Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Awards Announced

Issue Date: 
February 5, 2007


Winners of the 2007 Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Awards are:
• Kathleen M. Blee, Distinguished Professor of Sociology in the School of Arts and Sciences;
• Marek J. Druzdel, a professor in the School of Information Sciences;
• Marilyn T. Hravnak, assistant professor and coordinator of the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program in the School of Nursing’s Department of Acute/Tertiary Care;
• Jeremy Levy, a professor in the Arts and Sciences’ Department of Physics and Astronomy; and
• Philip E. Smith, a professor in the Arts and Sciences’ English department.

“The very existence of this award underscores the high institutional priority that we assign to our teaching responsibilities,” Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg wrote in letters notifying the professors of their awards, “and your efforts stand as an inspiring example of excellence in the role of University teacher.”

Each award-winner will receive a $2,000 cash prize and a $3,000 grant to support his or her teaching, and awardees’ names will be inscribed on bronze plaques in the William Pitt Union. Together with the yet-to-be-announced winners of the 2007 Chancellor’s Distinguished Research and Distinguished Public Service awards—as well as other distinguished faculty and staff members, students, and alumni—Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Awardees also will be recognized during Pitt’s 31st Annual Honors Convocation at 2 p.m. Feb. 23 in Oakland’s Carnegie Music Hall.

Blee was named Distinguished Professor of Sociology effective Jan. 1; the title recognizes “extraordinary scholarly attainment” by Pitt faculty. In 2004, Blee received a Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award in the senior scholar category. She directed Pitt’s Women’s Studies Program from 1996 to 2001.

In his letter notifying Blee of her award, Nordenberg wrote: “This honor…recognizes your outstanding contributions to teaching in women’s studies and sociology over the past 10 years. The variety of courses you have developed in response to the needs of undergraduate and graduate students is impressive, and the integration of your innovative teaching, dedicated advising, and highly respected research make you a model of academic excellence for the University community.

“In many different ways,” the chancellor continued, “you have had a major influence on your students’ successful pursuit of their professional goals, including the research methodology and skills-oriented writing courses you have developed, your supervision of undergraduate honors theses and independent research projects, your use of undergraduate research interns, and your creation of noncredit advisee workshops for dissertation students. In all of these areas, you encourage collaborative learning and have committed yourself to a collegial and professional approach to providing feedback.”

Druzdel was recognized for creating a challenging and supportive learning environment for undergraduate and graduate students. “Over 13 years of teaching information science courses, you have participated in a number of University activities that have enriched your teaching and contributed to your classroom energy and success in balancing theory and practice,” Nordenberg wrote to Druzdel. “Your creative assignments in your research-design course have resulted in student publications and outside funding for their proposals.

“By providing opportunities for students at all levels to participate in your Decision Systems Laboratory,” the chancellor wrote, “you have demonstrated a clear ability to integrate research and teaching. Being a role model for students permeates your academic life, and your engagement with them both inside and outside the classroom enriches their educational experience.”

Nordenberg wrote to Hravnak, “As the program coordinator for the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP) program, you were instrumental in developing courses and securing state approval for this important advanced-care specialty. Your ongoing contributions through committee work, presentations, and publications have shaped ACNP education nationally, and your program has become a model for other schools.

“Students appreciate your clinically relevant lectures, your ability to make difficult concepts understandable, and your respectful and reassuring supervision in their clinical settings,” the chancellor added. “Your use of realistic laboratory simulation experiences prepares them to be skilled advanced practice nurses for critically ill patients. The outstanding student performance on the national certification examination is a testament to your success. You have received well-deserved honors from several national academies and from your school. The recognition of your teaching excellence is now extended with this University-wide award.”

Levy was honored for his “pioneering and innovative contributions” to physics instruction, especially in large introductory classes. “Your enthusiasm for physics and for teaching also extends to mentoring undergraduate and graduate students in your laboratory and to the outreach activities you provide to elementary, high school, and prospective students,” Nordenberg wrote to Levy. You excel at motivating nonphysical-science majors by using peer instruction and a variety of other active learning methods to engage students and increase their appreciation of how physics is relevant to their everyday lives.

“You consistently have been at the cutting edge of technological advances in teaching, developing a method for students to provide feedback to you during lectures, making lectures available through a Web site before CourseWeb was introduced, and using computer simulations,” Nordenberg added. “Your creative videos and extra-credit assignments help to realign students’ attitudes and encourage them to apply physics concepts in a larger context.”

Smith’s award recognized his 36 years of designing, supervising, and teaching English courses ranging from freshman composition to graduate seminars. Nordenberg wrote to Smith, “Your meticulously designed literature and writing courses encourage critical thinking, and your sequenced assignments, characterized by careful feedback, teach students the value of rethinking and revising their written work. The impressive record of awards for essays developed in your courses attests to the success of your teaching and mentoring inside and outside the classroom.

“Students recognize your exceptional dedication to helping them realize their full potential, and colleagues are appreciative of the innovative curricular reforms you have spearheaded over the years,” the chancellor continued. “You have provided similar leadership to your discipline through your work with professional organizations and national committees, as well as your publications on teaching. Your work has been acknowledged by the Association of Departments of English through their highest service award.”

Smith received a Chancellor’s Distinguished Public Service Award in 1999. His wife and fellow Pitt English professor, Susan Harris Smith, received a Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2002.