Five University of Michigan faculty members have been named Arthur F. Thurnau Professors in recognition of their extraordinary contributions to undergraduate education.
Stephen Berrey, Gregory J. Dick, Gary W. Harper, Lisa H. Harris and Sally Oey will hold the Thurnau title for the duration of their careers at U-M and receive $20,000 to support activities that further enhance their teaching.
The Board of Regents approved the professorships Feb. 16. Their Thurnau appointments are effective July 1.
To become a Thurnau professor, faculty members must demonstrate a strong commitment to teaching and learning, excellence and innovation in teaching, and dedication to working effectively with a diverse student body.
They also must have made an impact on students’ intellectual or artistic development and on their lives, and contributed to undergraduate education in ways that extend beyond the classroom, studio or lab.
The Arthur F. Thurnau Professorships were established in 1988. They are named after Thurnau, a U-M student from 1902-04. The Thurnau Charitable Trust, which was established through Thurnau’s will, provides support for the award.
Provost Laurie McCauley presented recommendations for the professorships and descriptions of each professor’s work and achievements to the Board of Regents. These summaries are taken from the provost’s recommendations.
Associate professor of American culture and of history, LSA
Berrey embodies what it means to be an inclusive and impactful leader in higher education in the eyes of both students and peers.
His courses guide students through historical and current struggles around racial injustice. He engages them with “hard histories,” building opportunities for students to create and participate actively in scholarly research through his U-M History Lab, “Race, Local History, and Sundown Towns in the United States.”
Berrey also serves as a pedagogical model for incoming faculty, and he was a key resource for colleagues during the shift to emergency remote teaching. He worked with 11 “digital teaching fellows” to develop best pedagogical practices and ultimately produced a series of guides and models for teaching history remotely.
Gregory J. Dick
Professor of earth and environmental sciences, and of ecology and evolutionary biology, LSA; professor of environment and sustainability, School for Environment and Sustainability
Dick’s award-winning teaching and deep engagement with outreach and programming have created profound change in the department and discipline of earth and environmental sciences.
He has enlarged pipelines for high school students with his Earth Camp program and summer coursework for Wolverine Pathways.
Further support for pipeline students after their transition to U-M includes development of new courses for the Comprehensive Studies Program. Dick exposes students to real-world problems like the disproportionate impact of environmental issues on minority communities, and gives examples of career pathways in geosciences.
After the COVID-19 pandemic hit U-M, Dick became his department’s go-to person for help with instructional matters. As a teacher, associate chair and undergraduate mentor, he has provided transformative leadership to cultivate a more societally relevant, diverse and inclusive space.
Gary W. Harper
Professor of health behavior and health education, and of global public health, School of Public Health
Harper played a central role in designing and implementing the School of Public Health’s first undergraduate degree program.
He chaired the task force that developed the proposal for the program and rallied colleagues from all six departments within the school to unanimously approve the new degree.
Harper is a co-principal investigator for Student Opportunities for AIDS/HIV Research, the only pipeline program of its kind in the United States, which provides a robust training environment for undergraduate students from underrepresented groups who are interested in research careers in this area.
His model for Trauma-Informed Education for teaching during the pandemic has been shared widely with faculty at U-M and nationally. His student-centered approach and passion for teaching allow for deep learning as well as student enjoyment in his courses, lab and programs.
Lisa H. Harris
F. Wallace and Janet Jeffries Collegiate Professor of Reproductive Health, professor of obstetrics and gynecology, Medical School; professor of women’s and gender studies, LSA
Harris has significantly influenced the thinking of a generation of U-M students about gender, women’s bodies, women’s health, and the social and medical milieu in which women’s reproductive issues are situated.
She currently concentrates her efforts on building a more diverse medical workforce and supporting future doctors in their education. In courses like the heavily enrolled WS400, Women’s Reproductive Health, and as the director of the Health Sciences Scholar Program, she demonstrates ways of merging clinical practice and advocacy with community-based work.
She has identified new and engaging ways to introduce students early in their college careers to the health science disciplines through experiential learning and exposure to nationally known campus practitioners and leaders in the field.
Professor of astronomy, LSA
Oey’s ability to broaden undergraduates’ access to the technical field of astrophysics at both the introductory and advanced levels has enriched the department’s curriculum, enhancing and enabling student success.
She was instrumental in quadrupling the number of undergraduate majors and minors in astronomy over the past decade, making the department a national leader. She championed new interdisciplinary astronomy pathways that draw students planning careers in such fields as journalism, science policy, business, law and art. As an LGBTQ+ woman of color in STEM, Oey has worked to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion in all her activities. This includes highlighting the contributions of diverse scientists to fundamental astronomical discoveries, the underappreciated diversity of constellation stories, and the implications of building scientific observatories on native lands.