April 6, 2016
Topic: Campus News
A chemistry professor who pioneered what's known as a "do real work, not homework" course design has been recognized as a Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year.
Brian Coppola, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Chemistry, is one of three faculty members in the state that received the honor Wednesday from the Academic Affairs Officers of the Michigan Association of State Universities. The award recognizes professors' outstanding contributions and dedication to undergraduate education.
Coppola and his fellow recipients will be recognized at a luncheon at the Lansing Center on April 15.
"Professor Coppola is an extraordinarily effective, energetic, and creative teacher who contributes to education at every level, both at U-M and nationally," said Martha Pollock, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.
Coppola has been teaching at U-M since 1986 and has been instrumental in redesigning the undergraduate chemistry curriculum. His student-centered, peer-led instruction set a high standard years ago for what is now a common teaching strategy in higher education. He consistently receives among the highest student ratings in his department despite teaching "notoriously difficult" organic chemistry to first-year students.
Motivated by universities' fundamental mission to educate, Coppola sets a high bar for students, then he enables them to cross it, his colleagues say. In addition, he helps to train other teachers to emulate his effectiveness.
"The better we educate, the better we are serving the best mission of our profession," Coppola said. "I believe strongly in the ethos that we have inherited the privilege of educating from those who educated us, and we pay it back by advancing what we do and then passing it on."
In addition to his professorship, he is the associate chair for educational development and practice in the Department of Chemistry. Coppola is also a fellow of the American Chemical Society and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
He earned a bachelor of science in chemistry from the University of New Hampshire in 1978 and a doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1984.
Coppola has won numerous national and campus awards for teaching in his career, including the U-M Golden Apple Award in 1994, the American Chemical Society's James Flack Norris Award in 2006, and the CASE/Carnegie U.S. Professor of the Year award in 2009.
"Professor Coppola represents the very best of teaching, innovation and dedication to student success," said Daniel J. Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities. "With his award-winning teaching strategy, he symbolizes the distinction for excellence in higher education for which Michigan's public universities are globally renowned."
— The Michigan Association of State Universities contributed to this article.