The kind that nudges students toward their dreams.
The kind that groggy-eyed underclassmen have no problem waking up for at 8 a.m.
The kind that you remember and keep in touch with decades after graduating.
These professors leave a lasting impact, and are recipients of the WVU Foundation Award for Outstanding Teaching.
This year’s honorees are:
• Joshua Arthurs, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences ;
• Damien Clement, College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences ;
• Melissa Morris, Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
• Mario Perhinschi, Statler College;
• Michael Strager, Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design ; and
• Elaine Wilson, College of Law.
“These six professors inspire students to achieve more than they themselves ever thought they could,” said Provost Joyce McConnell. “President Gee and I often publicly assert that West Virginia University offers an exceptional education – and we’re proud to be able to point to this kind of passionate, exciting teaching as the foundation of that education.”
The WVU Foundation established the awards in 1985 as a way to celebrate faculty who’ve established patterns of distinguished teaching and exceptional innovation in teaching methods, course and curriculum design, and instructional tools. A list of previous recipients is available here.
“We congratulate this year’s recipients who truly go above and beyond in their areas of expertise,” said Cindi Roth, WVU Foundation president and CEO. “WVU is fortunate to have such high caliber faculty inspiring our students. The Foundation is pleased to be able to fund these awards annually because of the tremendous generosity of our donors.”
Arthurs, an associate professor of history and director of graduate studies, challenges his students to question what they already know. Instead of assigning texts built around established narratives of historical events, this method allows his students to look further than often simplified, inflexible ideas about the past.
“Many history courses revolve around the questions of who, what, and where?” one student wrote in a recommendation. “Dr. Arthurs designs his courses around the question of ‘why?’”
His research interests include modern Italy, western and Southern Europe and the commemoration, conflict, political culture and everyday life during the Fascist period. Arthurs received his doctorate in 2007 and master’s degree in 1999 from the University of Chicago, and his bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University in 1997.
Clement, a CPASS associate professor, obtained his undergraduate degree in sports medicine/athletic training from the University of Charleston in 2003.
While at the University of Charleston, Clement captained the track and field team his junior and senior years. Upon graduation, he enrolled at WVU to concurrently pursue a doctoral degree in sport and exercise psychology and a master’s degree in community counseling.
He went on to earn those degrees and in August 2008, he was hired as an assistant professor at WVU to teach undergraduate sport and exercise psychology courses and graduate athletic training courses.
Clement’s research interests span both sport and exercise psychology and athletic training. More specifically, he is interested in attitudes towards sport psychology, professional issues in sport psychology and psychology of injury.
The analogy of the apple not falling far from the tree can easily be used to describe Morris’ success as a teacher.
Her father, Gary, won the Foundation Award for Outstanding Teaching in 1993, seven years after joining the faculty in mechanical and aerospace engineering. For the daughter, a teaching assistant professor in freshman engineering, the award comes just four years after completion of her doctorate in mechanical engineering.
“I remember attending the ceremony where my dad received the Foundation Award when I was young,” Morris said. “Student comments were shared about how my father cared for his students; one student commented that it was common for my dad to give up his lunch to help students. I remember being proud of his accomplishment, thinking that he was making a difference in his students’ lives and his example is a large part of what makes me the type of teacher I am today.”
Morris consistently seeks ways to engage first-year students through the use of pop culture applications. For an honors course, she created a project around the idea of a “zombie apocalypse” that has the potential to spread a virus through a local dance club. Students developed a computer code structure to track the spread of the virus.
“The personal relationships she creates in her courses seem to increase things like attendance rates, attention span and productivity,” said David Beahr, a sophomore in petroleum and natural gas engineering. “You feel personally obligated to work harder because of this relationship.”
“I’m honored to receive this award for doing something that I truly love,” Morris said. “My teaching philosophy is simple: I care about each one of my students, their learning and their success, and I craft my courses in such a way that students are challenged, encouraged and comfortable.”
Recognized by his students and colleagues as an innovator, Perhinschi, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is responsible for the development of five courses in the department, most of which are in the area of flight simulation and control.
Students now have access to state-of-the-art facilities and simulation tools, including a flight simulation computer lab, a six-degrees-of-freedom motion-based flight simulator and in-house developed advanced software packages, all of which helped pique their interest in the discipline.
“Flight simulation class consisted of engaging lectures, stimulating labs with simulation software and, most excitingly, flight tests in the real motion-based simulator,” said Adil Togayev, who recently earned his master’s degree in mechanical engineering. “You will not find any other class where students are so enthusiastic about the tests and curious about the subject.”
“I try to focus on bringing interesting and significant real-world problems into the classroom that can be directly related to both basic and advanced concepts,” Perhinschi said. “This creates an educational framework that significantly increases the interest and motivation of students and results in improved learning effectiveness.”
In the past five years, Perhinschi has been twice selected as an outstanding teacher in the Statler College and was recognized as the College’s Teacher of the Year in 2014. In 2013, he received the outstanding teacher award from the MAE Academy of Distinguished Alumni.
During his time as an educator at WVU, Strager, associate professor of spatial analysis, has developed eight new courses introducing students to cutting-edge technologies and methodologies like GPS, remote sensing, and GIS/spatial analysis.
“Many of the courses he has created have become academic requirements for undergraduate programs, and they have provided his students with an extremely marketable skill set, in addition to giving them a unique perspective on the resources and landscapes they plan to further study and manage during their careers,” said Davis College Dean Daniel J. Robison.
Strager teaches six to seven classes a year, dividing his focus between forestry and natural resources and agricultural and natural resource economics. While managing this high volume of students, he’s uniformly credited by them for providing far more than an average classroom experience. Instead of textbooks, he uses practical examples drawn from government and industry, and relating material to his students from his own research publications and interests.
“He inspires students and challenges them,” Robison said. “To talk with Mike is to understand his passion as an educator.”
Wilson joined the faculty of the WVU College of Law in 2012 as associate professor. She heads the College’s tax law curriculum, teaching federal income tax, taxation of business entities, estate and gift taxation, and nonprofit organizations.
In addition, she teaches the first-year course in contracts. In 2014, the graduating class elected her Professor of the Year.
Wilson is chair of the American Bar Association’s Charitable Planning and Exempt Organization Group of the Real Property, Trust and Estate Section, and a member of the Board of Directors of the West Virginia Tax Institute.
After graduating from Boston University’s Six-Year Law Program in 1993, she began her career as an associate in the Estates & Personal Department at Sullivan & Cromwell in New York City. She then moved to Barnes & Thornburg in Indianapolis, where she made partner in 2002.
In 2007, she joined the Chicago office of Quarles & Brady as a partner in the Tax-Exempt Organizations Group. In 2009, Wilson was named among the “40 Illinois Attorneys Under 40 To Watch” by Chicago Lawyer Magazine and, in 2012, was named “Lawyer of the Year” in Chicago for Non-Profit/Charities Law by The Best Lawyers in America. While in practice, she was listed in The Best Lawyers in America every year since 2007.
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