A university is many things, but at its core it is really only one thing: a place to learn.
And at West Virginia University, that learning is led by a cadre of professors who daily display passion, enthusiasm, encouragement and respect. Professors who take extra time to make sure every student leaves class having learned something.
They have dedicated their lives to the next generation of leaders, scientists, teachers, journalists, doctors and more.
And the students know it.
“These professors are a reflection of our University as a whole, and the family atmosphere we have here,” says Kerri Phillips, a doctoral student in aerospace engineering from Weirton.
And the academic community knows it.
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has honored 17 of WVU’s faculty as West Virginia Professors of the Year.
Earlier this year, chemistry Professor Jonathan Boyd landed a competitive seat in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Young Faculty Award program.
Approximately 90 percent of full-time instructional/tenure track faculty at WVU have earned doctorates or professional degrees in their discipline; 57 percent of classes at WVU are taught by full-time instructional faculty.
WVU faculty members have been recognized by the National League for Nursing, U.S. Department of Energy, NASA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, among other institutions.
But academic recognition and credentials don’t always translate into effective teaching. For that, it takes more.Marcello Napolitano is one who gives more, and that’s why he’s one of Phillips’ favorite teachers. She has had him for undergraduate courses in areas of flight dynamics and automatic controls, to name a few.
“He demands a lot of his students,” Phillips said. “He made me push myself beyond my limits, and get the most out of my education. He has been a role model both professionally and academically.”
Napolitano uses models and real world applications when explaining complicated concepts, formulas and equations. He is energetic in the classroom, and according to students, does an exceptional job of conveying the importance of what he is teaching.
But, on top of all the equations and theories, he has also coached his students in professionalism, producing work they can stand behind and how to conduct themselves in their future careers.
“He taught me things I use every day,” Phillips said.
Professor Cookie Schultz knows exactly what she is talking about, because she has seen it all for herself – an experience she tries to share with each and every one of her students.
Schultz, who teaches a course on the Italian Renaissance, has made 30 trips abroad and studied as an undergraduate and graduate student in Florence.
She brings in many items from her travels, such as sculptures, fabrics, fragments of pottery, paintings and maps.
“She is passionate, knowledgeable and dedicated to her field of study. I feel like she has raised the bar for other classes in practically every area,” said Kirk Auvil, a sophomore journalism major from Parkersburg who took Schultz’s honors humanities class.
Auvil’s experience in Schultz’s course has sparked a continued interest in the Renaissance, and he hopes to do an independent study with Schultz in the future.
“Not only does she spice up her lectures with artifacts but she grounds them in reality, establishing the concrete origins of the ideas she is discussing,” Auvil said.
-0-Psychology Professor Dr. Cheryl McNeil has also been in the situations she discusses with students. And, she teaches students to be accountable, a trait she displays when using anonymous clinical cases from her own practice to help students understand their studies.
She also teaches enthusiasm and passion.
“It is evident that she loves her job, and this in turn makes her students want to learn more,” said Ciera Pauley, a former student from Charleston. Pauley graduated in May with a degree in psychology.
Pauley had McNeil for a class on child psychology and later worked as an undergraduate research assistant in her Parent-Child Interaction Therapy lab for a year.
After taking three astronomy classes with Professor Duncan Lorimer, former student Mehran Mohebbi is now striving to become a professor.
“I hope I can one day teach like he does,” said Mohebbi, who is originally from Iran. He recently graduated with a degree in physics and mechanical and aerospace engineering.
Lorimer, Mohebbi said, knows all the “magic words.”
In his courses, Lorimer makes sure that students do not only know where the equations come from and how to apply them correctly, but he also makes sure that students develop a feel for what the math means in reality.
Lorimer regularly reaches out to help students outside of the classroom.
He was instrumental in helping Mohebbi get an internship with the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and helped him with his graduate school application process.
“I cannot emphasize enough how much he cares about his students. It always seems he has more than 24 hours in a day,” Mohebbi said. “He supervises undergraduate and graduate students, advises students, teaches undergraduate and graduate level courses, works on his own research and is always working on grant proposals – with all this in mind, every time I go to his office, and I do that a lot, he always welcomes me with a smile and puts his work aside to help me.”
By Colleen DeHart
WVU News and Information
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