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Awards for excellence recognize top faculty

(January 27, 2000, Gazette)

Distinguished Teaching Awards

President’s Awards for Distinguished Teaching recognize the teaching excellence in the university community. Each winner of the teaching award receives a $5,000 grant contributed by the Memorial University Alumni Association.

Dr. Phyllis Artiss
English

Be it teaching, research, or administration, the hallmark of Dr. Phyllis Artiss’ style can be summarized in one word: collaborative. An associate professor in the Department of English and a teacher for 35 years, it was her interest in people, her enjoyment of listening to and learning from others, that led Dr. Artiss to develop a particular interest in collaborative classes.

“I learned to go into the class with the awareness that I need to learn from the students,” she said. “Without that, the class is flat. Of course, I take responsibility for the learning environment, but, ultimately, we share and we learn from each other.”

When asked to discuss her own merits, Dr. Artiss veers to discussions of the contributions of others, including English department colleagues Bill Kirwin, Roberta Buchanan, Jean Guthrie, Bill Barker, and Valerie Legge. Dr. Artiss said she likes to share opportunities, and is donating her $5,000 honorarium from this award to the Opportunity Fund, to initiate a new scholarship enabling graduate students to pursue learning about teaching and pedagogy.

A native of Nova Scotia, Dr. Artiss has a MA in English from the University of Edinburgh and a doctorate from the University of Texas. She has designed and taught courses in composition, rhetoric, linguistics, critical theory, and feminist theory, served as coordinator of the Women’s Studies Program, and was recently appointed to the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women. Currently, she is working with Education faculty members Dr. Roberta Hammett and Dr. Barry Barrell on a SSHRC grant studying the interaction between literacy and computer skills.

But perhaps closest to her heart is the passion to teach – what else? – how to teach.

“It was helpful to me to discover there is so much to learn about teaching and pedagogy; that it’s not just a question of ‘you’re born a teacher’, but that there really is an intellectually-challenging area of research and theory to explore.”

In being nominated for this award, Dr. Artiss was called by former students Janice Lockyer and Win Mellor-Hay “the kind of professor you meet once in your life and wish you’d met in your first year” and “the best embodiment of teaching through doing versus telling that I have ever come across.”

Former student and one-time colleague Jacqueline Howse writes: “She is one of those rare friends whose constant enthusiasm and curiosity regarding my thinking continues to stimulate my learning. In my own teaching, at my best moments, I hope my students see a teacher similar to the one she has been to me.”

And how does Dr. Artiss feel?

“The best thing about this award is getting all these wonderful letters from students and colleagues! That’s the real award.”

 

Dr. Martin Mulligan
Biochemistry

Few students in Biochemistry will be surprised to learn that Dr. Martin Mulligan was nominated to receive the Distinguished Teaching Award. Combining technology and traditional teaching methods, Dr. Mulligan uses computers and the Web to bring molecular biology and genetics to life for his students.

Dr. Mulligan was the first professor in the Biochemistry department to use the Web as a teaching aid. He keeps a complete set of course notes and relevant links to useful molecular biology Web sites on his course home page. These are easily accessible by his students, who are encouraged to visit the site regularly.

“In 1991 I attended a conference ... where I saw a professor using computer animations. One of the animations showed rather clearly a concept that I had struggled to teach in a course the year before.”
He soon began using those animations as teaching aids, a highly successful program that culminated in his utilization of the Web. Yet, Dr. Mulligan realizes that using new technology by itself is simply not adequate for his students to learn molecular biology. He instead uses teaching aids only as a supplement to class work and laboratories.

“The challenge for us is to understand the technology and use it for our advantage in teaching.”

Along with being an exceptional teacher, Dr. Mulligan is also a noted researcher. He has received a number of research grants since coming to Memorial in 1988, and his laboratory was the first to discover genes for a particular type of RNA-binding protein in cyanobacteria in 1994.

Dr. Mulligan’s dedication to students does not end with teaching and research. As the undergraduate deputy head of Biochemistry, he spends a great deal of time helping students with academic concerns and course planning.

His commitment to students has earned him the Biochemistry Society Award for Dedication in Teaching in 1997 and the Biochemistry Society Prof of the Year Award in 1999. The fact that these awards are given by the undergraduate student society shows just how much he is respected by the students of the department.

