Celebrating great teachers

L&S faculty members receive nine of twelve Distinguished Teaching Awards

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Twelve faculty members have been chosen to receive this year’s Distinguished Teaching Awards, an honor given out since 1953 to recognize the university’s finest educators. Nine of those faculty members teach in the College of Letters & Science. 

Chancellor Rebecca Blank and Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf will present the awards at a ceremony at 5 p.m. March 16 at the Fluno Center, 601 University Ave. The ceremony, sponsored by the Wisconsin Alumni Association with support from the Office of the Secretary of the Faculty, is free and open to the public.

L&S Recipients

Sandra Adell, Professor of Afro-American Studies, Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award (Photo by Jeff Miller)
Andrea Arpaci-Dusseau, Professor of Computer Sciences, Van Hise Outreach Award (Photo by Bryce Richter)
Cindy I-Fen Cheng, Associate Professor of History, Inclusive Excellence Award (Photo by Bryce Richter)
Thomas DuBois, Professor of German, Nordic and Slavic Languages, Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award (Photo by Jeff Miller)
Ralph Grunewald, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies / Center for Law, Society and Justice, William H. Kiekhofer Award (Photo by Bryce Richter)
Daniel Kapust, Associate Professor of Political Science, Class of 1955 Teaching Excellence Award (Photo by Bryce Richter)
Jordan Schmidt, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award (Photo by Jeff Miller)
Claire Wendland, Professor of Anthropology, Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award (Photo by Jeff Miller)
Stephen Young, Assistant Professor of Geography, Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Sandra Adell, Professor of Afro-American Studies
Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award

Sandra Adell has consistently received strong evaluations from her students, whose comments highlight her absolute mastery of the material and her forceful, spellbinding classroom presence. Drawing on her experience as an actress who has performed in the Midwest, Adell has taken the lead in teaching African-American theater, not only in her own classes, but by organizing the efforts to bring Rhodessa Jones to campus as part of the Arts Institute Interdisciplinary Artist in Residence program. An excellent classroom teacher who has played a central role in the education of both graduate and undergraduate students with an interest in African culture and especially theater, Adell exemplifies the ways in which scholars of color play key roles in the elements of teaching that extend beyond the classroom.


Andrea Arpaci-Dusseau, Professor of Computer Sciences
Van Hise Outreach Award

Andrea Arpaci-Dusseau passionately and consistently extends the value of computer science beyond boundaries of the department and university. She created CS 402, formally titled "Introducing Computer Science to K-12 Students." It is a service-learning course, in which UW students are taught how to teach algorithmic thinking, core conceptual computer science ideas, and practical and fun programming skills to young children. The UW students learn how to be teachers first by teaching each other, and then perform a valuable community service: In small groups, they run weekly after-school clubs at Madison-area elementary schools, middle schools, and other community centers. She started this work at a single elementary school and the program has blossomed. This spring, students will run clubs at roughly 15 schools and other venues such as the Madison Children's Museum. Since its inception, more than 2,000 children have participated in the program, becoming better prepared for a digital world.


Cindy I-Fen Cheng, Associate Professor of History
Inclusive Excellence Award

Cindy I-Fen Cheng has been in the unusual and challenging position of having to do an enormous amount of curriculum development. When she arrived at UW-Madison, there was no established curriculum for Asian American History in either the Department of History or the Program in Asian American Studies. To design such a curriculum, Cheng developed a mix of lecture and seminar courses. Cheng’s dexterity in the classroom and her ability to make the material come alive for students from a variety of audiences ensures that their diverse needs are addressed and their expectations fulfilled. Cheng is the epitome of the teacher-scholar, deeply engaged with her students and her research field. She challenges and inspires students to read closely, think critically, write effectively and, above all, approach their scholarly endeavors with dedication and rigor.


Thomas DuBois, Professor of German, Nordic and Slavic Languages
Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award

Thomas DuBois, upper left, is known for putting his students first and constantly working to improve and extend his teaching in new ways.  Particularly exemplary has been his work on Ojibwe arts in Wisconsin. His collaborative project with the Art Department led to a memorable residency of the Ojibwe birch bark canoe builder Wayne Valliere on campus in the fall of 2013. He and his students fully documented the project, built a Facebook page, blog and website, and led the fundraising that would allow the university to acquire the resulting canoe for permanent display at Dejope Residence Hall. Every winter, he travels with eager UW students to help at the reservation during the Ojibwe Winter Games, an event that celebrates and reinvigorates traditional Ojibwe winter sports on the reservation and in the surrounding community of northern Wisconsin.


Ralph Grunewald, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies / Center for Law, Society and Justice
William H. Kiekhofer Award

Ralph Grunewald understands good teaching means engaging students while still maintaining high standards and challenging students intellectually. It also means a personalized experience, even in a large lecture setting. Despite always having a full class, frequently with hundreds of students, Grunewald takes the time to get to know each student individually, and during his lecture he addresses almost all students by name. His unique and personalized teaching style provides students the opportunity to feel like they have a voice, even in a large class setting. It also increases student participation and confidence early in their academic careers. He integrates current world events, as well as pressing local issues, into his courses in order to make the material more relevant. He is also particularly aware and attentive to the specific needs of first-generation students and students from historically underserved backgrounds. In a fashion truly consistent with the Wisconsin Idea, Grunewald successfully creates an inclusive classroom, one that creates a personal connection to the students, but is also rigorous and demanding.


