Five faculty members have been honored for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education as this year’s recipients of Arthur F. Thurnau professorships.
This year’s recipients, approved Thursday by the Board of Regents and effective July 1, are Barry J. Fishman, Anna R. Kirkland, Matthew D. Lassiter, Jeremy D. Semrau and John P. Wolfe.
Criteria for Thurnau professorships include a strong commitment to students and to teaching and learning, excellence in teaching, innovations in teaching and learning, a strong commitment to working effectively with a diverse student body, a demonstrable impact on students’ intellectual or artistic development, and contributions to undergraduate education beyond the classroom, studio or lab.
The professorships are named after alumnus Arthur F. Thurnau and supported by the Thurnau Charitable Trust. Recipients receive $20,000 to support teaching activities, including travel, books, equipment and graduate student support.
Descriptions of the recipients’ work are taken from recommendations provided to the Board of Regents by Provost Martha Pollack. The appointments are titles the five will retain throughout their U-M careers.
Fishman, professor of education, School of Education, and professor of information, School of Information, is described as a passionate teacher, devoted to his students, and a leader in the field of educational technology.
Winner of the 2010 Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize, he is a true creator when it comes to class design and integration of technological tools aimed at enhancing teaching and student learning.
As one colleague said, “Much of what I do in my teaching owes to what I have learned from him. Barry is a trendsetter and a leader in undergraduate pedagogy on campus.”
Kirkland, associate professor of women’s studies and associate professor of political science, LSA, has established a long record of excellence in teaching across all levels of the curriculum.
In classes on gender and politics and on disability and race policies, she successfully involves students in addressing real-world issues and enables them to make a tangible positive impact.
One student reported that the Gender and Law course “awakened me to see the world in a different light,” and another recalled it as “the greatest experience of my undergraduate studies.”
Lassiter, associate professor of history, LSA, and associate professor of architecture and urban planning, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, is the winner of the 2004 Golden Apple Award, and has excelled at teaching many of the department’s large courses, including his signature offering, The History of American Suburbia.
Former students describe his classes as life changing experiences and his teaching as a source of continuing inspiration.
As one of his colleagues summarizes, “Professor Lassiter makes all of us better teachers.” His teaching is not limited to the classroom, as Lassiter is one of the history department’s most sought-after mentors for majors and honors theses.
Semrau, professor of civil and environmental engineering, College of Engineering, professor of natural resources and environment, School of Natural Resources and Environment, and professor of environment, LSA, is the winner of numerous teaching awards, and designs active learning tasks that require students to address real-world, challenging problems.
From one-on-one mentoring to the introduction of new, interdisciplinary courses and concentration areas, as well as innovative classroom practices and pedagogy, “his commitment to critical thinking, practicality, and student engagement has been unparalleled,” according to his recommendation citation.
Wolfe, professor of chemistry, LSA, has been recognized by a number of awards for his exceptional classroom pedagogy, teaching effectiveness and educational innovations.
Wolfe’s dedication to improving the undergraduate experience in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields is reflected as well in his mentorship of new faculty and his participation in curriculum development.
His masterful organization of lecture content and approachability are lauded by numerous students who report that Wolfe is always ready “to help his students and does not stop until everyone’s issues are resolved.”
He also has been a major contributor to U-M’s efforts to recruit and retain a diverse student body.