SBS Presents Outstanding Teaching Awards
This year’s SBS Outstanding Teacher Award has been presented to Art Keene, professor of anthropology, and Tamara A. Rahhal, chief undergraduate advisor and lecturer in psychology. This award was instituted in 1995 to augment the University Distinguished Teaching Award in an effort to recognize a larger number of talented teachers. Nominating procedures, however, are different. Candidates for the College Outstanding Teaching Award are nominated by their peers and selected by the SBS Instructional Quality Council; for the University award, nominees come from current and former students and are selected by a committee of faculty and students.
Art Keene, the Terence Murray Professor in Commonwealth College, is founder and co-director of the UMass Amherst Citizen Scholars Program, a two-year community service learning program. He also is a founder and faculty director of the UMass Alliance Amherst for Community Transformation. Based in the anthropology department, this organization runs the Alternative Spring Break program, a national model for community service learning.
On campus since 1979, Keene has served multiple terms as director of the UMass Amherst Archaeological Field School, and did a one-year stint as Associate Dean of Commonwealth College. A formally trained archaeologist, his research interests have taken him from archaeological digs in North America, Australia, Norway, France, and the Netherlands and on to a kibbutz in Israel. Keene’s work in Israel inspired his thinking about his own and students’ community participation and engagement. Shifting his research and teaching interests to cultural anthropology and community service learning, Keene has subsequently earned a tremendous reputation as a teacher.
Keene is most focused on how students take what they know and apply it in ways that engage them in making positive social changes. Driven by his perspective that democracy in the United States is at risk, he urges students to learn skills of community engagement, participating in intelligent debates with diverse groups, and working towards goals of social justice. Keene’s teaching philosophy is evident in both of the Citizen Scholars Program and the Alliance for Community Transformation, mentioned above.
Students describe Keene’s teaching as life transforming. “Art drove us to examine our world and ourselves more critically, and to become agents of change,” says one. Another says, “Art engages students on a level that is unmatched among other professors at UMass Amherst. His innovative programs…have challenged and engaged me more deeply than any of my other courses.” Keene often co-teaches courses with upperclassmen, one of whom states, “He is not simply a teacher but also an active learner who continuously works to improve his teaching practice and to learn from the lives, experiences and knowledge of his students.” Concludes Department Chair Elizabeth Chilton, “I have honestly never met a more inspired, energetic and passionate teacher in my career or my life.”
Tammy Rahhal’s research focuses on aging, memory, and social cognition with a particular focus on how social factors, such as stereotypes about the elderly, and emotion impact memory in older adults. Arriving at UMass Amherst in 2003, Rahhal brought an excellent teaching reputation with her. In fact, the UMass Center for Teaching tapped her talent during the 2004-05 academic year when she served as their coordinator of teaching consultation.
Rahhal has been nominated for various teaching awards each year since her association with UMass Amherst. Teaching on both ends of the spectrum—in a 450+ seat auditorium for Introductory Psychology and in small, upper level seminars in social cognition—she has received near-perfect marks on her teacher evaluations. Rahhal aims to achieve three goals: 1) to provide students with the knowledge to grasp theoretical and empirical questions that motivate psychological research; 2) to encourage students to become critical thinkers who will develop independent scientific questions and the skills needed to answer them; and 3) to generate enthusiasm and curiosity for the science of psychology. Rahhal also employs a variety of teaching methods in her classes. She includes in-class demonstrations of psychological phenomena in the larger ones, asking students to volunteer for the demonstrations. She includes online assignments and directs students to participate in psychology experiments on the Internet. In her small classes, Rahhal often assigns students to teach their peers. They are expected to summarize weekly readings and facilitate class discussions.
The letter of recommendation states, “Dr. Rahhal excels at bringing undergraduate students into the teaching experience. She routinely trains 20 to 30 undergraduate students to serve as teaching assistants in Introductory Psychology.”
Student comments from her course evaluations are revealing. “This class was by far one of, if not the best gen-ed electives I’ve taken.” “Professor Rahhal is an amazing instructor. She teaches with a love of psychology and a love of helping people learn that is apparent.” “I think Professor Rahhal should give advice on how to teach [and present] a lecture to some of my other professors.”
For previous recipients of the SBS College Teaching Award, click here.
April 22, 2008