Asked about being awarded the Distinguished Teaching Award, Dr. Mulligan stated that he was “thrilled really.

“I can’t quite believe that I have been given it or that I deserve it, but having been told that one has been awarded it, I feel very honoured that people feel well enough about me to nominate me. I would like to thank those who nominated me for the award.”

 

Dr. Christine Way
Nursing

Dr. Christine Way believes in spending a lot of time with her students, and that means involving them in her research. As a teaching method, she is pleased with the results.

“They are participating, they are part of the team. It means they get a lot more out of the experience.”

It’s a technique that works. For her skill in teaching, this year Dr. Way received the Distinguished Teaching Award.

She currently teaches only graduate students, although in past years she spent a lot of time setting up and teaching the post-RN course in research by distance. Her primary responsibility has been to develop students’ awareness and knowledge of research in nursing, and to enable graduate students to conduct research.

Dr. Way’s extensive expertise in quantitative and qualitative methodology underlies her teaching success. She received her PhD from the University of Virginia, an M.Sc. from McGill University, and BN and BA (Political Science) from Memorial.

She holds joint appointments with the School of Nursing and the Clinical Epidemiology Unit, Medicine. In 1995 she received the Association of Registered Nurses of Newfoundland Award for Excellence in Nursing Education.

This year, Dr. Way is involved with three major research projects and is currently the supervisor for eight graduate students and a member of the supervising committee for another two.

“It’s time consuming, having students work with you on projects, but it gives the most satisfaction – you can see them developing.”

Dr. Janet Fitzpatrick, Social Work, nominated Dr. Way for the Distinguished Teaching Award. Dr. Way helped supervise her thesis, and Dr. Fitzpatrick was extremely impressed with the dedication and amount of time she put into one-on-one teaching.

“I’ve never had such an excellent teaching/learning experience – it was empowering. What impressed me most was her vigour, attention to detail, and her unwavering commitment to a standard of excellence for her students.”

Dr. Fitzpatrick said she was particularly motivated to nominate Dr. Way because the amount of time put into one-on-one teaching is often invisible and doesn’t get a lot of profile.

The letters of support that accompanied Dr. Fitzpatrick’s nomination underlined the value to their own development that many other students have gained from Dr. Way’s commitment to teaching.

 


University Research Professors

University Research Professors have acquired a designation above the rank of professor. The title is the most prestigious award the university gives for research, and goes to faculty who have demonstrated a consistently high level of scholarship and whose research is of truly international stature. The designation carries with it a $4,000 research grant and a reduced teaching schedule.

Dr. Sandra Clarke
Linguistics

Sandra Clarke is, naturally, extremely proud to be designated University Research Professor. But Dr. Clarke’s appreciation extends beyond simply receiving the honour for herself.

“I’m the second woman and I believe just the second (native-born) Newfoundlander to become University Research Professor,” she said. Both groups, and the university as a whole, can consider themselves well-represented.

Dr. Clarke is a sociolinguist, studying the social patterns of language. In 1982 she wrote a grammar on Innu-aimun, but is best known in her field today for her studies of Canadian (and particularly Newfoundland) English.

In 1993, she edited Focus on Canada, described by her colleagues as “a welcome addition to the literature on a surprisingly underdescribed variety of English.”

In more recent years, she has been examining Newfoundland English; her current work in progress is a book about St. John’s English. She told the Gazette she has been identifying word uses that differ among social classes in the capital city.

She maintains an interest as well in a broader social area, that of gender differences in language use, regularly teaching Language, Sex and Gender, a third-year linguistics course, described in the calendar as “A survey of language and gender issues, including (i) the representation of males and females in English and other languages; (ii) stereotypes associated with male and female speech; and (iii) sex differences in language production.”

Four of 11 names listed on the Department of Linguistics’ home page are designated University Research Professor. Asked about this, Dr. Clarke was enthusiastic about her colleagues.

“It’s an outstanding department,” she said. “There’s a lot of important — and varied — work going on here.”

Memorial is one of only a few Canadian universities to grant bachelor degrees in linguistics, and also attracts top graduate students from across the country and abroad.

In addition to the scholarly work for which she is being recognized, Dr. Clarke has been active in professional organizations. She has served as president of the Canadian Linguistics Association, and its Atlantic counterpart. She is also a former head of the linguistics department.

