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Trio of Top Teachers


A trio of faculty was recently named winners of the inaugural College of Arts and Sciences Tykeson Teaching Awards.

Professors Mark Lonergan and Kirby Brown and senior instructor Diane Baxter were given the awards in recognition of their commitment to teaching and their ability to connect with students.

The Tykeson awards are given to one faculty member in each of the three CAS divisions. Department heads nominate faculty in their departments who demonstrate exceptional accomplishment in teaching.

Biology professor Frances White nominated Baxter for her skill at teaching Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, a critical course in the departmental curriculum.

“Dr. Baxter continues to receive exceptional course evaluations and is a highly approachable and empathic adviser to our undergraduates,” White said.

White added that Baxter is an effective mentor and trainer of other advisers in the department. White also noted Baxter’s more than 10 years teaching First-Year Interest Groups.

In addition, Baxter serves on the undergraduate curriculum committee and contributes to a wide variety of departmental matters. She also is leading the development of the Middle East Studies program at the University.

Professor Andrew H. Marcus, the head of chemistry and biochemistry, nominated Lonergan, noting that Lonergan is widely considered by his peers to be one of the most effective instructors in the department. Marcus added that Lonergan has put considerable effort into promoting science literacy and developing new methods to make science more inviting for non-science majors.

“His outstanding student evaluations are a clear reflection of his conscientious work,” Marcus said.

Lonergan is known for his innovative approaches to capturing the attention of students. One step he has taken includes engaging students outside of the classroom via a series of 15-to-20-minute YouTube videos illustrating various scientific principles that students can watch at their own pace.

Lonergan was also recognized for his prowess at teaching some of the department’s most difficult courses with great success in addition to being a highly regarded and accomplished chemist.

English department head David Vasquez, who nominated Brown, said Brown has established himself as one of the department’s top teachers in only four years on campus. Brown’s students praise him for challenging them with an exceptional level of rigor while also motivating and inspiring them.

Brown specializes in Native American literature and culture, and his teaching ranges from lower-division classes up through graduate seminars.

Vasquez pointed out that Brown’s evaluation scores consistently far exceed the department and university averages. Students cite Brown’s knowledge, passion and accessibility among his strengths in their reviews. One said Brown was “one of my favorite teachers I will ever have in college.”

Vasquez noted that what makes Brown’s accolades even more impressive is that Brown’s subject matter centers on painful racial histories in the United States.

“The fact that he is able to inspire students to consider questions of social and political justice is the true measure of his worth as a teacher,” said Vasquez.

The winners were surprised with the award while they’re teaching a class. Recipients were honored more publicly in February at reception hosted by Dean W. Andrew Marcus. The annual awards are endowed by philanthropists Donald and Willie Tykeson (above, 2nd and 3rd from left), who have been committed to improving the UO experience for students and faculty for more than 20 years as donors, advocates, leaders and volunteers. That includes a $10 million contribution toward the College and Careers Building, which will become the home of the College of Arts and Sciences once it’s complete.

—By Jim Murez, College of Arts and Sciences

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