Berlin recognized as outstanding U professor

Courtney Lewis

If students take a class in the classical and Near Eastern studies department, they’ll probably run across Andrea Berlin, a professor who teaches Introduction to Greek and Roman Archaeology.

Since Berlin’s arrival at the University five years ago, her enthusiastic work to promote the department and offer the major to undergraduates has paid off.

Berlin is one of eight recipients of the 2001-02 Horace T. Morse-University of Minnesota Alumni Association Award. The award is given to professors who have demonstrated “outstanding contributions to undergraduate education.”

“The class is totally fun and gets rave reviews from everyone who takes it,” Berlin said.

Originally Berlin wanted to cap the class at 80 students, but after receiving high demand, she realized opening more seats in the class would give more students the opportunity to take a class that “gets them excited about the ancient world.”

In a classroom of 150 students, Berlin said, she makes sure everyone feels connected to the class by creating discussion groups in the lecture each week.

Groups of approximately seven students are offered a question relating classical archaeology to modern times. Students place their ideas on the board, and the entire class votes on their favorite concept.

For example, she would ask the students to imagine living in the year 4000 and discovering 21st century artifacts. Then she would ask them how people of the future would react to these items.

“The questions are fun and wacky,” Berlin said.

Every summer, Berlin travels to the countries near the Mediterranean Sea to dig for artifacts. Last summer, Berlin planned a trip to Israel with some undergraduate students.

But with the social unrest in the Middle East, her grant money was pulled three weeks before the trip.

“The tickets were non-refundable,” Berlin said. “We needed an alternative plan.”

A week later, Berlin and her students were off to Cyprus, an island near Greece. While many of the students didn’t know much about the area, Berlin said, even she learned a lot on that trip.

“It was very, very cool, and it worked out much better than anyone expected,” she said.

Awards from within the campus, like Berlin’s, and national awards both help the University gain recognition.

Started in 1965, the Morse-Alumni award was created to distinguish noteworthy professors.

Craig Swan, vice president and provost for undergraduate education, said the awards the University staff and faculty receive stimulate national visibility.

While numerous professors from many different colleges were nominated, only eight could receive the Morse-Alumni award given on April 22.

“It’s an important part of the University’s commitment to excellence,” Swan said.

He said the acknowledgements are part of the University’s support of outstanding faculty.

“It’s also the right thing to do,” Swan said, “to recognize professors who deserve it.”

Berlin said winning a medal, gaining a salary augment for the remainder of her employment and obtaining $1,500 per year for five years for the department were definitely an added bonus to winning the award.

“All of it makes you think that you won something that people actually care about,” Berlin said. “It’s a very positive thing.”

Courtney Lewis welcomes comments at [email protected]