Chancellor Announces 2011 Distinguished Teaching Awards

Issue Date: 
February 21, 2011

University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg has announced the 2011 Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Awards, which will be given to the following five Pitt faculty members:

Graham Hatfull, the Eberly Family Professor, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor, and chair of the School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Biological Sciences;

Mary Margaret Kerr, professor and chair of the School of Education’s Department of Administrative Policy and Studies;

Matthew Luderer, professor in the Pitt-Greensburg Department of Chemistry;

John O’Donnell, professor in the School of Nursing’s Department of Acute and Tertiary Care; and

Sanjeev Shroff, professor and Gerald McGinnis Chair in Bioengineering, associate chair of the Swanson School’s Department of Bioengineering, and professor of medicine.

Each awardee will receive a $2,000 cash prize, a grant of $3,000 for the support of his or her teaching activities, and recognition at the University of Pittsburgh’s 35th annual Honors Convocation, to be held at 3 p.m. Feb. 25 in Carnegie Music Hall, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland.

Hatfull was recognized for his positive impact on the Department of Biology’s teaching mission. “As a recipient of a third Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Professorship and as the Program Director of an HHMI funded Undergraduate Science Education program, your positive influence on the undergraduate learning experiences of your students has enabled them to pursue their education in dynamic and intellectually challenging ways,” Nordenberg wrote in his Feb. 9 letter informing Hatfull of his award. The chancellor added that Hatfull’s dedication to creating learning opportunities both inside and outside the classroom “inspires and stimulates students to pursue their academic interests outside a traditional course curriculum.” Previously, Hatfull was a recipient of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award in both the junior and senior scholar categories. In 2010, HHMI awarded a four-year, $1.2 million grant to support Pitt’s academic initiatives, through its Department of Biology, that cultivate high school and undergraduate students’ interest in science and biology by involving them in active research. At the same time, HHMI renewed Hatfull’s appointment as one of just 13 HHMI Professors nationwide and the only one in Pennsylvania.

The chancellor, in his Feb. 9 letter informing Kerr of her award, praised her use of a real-world approach to classroom teaching and for her “innovative curricula. Inside the classroom, you prepare students for concrete problems by creating a classroom environment that prompts them to respond, examine, and hone their behavioral observational skills, thus preparing them for careers as educators.” Within Pitt’s School of Education, Kerr holds appointments in administrative and policy studies, psychology in education, and child psychiatry. Also licensed as a superintendent, Kerr has worked in urban school districts throughout her academic career. Her focus has been the improvement of services for students with emotional and behavioral problems. “You are training future teachers both to identify troubled students and to help those students progress with effective behavioral interventions. As is clear from your student evaluations, your teaching provokes, challenges, and educates students while also providing a firm theoretical foundation that will remain an important asset throughout their careers,” the chancellor wrote.

Luderer was selected to receive the award because of his “many contributions to the Biology and Chemistry curricula of the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg,” the chancellor wrote in his notification letter. Specifically, Nordenberg cited Lauderer’s  development of an organic chemistry laboratory manual, which was published by McGraw Hill in 2007. In addition, Luderer also has been chosen by 45 students as a mentor for their undergraduate senior capstone experiences. “As is evident from your outstanding student evaluations, your classroom teaching is inspiring while simultaneously making a traditionally difficult subject, Organic Chemistry, enjoyable for your students. … You consistently provide your students with the tools and methods to pursue their professional goals.” Luderer also developed a teaching assistant training program for the organic laboratories designed for students who plan to pursue a graduate degree in chemistry or biology.

As director of the School of Nursing’s Nurse Anesthesia Program, O’Donnell is being recognized because his “individual efforts stand as an inspiring example of excellence in the role of University teacher,” the chancellor wrote in his letter notifying O’Donnell of his award. In that role, O’Donnell has helped students develop the skills and knowledge required to become professional anesthesia providers. “Your dedication to teaching is clear as you have sought new opportunities for teaching students at all levels—from baccalaureate students to Pitt faculty—and in your development of workshops using innovative technologies to teach regional, national, and international educators at the School of Nursing’s Instructional Series,” Nordenberg wrote. The chancellor also noted O’Donnell’s “outstanding” student evaluations, adding that “…your instruction is clear and concise and your passion for your subject is palpable. The University is proud to reward your commitment to excellence in teaching with this award.”

Nordenberg lauded Shroff’s many contributions to the Department of Bioengineering as well as his “passion for teaching students both in the classroom and in the laboratory.” In particular, the chancellor, in his notification letter to Shroff, cited his “pioneering contribution to the creation of innovative, simulation-based teaching tools that are having a national impact on the training of bioengineers, health care providers and medical students.” Shroff received his Ph.D. in bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1981 and completed his postdoctoral fellowship within the Cardiovascular-Pulmonary Division of the University of Pennsylvania Department of Medicine in 1982. Currently, in addition to his appointments at the University, Shroff is a senior investigator at the Magee-Womens Research Institute. “It is evident from your student evaluations that you have a unique ability to engage students and that your instruction is precise, insightful and very exciting for them. Your instruction provides students with the tools they need to become independent researchers and to pursue careers in bioengineering and medicine,” the chancellor wrote.