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2015 Recipients

Deborah Cohen

Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence

Deborah Cohen is known for her energetic lectures and ability to spark interest in historical topics through imaginative and innovative assignments.  Such pedagogical innovations include an assignment designed to mimic a scavenger hunt, in which students work with Victorian memoirs and newspapers and formulate their own research questions based upon something that intrigues them during that process.  Cohen’s goal in the classroom is to encourage students to think expansively about a topic while evoking a sense of empathy and appreciation for those who lived in the past. Students repeatedly remark that she makes her courses interesting and engaging for even non-history majors.  One colleague notes that she makes “our students remember their time here as having expanded their horizons in ways they little imagined when they first arrived.”  Her ability to resonate with her students is bolstered by an impressive scholarly knowledge of modern Britain which has yielded three highly acclaimed books; her last two, Household Gods and Family Secrets, both earned the top two book prizes in her field, a double double-awarding never before accomplished. In addition to these academic successes, numerous students have commented on Cohen’s warmth, genuine kindness, and unparalleled dedication to their success.  As one student commented, “Professor Cohen’s greatest strength is that she genuinely wants every single one of her students to succeed, and is willing to go above and beyond to make sure that happens.” A member of the Northwestern faculty since 2010, Deborah Cohen received her Ph.D. and M.A from the University of California, Berkeley, and her B.A. from Harvard-Radcliffe College. 

Walter B. Herbst

Charles Deering McCormick Distinguished Clinical Professor

Walter B. Herbst, Clinical Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Master Product Design and Development Management Program in the McCormick School of Engineering, has had an illustrious career as an award-winning global product designer. He was the founder of Herbst LaZar Bell, and is co-founder of the design firm, Herbst Produkt in Silicon Valley.  He is also a dedicated and passionate teacher, lauded by students for his ability to “combine incredible proficiency and knowledge in his field with a passion for teaching and obvious care for students and their learning.” He pushes students to an empathetic understanding of how their work affects peoples’ lives, and he draws upon experiential learning and reflective practices to bring this teaching goal to life for his students.  By advocating for a “human-centric” approach to all things design related, he has been instrumental in the rebranding of the Design Thinking and Communication course and the development of a new Sketching course, the latter aimed at increasing students’ ability to effectively communicate their design ideas. One administrator sums up Herbst’s wide influence in this way, “No other instructor has been so influential in advocacy for learning design-thinking in McCormick undergraduate education.” Professor Herbst’s ability to, as one former student described, “meet students at their level and elevate them,” coupled with his incredible commitment and vision for undergraduate education, has made him an invaluable member of the McCormick faculty. Professor Herbst is a Ph.D. Candidate from Coventry University, and received his MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. 

David N. Rapp

Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence

David N. Rapp is a professor of Learning Sciences in the School of Education and Social Policy, and of Psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. With this dual appointment, he works to build connections between the two schools through his extensive student teaching, advising, and mentoring activities. His research focuses on the cognitive processes that underlie comprehension and learning, and this work informs his teaching practices. He is committed to iteratively examining his own instructional practices and identifying opportunities to build active, collaborative learning spaces within and outside of the classroom.  Rapp fosters students’ critical thinking, analytic experiences, and writing skills using innovative teaching methods, and encouraging involvement in his own lab.  Students have praised his ability to “connect what students are learning to other domains and apply that knowledge to the world outside the classroom.” Rapp is also hailed for his frequent work as a mentor to graduate and undergraduate students, who describe their admiration for his patience, ability to identify their needs, and success in inspiring them by his inquisitive nature and extensive subject knowledge. He has received a McKnight Land-Grant Professorship Award from the University of Minnesota, the Tom Trabasso Young Investigator Award from the Society for Text and Discourse, and an Excellence in Teaching Award from the Undergraduate Psychology Association at Northwestern University.  He is also a fellow of the Association of Psychological Science. Professor Rapp received his Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from State University of New York at Stony Brook, and his M.A. in Psychology from New York University. 

Karen Smilowitz

Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence

Karen Smilowitz is a professor in Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. A Northwestern faculty member since 2001, Smilowitz has had a tremendous impact on the school’s curriculum, teaching courses such as Supply-Chain Modeling and Analysis, which instructs students on real world issues related to humanitarian, non-, and for- profit logistics.  Her thoughtful work on the design of this challenging yet popular engineering course has resulted in substantial waitlists for students who are clamoring to work with her. She has also adapted a very successful graduate level course into the undergraduate, university-wide course, Analytics for Social Good, which is being offered for the first time in Spring 2015.  Smilowitz’s infectious passion and research in this field has allowed her to work with several organizations, from the Chicago Marathon to non-governmental organizations in Africa, and she uses these connections to create opportunities for her students to engage in real-life prosocial work. As she herself says, “Chicago is our laboratory.” Students frequently remark on her availability, openness, kindness, and genuine interest in their career goals. As one student enthusiastically wrote, “By the end of the summer Professor Smilowitz had instilled so much confidence in me that I was sure I wanted to change my major from mechanical engineering to whatever her department was; her passion and knowledge inspired me so much.” Indeed, she is an inspirer, motivator, and dedicated teacher to many within Northwestern and beyond.  Professor Smilowitz holds a Ph.D. and M.S. from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.S.E. from Princeton University.