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Seven honored with University Teaching Awards

Recipients exhibit excellence and innovation in the classroom

Seven faculty members will be honored with 2020 University Teaching Awards for outstanding performance and dedication to undergraduate education at Northwestern University. The recipients will accept their awards at a ceremony this fall.

“This years’ McCormick and Alumnae Teaching Award recipients demonstrate passion and commitment to student learning, across disciplines, and they serve as models for excellence in teaching across the University,” said Interim Provost Kathleen Hagerty.

“The annual teaching award recognizes excellence in classroom teaching and innovative curricular leadership across the University.”

“Under the challenging circumstances in which faculty are teaching and students are learning at this time, it is especially valuable to be able to recognize the depth of commitment these seven faculty show towards our undergraduates,” said Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education Miriam Sherin. “Not only are they devoted teachers, these faculty serve as mentors, guiding their students through course work and beyond.”

Santiago Cañez

Charles Deering McCormick Distinguished Professor of Instruction

Santiago Canez
Santiago Canez

For Santiago Cañez, teaching mathematics provides an opportunity to engage students in an approach to problem solving that emphasizes abstraction as a key technique. As Cañez explains, “I aim to help students see that they are not learning how to solve this problem or that problem, but rather they are learning how to solve all problems.” He also strives to help students develop an appreciation for the underlying cohesion both within a particular mathematical subject and throughout mathematics as a whole by framing his courses around key overarching themes.

During class, Cañez jointly thinks through carefully selected problems with students, aiming to help students realize that there is nothing unapproachable about mathematics. His chair writes, “Students talk about the encouragement that they needed to hear as unsteady first-year students, how his classroom was welcoming to all, no matter their history, socio-economic background, or level of preparation” and “They mention the sense of community that they feel in his courses, and the sense of accomplishment that they felt upon successful completion of the course.” A student echoes this sentiment explaining that Cañez “constantly asks us questions, encourages us to speak up, and guides us... while avoiding giving us answers directly. He is a knowledgeable and passionate educator, as well as an approachable and inspiring mentor.”

Cañez is an Associate Professor of Instruction in the Department of Mathematics. He earned his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley.

Ian Horswill

Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence

Ian Horswill
Ian Horswill

Across his 25 years at Northwestern, Ian Horswill has been a leader for curricular innovation in computer science. Horswill’s approach to teaching rests on the premise that students should understand the communicative nature of programming and see the potential of computer science as a creative discipline. He explains that he views teaching as a kind of archeology, “I find myself working backwards through the history of an idea to recover its intuitions lost in the sediment.” Students confirm his ability to present topics in a clear and concise manner, so material is digestible for students of all experience levels. One student writes, “Professor Horswill structures his lectures such that each new concept connects back to earlier ideas, allowing students to see how topics build on one another and gain a broader viewpoint.”

Horswill is a strong advocate for access to computer science for undergraduates and started the Peer Mentors Program in which undergraduates students are hired through a highly competitive application process to work with and coach their peers. As his chair explains “The Peer Mentor program enhances our community, creating organic mentorship opportunities for students and allows many more students, who previously may not have felt supported, to thrive in their CS studies.”

Horswill is an Associate Professor of Computer Science. He earned both his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Sarah Jacoby

Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence

Sarah Jacoby
Sarah Jacoby

Sarah Jacoby prioritizes three goals in her teaching: to enhance students’ critical thinking; to inspire students to move from strategic to deep learning; and to foster inclusive and anti-racist learning spaces. Jacoby explains, “What I want my students to take away from my courses beyond greater insight into the religions and cultures of Asia is sharper analytical skills honed through active discussions and thoughtful writing, two skills that will serve them well in their future careers.”

Beyond understanding the material, Jacoby writes that she wants her students to develop a taste for learning by knowing how a particular concept can have an impact in making the world a better place. One student writes, “The class was taught in a way that caused us to apply Buddhist concepts to a variety of problems we face today, both as individuals and as a society. The ways in which she asked us to think about questions in terms of our own daily lives in addition to broader theory caused me to reevaluate the ways in which I think and live.”

Jacoby cultivates a learning environment that brings a critical lens to diversity and inclusion. Her chair, Christina Traina, writes, “Jacoby’s complex syllabi exemplify her concerns that cultural appropriation be pointed out and queried, and that students understand how philosophical and religious traditions transform as they circuit the globe.”

Jacoby is an Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Virginia’s Department of Religious Studies.

