W. Daniel Svedarsky, professor of agricultural management at the University’s Crookston campus, performed a first among Crookston faculty members this week.
Svedarsky, one of eight University professors to be given this year’s Horace T. Morse Alumni Teaching Award, is the first Crookston faculty member to win the honor.
“In a sense, we’ve been so busy teaching that we haven’t gotten around to completing the award application (before),” he joked.
The University’s Alumni Association sponsors the annual awards to honor individual faculty members who achieve outstanding teaching in undergraduate education.
Each award recipient receives a $1,500 salary supplement for each year she or he remains at the University after receiving the award. In addition, the winners’ departments receive a $2,500 award for three consecutive years.
Svedarsky said the money the departments receive is the biggest advantage of winning the award.
“I guess from a practical standpoint, it’s a $2,500 addition to my home department to afford some field trips to get my students out where the action is,” he said.
“It’s like manna from heaven to make some of these things more possible,” he added, saying the unique experiences the money will bring give his students things they can carry with them throughout their careers.
Winners are nominated by faculty members and students from their respective departments. Nominees then must prepare a three-page essay laying out their goals and visions for education at the University.
“It’s really kind of a neat exercise to go through and write a three-page essay on the philosophy of teaching,” Svedarsky said. “It gives you an opportunity to go through some introspection about what it’s like to be a teacher.”
Winners are then selected by a committee of student and faculty members of the University Senate Committee on Educational Policy, previous award recipients and a representative from the alumni association.
The committee selections are based on outstanding contributions to undergraduate education including classroom teaching, advising, counseling, developing curricular and instructional materials and supervising undergraduate research.
This year’s winners said that teaching can sometimes be a lonely endeavor that brings very little acknowledgment for a job well done.
“I think teaching is in some ways a very intangible activity,” said Jacquelyn Zita, Twin Cities campus associate professor of women’s studies. “In some ways, it’s very social — a kind of people’s activity. And on the other hand, it’s very lonely.”
“An award is something very concrete,” she said. “It’s real, and it’s very important for teachers to get some recognition at some point. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime marker.”
The award is named after Horace T. Morse, the first dean of General College from 1934 to 1960. He was a national leader in the field of undergraduate education.
Russell Bey, a Twin Cities campus associate professor of veterinary pathobiology, said he is excited about the honor and has a strong commitment to the high standards it represents.
“I think (our) primary mission is undergraduate education,” he said. “Most of the students who go to this University are undergraduate students.”
He said that although many professors take the time to get to know their students, others do not. “I think right now that most professors here don’t want to know the students — they don’t make it a priority because they don’t have the time.”
Other winners expressed the same pleasure over what the award does for their respective departments. But the personal gratification lingers with them.
“It has done enormous good for my morale,” said E. Calvin Alexander, Twin Cities campus professor of geology and geophysics. “The award was made yesterday, and I’m not quite sure I’m back down from it yet.
The Amoco Foundation funded the award from 1965 to 1987. The alumni association took over sponsorship of the awards 10 years ago after the Amoco Corporation quit supporting the venture.
Elaine Cunningham, program director for alumni relations, said it was natural for the alumni association to sponsor the awards.
“One of the goals of the alumni association is to enhance the undergraduate experience, and we think that is really important,” she said. “The award specifically honors contributions to undergraduate education. When the Amoco people dropped out, this was perfect.”