 

Dr. Richard Haedrich
Biology

Dr. Richard Haedrich wasn’t around to celebrate receiving his University Research Professor designation with the other honoured faculty.

He’s on sabbatical at Middlesbury College in Vermont. But when contacted by the Gazette, Dr. Haedrich was quick to credit his colleagues for the award.

“I was more pleased than I thought I would be,” he said. “While these things are directed towards me, it’s a nice reflection on the whole university. You don’t do the kind of research that you do in a complete vacuum.

“You need nice colleagues, good students and the time to perceive some of your ideas, and all those things are things which Memorial University has made available to me.”

Dr. Haedrich is a biological oceanographer and ichthyologist with broad research experience in the systematics and biology of fish and is well known for his work on the biogeography of deep-sea fishes and their relationships with their environment.

Dr. Haedrich came to Memorial 20 years ago where he turned his attention to Newfoundland’s ocean ecosystems, very large areas about which relatively little is known. His overall goal has been to understand how large marine ecosystems are constituted and how they function.

“The work I’ve been able to do with my students has shown the importance of taking a broad view and looking at Newfoundland’s marine environment as a fishery ecosystem ... and trying to understand the dynamics of that whole system instead of just studying one or the other of the key fishery species.”

Dr. Haedrich is currently the leading researcher on a project on deep ocean biological oceanography in collaboration with Texas A & M University. The four-year study in the Gulf of Mexico is one of the biggest deep sea research projects of its kind ever launched.

The study will provide a framework to determine the ecological effects current and future oil and gas exploration could have on the deep continental slope at depths of 300 to 3,000 metres.


President’s Award for Outstanding Research

The President’s Award for Outstanding Research recognizes researchers who have made outstanding contributions to their scholarly
disciplines. Each award includes a $5,000 research grant.

Dr. Clark Ross
Music

Dr. Clark Ross is a little unsure about his qualifications for the President’s Award for Outstanding Research. Although not thought of as typical research projects, his numerous compositions have qualified for and earned him one of the university’s most prestigious awards.
“Sometimes I wonder if a mistake has been made,” said Dr. Ross. However, the university recognizes that the School of Music’s only composer is indeed an outstanding researcher.

Since joining Memorial in 1992, Dr. Ross has been commissioned numerous times for his pieces and awarded grants by the Canada Council, the CBC, and the NSO.

His Interlude for String Orchestra, premiered in 1995 by the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, was recorded by the Memorial University Chamber Orchestra. In addition, Fanfare for a New-Found Land, commissioned by the Royal Bank in honour of Newfoundland’s Cabot 500 celebrations, was performed at major NSO concerts throughout 1997. His two most recent works, Last Dance and The Misty Mall of Avalon, were both supported by the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council.

When composing, Dr. Ross always remains conscious of his audience, his peers, and himself.

“As a composer I try to write music that expresses something personal to me, yet expresses universal emotions,” said Dr. Ross of the writing and composition process. “Ultimately, a composer must write music that he or she wants to hear.”

A self-proclaimed late bloomer in music, Dr. Ross first completed his BA in humanities before taking a career turn into the world of music. After finishing eight years at the Royal Conservatory of Music, he was accepted into the master’s program at the University of Toronto. Upon completing his Mus.Doc. in composition, Dr. Ross joined Memorial’s School of Music where he teaches composition, theory, electronic music, orchestration and classical guitar.

As the only composer at the music school, he views this award as an affirmation of his choice to pursue a career in music.

“This award means a tremendous amount to me,” noted Dr. Ross. “Being a late starter, there was always a sense of having to catch up with my field. This award is a recognition, an affirmation, that I have made the right choices.”

Being located in Newfoundland has been a very positive experience for Dr. Ross. He believes that the university and the music community allow him a certain freedom that other composers in larger centres are not privilege to.

“In the larger centres it is easier to become self-conscious when there are others in your field, but here at the university, there is a tremendous freedom to do and express what you want.”

On a much-earned sabbatical, Dr. Ross is taking the time to relax and continue his research. He has completed two-and-a-half compositions and will begin work shortly on a viola concerto for Rivka Golani and the Winnipeg Symphony, one of his most prestigious commissions to date.