Daniel Kapust, Associate Professor of Political Science
Class of 1955 Teaching Excellence Award

Daniel Kapust teaches political philosophy. He is a proud graduate of the department’s Ph.D. program, earned tenure at the University of Georgia, and then leapt at the chance to rejoin this campus community. Kapust has a remarkable skill for creating a classroom environment, even in a lecture of 150 students, in which the students connect with one another and with him, and most importantly, immerse themselves deeply in the course material. He has cultivated the exemplary ability to cause students to engage with one another and engage with challenging ideas, all in the service of understanding what it means to participate in the difficult project of democracy.


Jordan Schmidt, Associate Professor of Chemistry
Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award

Jordan Schmidt is a theoretical chemist who studies catalysis, alternative fuels, and carbon dioxide capture. He has been involved in restructuring the general chemistry program since the day he arrived, commanding a leadership position in general chemistry innovation. His efforts influence every student taking Chemistry 103 and 104, the two largest courses that educate nearly 2,000 students each semester. His work is helping to reduce the achievement gap and bring about massive changes in active learning in general chemistry. He is famous in the chemistry department for his ability to communicate complex ideas in beautifully understandable terms and simple analogies.


Claire Wendland, Professor of Anthropology
Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award

One of the strategies Claire Wendland uses to fully engage students in their own learning experience is having them reflect on their own experiences as they relate to the topic under discussion. Wendland often teaches about health and illness, sexuality and identity, and she draws heavily on her experiences as a field researcher in Africa and as a practicing medical doctor on the Navajo Reservation and in Africa. She asks students to consider their own experiences with illness before she provides them with the conceptual tools they need to think critically about health and illness globally. This strategy creates the opportunity for the students to immediately connect the concepts to their own experiences, making the material resonate with them on a personal as well as academic level.


Stephen Young, Assistant Professor of Geography
Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award

Stephen Young has always stressed that thinking and acting as a global citizen means paying attention to how our own campus and local community are shaped by the myriad ways in which we are connected to other places around the world. In order to allow students to discover these connections for themselves, Young – in collaboration with another faculty member – designed a walking tour through the old industrial section of Madison in which directions, audio narration and historic images are delivered in real time via a mobile map. Young also applied for funds through the Global Studies program to buy a sufficient number of devices that students could check out from the library. During the walk, students took their own photos and then used these images to create a photo essay about Madison as a distillation of global processes. The walking tour has now taken place three times, receiving rave reviews from students.


Campus Recipients

Cathy Middlecamp, Professor in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
Emil Steiger Teaching Award

Cathy Middlecamp enhances student learning by providing well-structured opportunities for students to explore complex topics on their own and then share their findings and insights with one another. She understands the research on how students learn and bring those insights into the classroom every day. She always places whatever subject she is teaching in a broader context and has shown a deep appreciation of the need to help students to see how a particular bit of knowledge fits into a larger scheme. Middlecamp is also a compassionate listener and advisor who teaches students how to navigate classrooms, subjects, academic institutions, and life. She sees her students as whole human beings, and she facilitates learning by treating them with respect and compassion while setting high standards for their performance. Her stellar record not only of excellence in classroom teaching but also as a mentor and role model for students helps inspire her students as well as colleagues.


Steve Quintana, Professor of Counseling Psychology
Inclusive Excellence Award

From the beginning of his appointment at UW-Madison in 1996, Steve Quintana contributed to diversity initiatives in the Department of Counseling Psychology and played a key role in increasing the inclusiveness in the Department of Educational Psychology. Moreover, over the past 10 years, Quintana has expanded his reach beyond the School of Education as developer and coordinator of the Diversity Dialogues program, 90-minute facilitated conversations in small groups focused on diversity issues. The Dialogues have now been offered within nearly every major college and school at the UW, reaching more than 10,000 students, faculty and staff. This past year,  Quintana has consistently been involved in the Our Wisconsin program, the chancellor’s initiative that provides workshops to incoming UW students to help build a campus community that is welcoming to all students. His years of experience and his presence in the planning and as a facilitator demonstrated to students that faculty care deeply about campus climate issues.


Terry Warfield, Professor of Accounting and Information Systems
Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award

Terry Warfield is innovative in the classroom, using small-group activities that help students to develop accounting knowledge as well as interpersonal communication skills. Warfield is recognized worldwide for his exceptional research, which is widely cited and used by academics, as well as by those involved in public policy and regulation. Warfield has accomplished something that few academics accomplish: He has excelled in teaching students, other teachers, researchers and public-policy makers and regulators. He has contributed to teaching excellence by co-authoring three accounting textbooks, one of which is the market leader. That textbook is used around the world and has been adopted by the majority of top-rated accounting programs in the U.S. It has also been translated into numerous languages.


Story, images and video courtesy of University Communications.