Marshall’s annual spring General Faculty Meeting will take place at 2 p.m. Tuesday, April 29, in the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse on the Huntington campus. As is traditional, retiring faculty and faculty award winners will be honored at the event.
Dr. William Palmer, a professor of history at Marshall University, has been selected as MU’s Charles E. Hedrick Outstanding Faculty Award winner for 2013-2014.
Palmer will receive $5,000 through a grant from Charles B. and Mary Jo Locke Hedrick. The award is named in honor of Charles Hedrick’s father, Charles E. Hedrick, a former history professor and later Chairman of the Graduate Council, and one of the founders of Marshall’s graduate program.
Marshall’s Center for Teaching and Learning announced the Hedrick Award and two others honoring four faculty members. They are:
Marshall & Shirley Reynolds Outstanding Teacher Award: Dr. Judith Silver, professor, department of mathematics.
Pickens-Queen Excellence in Teaching Award: Dr. Anne Axel, assistant professor, department of biological sciences; Dr. Kristen Lillvis, assistant professor, department of English; Dr. Zelideth Maria Rivas, assistant professor, department of modern languages.
Here is a brief look at the awards and the winners:
Charles E. Hedrick Outstanding Faculty Award
This award recognizes a full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty member who has a minimum of seven years teaching experience at Marshall and has a record of outstanding classroom teaching, scholarship, research and creative activities.
Dr. William Palmer has been teaching history at Marshall University since 1984, when he was hired as an assistant professor. He became a full professor at MU in 1992.
“He is and for years has been an outstanding faculty member who excels in all areas of faculty responsibility,” said Dr. Robert Sawrey, a recently retired history professor at Marshall. “It is difficult to imagine any other MU faculty member more qualified to receive this prestigious award.”
“He is a stunningly brilliant example of the quality of instruction we desire to have across the entire campus.”
Palmer said he teaches “on the assumption that history is a way of learning about how human beings operate just as much as psychology, anthropology, political science and sociology are.”
He says his fundamental goal in the courses he teaches is to help students learn the methodologies of history and to think historically. “Thinking historically means that students should be able to utilize the basic tools of historical analysis such as objectivity in studying the past, how to read and analyze primary source documents, and the importance of placing events in context. From a historian’s point of view, these tools are the essence of critical thinking.”
Because of his experience in Yeager Scholars 272: Seminar in the Arts and History, Palmer said he also utilizes a great deal of material from music and visual arts in his teaching, and uses PowerPoint to present it.
Dr. Kateryna Schray, a professor in the department of English, has long been a strong supporter of Palmer.
“Dr. Bill Palmer is truly an outstanding teacher, scholar, and campus citizen, earning the respect and admiration of students and colleagues alike,” Schray said. “His many contributions to Marshall are invaluable, his energy is impressive, and his commitment to teaching is inspiring. I am proud to be part of a university that can boast of such faculty.”
Dr. Kevin Barksdale, an associate professor of history, also praised Palmer.
“I believe Bill Palmer is as committed and gifted a teacher as anyone I have ever worked with,” Barksdale said. “His classrooms are lively and his courses are challenging (just ask his students). He teaches a wide range of innovative history courses that always find a welcoming student body. Out of the classroom, Bill devotes huge blocks of time to his students. The hallway outside of our offices is always filled with students waiting to meet with Bill. I often overhear his conversations with students and am impressed with the rapport he has developed with many of them.”
Palmer earned his Ph.D. from the University of Maine in Orono, Maine, in 1981.
Marshall & Shirley Reynolds Outstanding Teacher Award
This award includes a $3,000 stipend, and all tenured or tenure-track faculty members at or above the rank of assistant professor who have completed six or more years of service at Marshall are eligible.
Dr. Judith Silver has been teaching at Marshall since 1989, when she was hired as an assistant professor. She likes to compare math to creating art.
“Once you have learned the basics, it is like mastering scales on a piano,” Silver said. “Then, you are free to put feeling in the song, or to create your own beautiful proof of a mathematical idea.”
Silver said she tries to create a relaxed classroom for her students.