Henri Lauzière

The Alumnae of Northwestern Teaching Professor

Henri Lauziere
Henri Lauziere

Henri Lauzière explains that his primary goal as an instructor is to help students “understand that history is ultimately about formulating arguments with intellectual rigor and honesty.”Throughout his courses, Lauzière encourages students to think in original and nuanced ways, to understand the nature of critical thinking, and to develop an interest in both the subject matter and in the habit of disciplined inquiry. As his chair explains, his courses on the history of the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula “show students how to approach difficult topics, analyze primary and secondary sources, discuss them with each other in productive ways, and leave the classroom feeling empowered to continue doing so for the rest of their lives.”Students echo these comments with one student writing, “His course did not just focus on understanding the material, but rather debating with and dissecting the arguments in the texts.”

Lauzière facilitates an intellectually safe environment through his commitment to treating historical actors with the same degree of respect as he applies to the students in his classes. As one of his students explains, “Professor Lauzière handles sensitive and polarizing topics such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with the utmost respect and consideration for both sides.”

Lauzière is an Associate Professor in the Department of History. He earned his Ph.D. in Modern Middle Eastern and North African history from Georgetown University.

Wendy Pearlman

Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence

Wendy Pearlman
Wendy Pearlman

Wendy Pearlman’s pedagogical philosophy involves challenging and inspiring students to expand their understanding of politics, while never losing sight of what’s at stake for people in the real world. As Pearlman explains,“I seek to integrate ... methodological rigor, impactful engagement, and human sensitivity —into every aspect of my teaching.” She challenges students to engage deeply withMiddle Eastern politics by applying scholarly theories and concepts, exploring the multiple causes of phenomena, and synthesizing complex information into their own explanations of events. One student writes, “She speaks about the politics of the Middle East with a passion and joy that is practically inescapable ... It quickly becomes evident that she has a deep love of teaching. I believe part of it to be the pure delight she finds in sharing a subject that she cares so much about.”

Pearlman complements an emphasis on critical analysis with learning through empathy. She explains, “My purpose is not only to make the material come alive for my students, but also to inspire them to think about what ordinary people’s everyday struggles teach us about politics.” Her teaching aims to guide students to grapple with complex and multi-dimensional political questions with integrity, humility and compassion. Her chair writes, “Pearlman's classrooms are a rare phenomenon: a safe and nurturing forum for learning and debate about a region whose politics often touch the lives of students in deeply personal ways.”

Pearlman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science. She earned her Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University.

Regan Thomson

Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence

Regan Thomson
Regan Thomson

Regan Thomson’s approach to teaching organic chemistry is to focus on what supports student learning, which he sums up as, ‘slow down, cover less, teach more.” A student writes about Thomson that, “Rather than drowning us in material, he expertly crafted his lectures to have a logical progression and over-arching themes that tied together the concepts we were learning.” Students regularly point to Thomson’s use of interactive and real-world practice problems after introducing a new concept, resulting in, a student explains, “solidifying our understanding before moving on to the next topic.”

Attention to ‘teach more’ led Thomson to incorporate activities that invite sharing at an interpersonal level and promote class community-building. Thomson explains that he works to create “a more open environment for learning and engaging with the material" which promotes students to actively seek help when they need it.His chair writes, “This sharing process has reduced some of the initial trepidation that students have about the class and has resulted in a classroom atmosphere where the professor is viewed as more human and accessible.”Thomson’s student-centered teaching has transformed the undergraduate experience of organic chemistry, reflected by the student who writes, “It was only with the help of Professor Thomson and the nurturing and supportive environment he made for the class that I was able to improve so drastically.”

Thomson is a Professor in the Department of Chemistry. He earned his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from The Australian National University.

Patti Wolter

Charles Deering McCormick Distinguished Clinical Professor

Patti Wolter
Patti Wolter

Patti Wolter approaches teaching journalism with the goal of enabling students to see the world through the lens of story. “The students may all be writers and know how to create good reports, but learning how to frame questions and reporting as compelling stories is a more difficult skill,” she explains. “I require students to analyze different media and stories for technique, for audience, and for greater understanding of the principles at work.”Wolter creates assignments which require numerous revisions to help students to develop their own systems of self-analysis and self-editing. One student adds, “She helps her students to engage material with moral and intellectual rigor, but she also knows how to create an exciting learning environment.”

Wolter ignites students’ passion and enthusiasm for journalism by exposing them to the industry. Her Dean writes, “Wolter keeps the class nimble, enabling her to take advantage of opportunities that allow students to engage with the vast network of Medill alumni doing groundbreaking work.” She often has students work on assignments from real media. A student writes that Wolter “designs every assignment to closely mirror the real-world work of reporting. Most of the time she told us to write stories with a specific publication in mind, then brought in an editor from that publication to speak to the class, answer our questions, and take our pitches.”

Wolter is the Helen Gurley Brown Magazine Professor in the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. She earned her master’s degree in Journalism at Medill.

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