hands-on experience to learning about history, encouraging students to work extensively with primary sources in their research, taking them to the Cook County Courthouse for first-hand observations of criminal trials, and urging them to take ownership of the learning process by asking them to “speak, question and interpret” along with him in class.  Professor Penningroth acknowledges that he has learned to teach by doing it, and he exhibits a continued openness to learning new ways of engaging his students.  For example, recognizing that his courses often deal with politically sensitive issues and wanting to challenge his students to think beyond simple labels, he has begun to draw on more texts by self-identified conservatives, in an effort to show the complexities and parallels between liberal and conservative ideologies. 
Students frequently comment on his calm demeanor and understanding presence, his enthusiasm for student-centered learning, and his high expectations for critical thinking.  He is a “rare gem of a professor”, a prolific presenter and publisher, and the recipient of numerous awards, including a Weinberg College of Arts and Teaching Award in 2008 and a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation in 2009.  He received his Ph.D. in History from Johns Hopkins University in 2000.  He is a currently an Associate Professor in History and holds a joint appointment at the American Bar Foundation. 


Michael Peshkin
Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence

A professor of Mechanical Engineering since 1987, Michael Peshkin has been a bold and creative innovator in his teaching.   Peshkin strives to move students out of "homework mode" and to help them act and feel like engineers.  He was one of the founders of the Engineering First program, and designed and wrote the text for a core course, System Dynamics, taken by all engineering freshmen.  More recently, he has designed another new course, Electronics Design, which replaces the traditional lab with a portable electronics workbench that fits in a backpack.  Students' laptops serve as power supply and oscilloscope display.  Peshkin critiques the traditional lab's constraints on time and place as leading to lab exercises that are "written in reliable cookbook style," with little room for creativity.  Freed from those constraints, students can work more like engineers. They can design their own circuits, and learn to methodically debug them, which Peshkin sees as a special skill in itself.  The portable lab design has been adopted by other professors for their courses, and has allowed more students to take classes that had previously been capped due to limited lab space.  Professor Peshkin has also revamped the annual Design Competition, increasing the technical level of the competition robots that students build. He has added workshops and lectures for the participants, and provides one-on-one consultation. His students regularly praise the intensely practical nature of his classes, his energetic leadership and involvement in the Design Competition, and his abilities to inspire students both in and out of the classroom.  He exhibits a bold innovation and creativity in his teaching, qualities which have earned him consistently high CTEC scores and exuberant praise from students for his “commitment to their success.”  Peshkin received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago, his Master’s degree from Cornell University, and his PhD from Carnegie-Mellon University, all in Physics.


Renee Engeln-Maddox
Charles Deering McCormick University Distinguished Lecturer

Following her arrival at Northwestern in 2006, where she is now a Senior Lecturer, Renee Engeln-Maddox quickly became one of the most popular teachers in the Department of Psychology. She teaches a range of classes, from lectures with hundreds of students to small seminars, as well as a variety of topics, from Research Methods and Psychometrics to Psychopathology and the Psychology of Beauty. Her department chair says, "She can teach nearly anything. And no matter what she teaches, the students give her overwhelmingly stellar marks."  Her teaching philosophy focuses on challenging students by holding them to high standards while maintaining a level of accessibility and support that allows students to meet this challenge.  She provides one-on-one assistance to students as they work through multiple drafts of assignments and makes herself available in individual meetings, even if that requires meeting on weekends or evenings.  She develops strong rapport with her students, not only by helping them with course material, but also by mentoring them as they contemplate careers and graduate school and by supervising independent research projects.  One of her students writes of her, “Dr. Engeln-Maddox has helped me to grow and flourish as a student in psychology and a person in general.”  Prior to Northwestern she taught at Loyola University where she won the Edwin T. and Vivijeanne F. Sujack Award for Teaching Excellence given annually to the best teachers in the College of Arts and Sciences.  She has also won a number of awards for teaching at Northwestern, including the Weinberg College Alumni Teaching award in 2009, and has been on the Associated Student Government Faculty Honor Roll every year since 2007.

Larry Stuelpnagel
Charles Deering McCormick University Distinguished Lecturer

As an Assistant Professor of Journalism with a joint appointment in Political Science and American Studies, Larry Stuelpnagel describes his position as one that “gets the best of both teaching worlds at Northwestern.”  His commitment to journalism education extends to all levels, from the teaching of foundational freshman discussion sections to upper-level independent studies.  His sophomore journalism students complete reporting assignments in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago, working off of technical instruction to submit stories in print, Podcasts, slide show and video reports.  In his Political Science and American Studies classes, he teaches about media and the intersection with politics and economics.  Through his tireless work as the volunteer faculty advisor for the Northwestern News Network, shows on NNN have won two national and three Chicago/Midwest student Emmy awards.  Under his guidance NNN has recently added its first all-Spanish language newscast.  Professor Stuelpnagel received his M.A. in Broadcast Journalism from California State University and was an award winning television reporter, news director, senior correspondent, and backup anchor prior to joining Northwestern in 1995.  His students and department chair both praise his commitment to helping each student develop strong writing and critical thinking skills, engaging storytelling techniques, sensitivity towards diverse audiences, and his or her own unique voice.  More than one student acknowledged that they are a better person through seeing his example. 


Ingrid Zeller
Charles Deering McCormick University Distinguished Lecturer

Ingrid Zeller received a Bachelor of Music from the Manhattan School of Music and a Master of Philosophy in German Language and Literature from Columbia University, with a concentration on Language Pedagogy and Intersections in Music and Literature.  As a Senior Lecturer in the German department she is able to combine her passions for music, architecture and film by developing unique courses in each area, and she is praised by students and faculty alike for her creative approaches to teaching.  She draws on outside resources, at Northwestern and in Chicago, to enhance her teaching while at the same time building strong relationships through her activities in the Chicago community.  To be qualified for the architecture aspect, Zeller took a course to become a certified docent at the Chicago Architecture Foundation.  She now takes her students on culturally and linguistically relevant architecture tours in downtown Chicago.  She has collaborated with a colleague in the Bienen School of Music to create a truly interdisciplinary course, Intensive German through Musical Journeys In Vienna.  Zeller was also the impetus behind creating the German department Writing Center and serves as its director, often putting in time on weekends and evenings to meet individually with students.  The center has become an invaluable resource to students and other professors in the department.  Her department chair lauds her “devotion to students and her creativity in developing new courses and new teaching approaches.”  Students praise her as a “fabulous professor,” “fantastic teacher,” and “great mentor.”  She was elected to the Associated Student Government Faculty Honor Roll every year between 2003 and 2008.  She also received the Northwestern Alumni Association Teaching Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2005.