Regents honor five with Thurnau professorships

Five faculty members have been honored for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education as this year’s recipients of Arthur F. Thurnau professorships. The appointments, approved Feb. 18 by the Board of Regents, are titles the five will retain throughout their careers at the university.

This year’s recipients are Joel Blum, Anne Ruggles Gere, Louis Loeb, Robin Queen and Edward West. Descriptions of their work are taken from recommendations provided to the regents by Provost Teresa Sullivan.

Blum. Courtesy Joel Blum.

Gere Photo by Scott Soderberg, U-M Photo Services.

Loeb. Courtesy Louis Loeb.

Queen. Courtesy Robin Queen.

West. Courtesy Edward West.

Blum, the John D. MacArthur Professor of Geological Sciences, professor of geological sciences, and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, LSA, is described by a colleague as a professor who “truly believes that Earth science education in our department should be a life-changing experience for undergraduate students.” As department chair and director of the university’s field station in Jackson, Wyo., Blum expanded the course offerings at Camp Davis to reflect a wider range of disciplines, developed new interdisciplinary courses, and designed group projects in which students proposed models for making the camp a self-sustaining energy system. Blum’s generous mentoring of students also has had a profound impact on attracting, inspiring and retaining underrepresented populations in the sciences.

Gere, the Gertrude Buck Collegiate Professor of Education, professor of education, School of Education, and professor of English language and literature, LSA, is described as the consummate “teacher-scholar” who blends “using theory to improve practice and using practice as a site to incubate and develop theory.” In the School of Education, Gere designed and taught courses that engage students in appreciating the intersection between educational issues and social justice through first-hand data collection, textual analysis and ethnographic fieldwork. As director of the Sweetland Writing Center, she launched a major research program and revised the process by which students are placed into the first-year writing courses.

Loeb, professor of philosophy, LSA, consistently has promoted a “culture of education” within the Department of Philosophy, both as a “legendary lecturer” and as the department chair. Colleagues say Loeb possesses a remarkable ability to present complex philosophical questions in concrete ways with great humor and verve. They also credit his “masterful” and “brilliant” instruction in highly subscribed gateway courses for the large numbers of concentrators and minors in the department. He also excels in generating conversations in smaller discussion-oriented settings, ensuring that all opinions are valued. As the department chair, Loeb oversaw a major reorganization of the undergraduate curriculum and an equally sizable overhaul of the graduate program.

Queen, associate professor of linguistics and associate professor of Germanic languages and literatures, LSA, is known as an inventive adopter of pedagogical technologies who exhibits a “drive to make learning linguistics accessible to all students.” She uses blogs, online opinion polls and video clips from popular media sources to engage her students in relating sociolinguistics to their own lives. In courses she has designed, such as “Language and the Mass Media” and “Language and Discrimination,” she fosters the development of multiple perspectives and a commitment to diversity. Queen has been instrumental in developing a new sub-concentration on “Linguistics for a Multicultural World” and has been involved in initiatives to assess the effectiveness of new teaching technologies.

West, professor of art, School of Art and Design, is lauded as a “tireless champion of university arts education.” He launched curricular innovations such as reconceptualizing required core courses, implementing a fellowship program that invited emergent artists to campus, and increasing opportunities for students to study abroad. He also transformed the school’s physical facilities to include a center for print media, a photography studio and a gallery for undergraduates to benefit from graduate students’ work. West demonstrates a genuine and deep concern for creating an inclusive learning environment, and he is committed to interdisciplinarity, urging students to draw on theories and perspectives from other fields in order to “foster an understanding of a connected universe.”

Each year Thurnau Professorships recognize and reward a select group of tenured faculty members for their outstanding contributions to undergraduate education. Criteria for the award include a strong commitment to students and to teaching and learning, excellence in teaching, innovation in teaching and learning, a strong commitment to working effectively with a diverse student body, and a demonstrable impact on students’ intellectual and/or artistic development.

The professorships are named after alumnus Arthur F. Thurnau and supported by the Thurnau Charitable Trust, which was established through his will. Recipients receive $20,000 to support teaching activities, including travel, books, equipment and graduate student support.


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