“I believe that a relaxed classroom atmosphere is essential to achieving maximal student learning,” Silver said. “I do everything I can to reduce student stress and make my classes enjoyable and memorable. In each class, I feature a “student star of the day” by showing successful homework or quizzes via the overhead projector. Most of all, I believe that learning is greatly enhanced by encouraging questions.”
Dr. Alfred Akinsete, chair of the math department, describes Silver as “a teacher of teachers.”
“She has mentored, and continues to mentor, a large number of faculty and graduate students and teaching assistants,” he said.
Professor Evelyn Pupplo-Cody said of Silver, “In the 30 years that I have known Judy, I have never heard anyone say a negative thing about her. Her colleagues appreciate all of her hard work and dedication to her job and to Marshall University. Her students appreciate her focus, clarity and fairness. I have a great admiration for Judy and what she has accomplished here at Marshall.”
Silver earned her Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Kentucky in August 1988.
Pickens-Queen Excellence in Teaching Award
Each of these three award winners receives a $1,000 stipend. The award honors outstanding junior faculty. All faculty members teaching on a full-time, tenured or tenure track appointment who are at the instructor or assistant professor rank and who have completed one to five years of service at Marshall are eligible.
Dr. Anne Axel came to Marshall in August 2012 from the University of Michigan, where she had been since September 2009. She is an assistant professor of biology and remote sensing in MU’s department of biological sciences.
Axel takes a simple approach to teaching.
“My first rule of thumb is that learning should be taken seriously, but it should also be enjoyable,” she said. “I show my students that it’s OK to laugh in class. Each day, I start with an amazing photo, a screenshot of a relevant news item, or something silly.
“I ask students to tell me what they know about the image. I share my excitement with them, and we chat about how it’s related to something we have seen in class. Sometimes, they ask great questions that just can’t be ignored, so I allow the short detour. This is important because, here, at this moment you can see students beginning to take responsibility for their own learning!”
Dr. David Mallory, chair of the department of biological sciences, said that Axel’s nomination for this award was very much a “no-brainer.”
“She is the ideal instructor,” Mallory said. “Students are at ease and eager to interact with her. She integrates her research/field experience and creates an excitement that is contagious!”
Axel earned her Ph.D. from Michigan State University in 2011.
Dr. Kristen Lillvis came to Marshall in 2012 from the University of Kansas. She is an assistant professor in Marshall’s English department.
Lillvis says she is drawn to the idea of multiplicity: the multiplicity of perspectives she believes students must engage with in order to understand course texts and their contexts, the multiplicity of options students have to choose from when deciding how to communicate their ideas, and the multiplicity of ways in which English courses shape students’ lives in and outside of academia.
“The most important skills I want to help students master through and within these multiplicities are critical thinking, reading and writing,” Lillvis said.
Dr. Jane Hill, chair of the English department, described Lillvis as “a walking advertisement for collegiality and student-centered teaching.”
“Kristen Lillvis is universally respected, consummately professional, productive in her scholarship (she published two articles in refereed outlets in her first year), and an unimaginably fortunate addition to the MU faculty.”
Lillvis earned her Ph.D. in 2011 from the University of Kansas.
Dr. Zelideth Maria Rivas came to Marshall from Grinnell College in 2012. At Marshall, she is an assistant professor in Japanese.
Dr. Caroline Perkins, chair of the department of modern languages, said Rivas “is a rigorous teacher, yet her classroom is warm, open and relaxed. Her classes are highly structured, yet she flows seamlessly from topic to activity and back to topic. She uses technology extremely effectively and maintains an environment of active learning. Her students in the classroom are engaged and involved and she gets good results from majors and non-majors alike.”
Perkins said Rivas maintains her involvement with students outside of the classroom. She has organized a Japanese Tea Club and oversees the bake sales that support the club.
“Generally, when I see her on the floor she is with one or more students,” Perkins said. “Generally, when I pass the open door of her office she has a student with her. She works very long hours but I never see her without a smile.”
Rivas said mentorship is one of the key components of her teaching philosophy.
“Experiencing the intellectual and individual growth of my students is one of the highlights of this process,” she said. “Working at a campus with a high rate of first-generation students, I strive to encourage student retainment through active involvement and mentorship.”
Rivas earned her Ph.D. from the University of California (Berkeley) in 2009.