Five University of Michigan faculty members have been named Arthur F. Thurnau Professors in recognition of their extraordinary contributions to undergraduate education.
Bart M. Bartlett, Amy G. Chavasse, Shanna Daly, Priti R. Shah and Amy Stillman will retain 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. 17. The honorees will be celebrated in April at a private dinner in Palmer Commons. 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 must have also 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 Susan M. Collins presented recommendations for the professorships and descriptions of each professor’s work and achievements to the Board of Regents. Here’s a summary of the honorees taken from the provost’s recommendations.
Bart M. Bartlett
Professor of chemistry, LSA
Bartlett is known for creating collaborative spaces for learning and treating students as peers as they undertake scientific discovery in solar energy conversion, alternative fuels and next-generation batteries.
Bartlett’s innovations to the introductory chemistry course taken by thousands of first-year students studying science, technology, engineering and math foster equitable engagement with course content. Converting lecture and discussion sections to small-group problem-solving sessions lets students thoroughly discuss and refine their understanding of concepts as they tackle new applications.
Nearly half of the undergraduate students mentored in his lab have been co-authors on peer-reviewed publications.
Bartlett strives to make the pathway to a chemistry degree more equitable outside the classroom, as well. As the associate director of the U-M Energy Institute from 2014-19, he increased the proportion of women and minority participants in the 10-week summer research programs.
Bartlett also works to build community through service as a faculty facilitator of a first-year learning community and has hosted eight Detroit high school students through the D-RISE program.
Amy G. Chavasse
Professor of dance, School of Music, Theatre & Dance
Chavasse uses improvisation to explore social issues and the nature of creativity.
From Improvisation Jams that encourage play to foundational technique and composition classes, as well as through interdisciplinary courses, Chavasse makes space for both dance majors and non-majors alike to engage in the vulnerable work of understanding how their bodies move through the world.
“In the process, students learn that ‘a life in art-making can be a meaningful and needed way to be in conversation with the most important challenges of our time,’” her work description reads.
Chavasse is honest with her words and generous with her time, consistently showing up to rehearsals and performances and providing feedback. Her mentorship does not end when students graduate. She devotes significant time to creating new opportunities for performance and collaboration, including the first study abroad program for dance students in Spain.
Chavasse has served on several university committees and initiatives focused on curricular innovations.
While she has long demonstrated a commitment to serving students of diverse backgrounds, she has spent the last two years intensively incorporating anti-racist pedagogies and culturally relevant teaching into her courses.
Associate professor of mechanical engineering, College of Engineering
Daly is known for making the field of engineering more welcoming to a wide range of students who want to solve important problems faced by people around the world.
Women and students with non-majority identities in particular seek out her courses because they unite training in technical engineering with opportunities to develop a skillset that emphasizes creativity and socially engaged design, according to the description of her work.
“Through a deeper understanding of people and context, students in her classes learn to build engineering solutions that successfully meet people’s needs,” her work description reads.
As someone who conducts empirical research on engineering education methods and tools, Daly has been able to document the effectiveness of her active, collaborative and inclusive learning approaches, encouraging their adoption by other faculty at U-M and beyond.
For instance, her 77 Design Heuristics tool, which greatly increases the quantity, diversity and quality of students’ design ideas, is used across campus in the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, the School of Information and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, and by other national and international engineering education programs.
Priti R. Shah
Professor of psychology, LSA; of information, School of Information; and of educational psychology, School of Education
Shah has earned several accolades for her teaching and mentoring. Her course Psychological Perspectives on the College Experience introduces first-year students to different methods of social science research. Students read empirical studies and review articles about topics that will help them make the most of their years at U-M, such as the effect of sleep on grades.
None of Shah’s courses use textbooks. Instead, she selects scholarly and popular publications that showcase current work and support deeper thinking about material.
“Her students are always actively engaged in learning, whether responding to clicker questions in large lectures or developing presentation skills in smaller seminars,” her work description reads.
After observing a lack of diversity among students while directing the psychology honors program, Shah created the STAR (Students Tackling Advanced Research) program. STAR acquaints 28-30 students each year with the real-world impact of psychology research. This includes workshops and tools that involve undergraduates in the research process, as well as one-on-one mentoring from Ph.D. students.
Amy K. Stillman
Professor of American culture, LSA; and of musicology, School of Music, Theatre & Dance
Stillman’s courses focus on Asian and Pacific Islander American cultural performances, media representations and Indigenous music and dance forms, particularly those of Hawaii.
Bridging scholarship and performance, she meets students at their points of interest and passion, bringing them through the study of a field specifically through their experience of performance.
Stillman has won two Grammy Awards and is considered a world authority on hula, according to her work description.
She has developed signature courses that draw students from STEM disciplines, as well as the arts and humanities. For example, in The Hula students combine dance with reflective journaling and study Hawaiian-language meles (songs and poetic texts) as they build toward a live performance. In the process, they learn how the hula tradition enacts cultural knowledge and stereotypes through bodies, as well as minds.
The ethnic studies minor that Stillman designed in 2003 has served as a model for all other minors in the department, and the Asian and Pacific Islander American Studies Program at U-M has been emulated across the country.