June 8, 2010
SBS Professors Receive Outstanding Teaching Awards
In 1995 the College Outstanding Teaching Award was instituted to recognize talented teachers beyond the University Distinguished Teaching Award. Nominating procedures, however, are different. For the university award, only current students and alumni may nominate faculty. For the SBS Outstanding Teaching Award, candidates are nominated by their peers and selected by the SBS Instructional Quality Council. This year’s SBS Outstanding Teacher Award honored Jillian Schwedler (political science) and Millicent Thayer (sociology).
Associate Professor Jillian Schwedler has served as the Honors Advisor and the Honors Program Director for the Political Science Department. Her research interests include political culture, protest and policing in Jordan, contentious politics, and state repression. She is one of the country’s leading scholars of Islamist politics. Schwedler’s enthusiasm for her research leads directly to her success in teaching. Although she has been at UMass Amherst for only two years, she has already established a long list of students with whom she keeps in touch and who were delighted to write on her behalf regarding this nomination.
Schwedler is described as a “popular, dynamic, devoted and innovative teacher.” Her Student Response to Instruction (SRTI) scores put her at the top of our department and student testimonials demonstrate why this is so. She teaches material—Middle East Politics—where opinions are strong yet knowledge of the material limited, but Jillian is even handed, welcomes and engages contrasting views and instills passion for the material in her students.
Anissa Talantikite ‘09, a Fulbright winner and recent graduate who is working in rural Morocco tracked down internet access to deliver these words of praise: “From the first course I took with Professor Schwedler, Government and Politics of the Middle East, I felt compelled to continue on the political science track. Without her encouragement and support, I don’t know that I would be in Morocco today.” A current student adds, “Professor Schwedler is a most effective educator. She is, by far and away, the most inspirational, the most motivating, and the most endearing professor that I have ever encountered.”
Associate Professor Millicent Thayer was selected unanimously for this award by the Sociology Personnel Committee as she is acknowledged as “one of our very best teachers.” Professor Thayer joined the University in 2003, has won both the Lilly and the Service Learning Fellowships and has become central to the doctorate program in Sociology. For several years, she has been sat on more student committees than any other faculty member.
Thayer is known for her interactive teaching style. Her classes are “vibrant with debate and discussion.” Her tireless dedication to her students is commendable. She has been described as “approachable,” “supportive,” “inspirational,” and “innovative.”
Undergraduate students, graduate students, and colleagues are all uniformly impressed by the quality of her teaching. A current PhD candidate says, “Professor Thayer’s courses are some of the most comprehensive, thorough, cutting edge and interesting courses I have taken at UMass.” A recent graduate notes, “From day one, Professor Thayer made you feel as though you were the only one in class. She held on to every word that you said, and encouraged you to talk out your ideas and how they related to the concepts she was teaching.”
Congratulations go to Schwedler and Thayer for their outstanding accomplishments. For a full listing of others who have received the SBS Outstanding Teaching award over the years, click here.