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Excellence Awards

Excellence in Teaching — 2004

The Award for Excellence in Teaching recognizes faculty members for their skill, innovation, and dedication to teaching and academic advising.

Ariel CatichaAriel Caticha
Characterized as a brilliant scientist and teacher by his colleagues, Professor Ariel Caticha joined the University staff in 1992 and is currently the associate chair of the Physics department, as well as the chair of both the Graduate and Undergraduate Studies committees. A member of the Undergraduate Advisement and Career Development Committee, Professor Caticha earned his Ph.D. in physics from the California Institute of Technology. Noted for his high level of enthusiasm, accessibility, and ability to convey subtle concepts, Caticha constantly scores at the highest levels in all of his teaching evaluations. “Any success I have had in teaching derives from the fortunate selection of courses I have taught,” he wrote. “I am deeply interested in the subject matter because it is closely connected to my research, and this becomes obvious to my students.” An excellent classroom teacher, Caticha has mentored six students toward their doctoral dissertations. “I could not have gotten to where I am today without all of his help. I feel Professor Caticha was the greatest teacher that I have had in all of my time in higher education,” wrote one former graduate student.

Caticha is an internationally recognized scholar. He has published 29 peer-reviewed articles, six invited articles, and six additional publications. Caticha has received research support for his work on a “theory of X-ray and neutron scattering by thin film multilayers” and “capillary waveguides for soft X-rays and neutrons.” He has served as a reviewer of National Science Foundation research grant proposals and also referees such scientific journals as Physical Review Letters, Physical Review A and B, Journal of Physics, Journal of the Optical Society of America, and Journal de Physique.

Caticha believes, “Physics is learned by doing.” He also is adamant about making himself available to his students on several levels. “I am always, inside and outside the classroom, extremely nice to all students,” he wrote. An excellent scholar, teacher, and citizen, Caticha has raised the quality of teaching at the University at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Ron McClamrockRon McClamrock
A member of the University faculty since 1992, Professor Ron McClamrock is an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy. Equally at home in both large, introductory courses and small advanced courses, McClamrock is considered a creative teacher who uses examples in contemporary film, science fiction and sports to pique students’ interest in the examination of philosophical tenets.

“I try to start an internal dialogue for them by directly challenging particular beliefs they bring to the subject matter, as I sometimes say to them, if they walk away from the class saying ‘that can’t be right because’ … then I’ve done a central part of my job,” he wrote in his Statement of Teaching Philosophy. “Sometimes, those might be beliefs that they themselves would recognize as ‘philosophical’. But quite often, they are things that are to them more surprising, in part, because they didn’t think of them as part of ‘philosophy,’ but as more mundane things that they clearly felt they knew. If I can push them to see a tension in these well-entrenched beliefs, I can get them to take up the themes of the course in their own internal examination of their beliefs and perceptions, and to begin the process of actively engaging in the material and trying to think critically about it.”

Questioning things usually not questioned is one of his teaching themes. He is an expert at masterfully explaining complex philosophical ideas and arguments. “[He] has an uncanny way of making the hardest arguments clear, while not reducing them to a form unrecognizably simple compared to the original; preserving their complexity while making them understandable,” wrote one student.

McClamrock is currently working on a second book. In addition to his academic publications, he has written several popular pieces that have been reprinted in a variety of media. Highly accessible to his students, McClamrock is known for his generous office hours and his frequent “walk and talk” sessions after class. He was the 2003 faculty recipient of the Disabled Student Service Outstanding Achievement Award. Wrote one former Ph.D. student, “Prof. McClamrock’s commitment to his students continues even after his official duties to them have ended.”

David SmithDavid Smith
An extraordinary award-winning teacher and scholar, Professor David Smith is an associate professor in the School of Business and has been employed at the University since 1989. He was awarded the School of Business Award for Undergraduate Teaching in 1993, and was the recipient of the Dean W. Warren Haynes Memorial Award for Outstanding Graduate Teaching in both 1994 and 2001.

The former chair of the Department of Finance, Smith has earned four professional certifications: Certified Management Accountant, Certified in Financial Management, Certified Cash Manager, and Chartered Financial Analyst.

“If I were starting a new business school, David Smith would be the first faculty member that I would hire,” wrote Interim Dean Paul Leonard. “Professor Smith brings the complete package: excellence in research, service, and teaching … It is in the area of teaching, however, that Professor Smith makes his greatest contributions.”

Smith has a strong research record. He has written 14 journal articles and is a consistent presenter at the annual meetings of the Financial Management Association and the Eastern Finance Association. He serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Business Research and has been an ad hoc reviewer for The Business Journal, Financial Management, Financial Practice and Education, Financial Review, Financial Services Review, Journal of Business Research, and Quarterly Journal of Business and Economics.

Enthusiastic and known for his attention to detail, Smith regularly receives overall instructor ratings of 4.50 in undergraduate classes and 4.60 in graduate classes. In the past decade, he has organized annual trips to Wall Street, and he has spearheaded the Department of Finance’s effort to update its curriculum. “His efforts in the area of teaching have had an enormous impact on the culture of teaching in the Department of Finance and on the hundreds of students who have taken his classes,” wrote Leonard.

David G. WagnerDavid G. Wagner
A strong researcher with extensive service commitments throughout the University, Professor David G. Wagner is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology. A member of the department since 1985, Wagner consistently receives high instructor ratings from 4.20 to 5.0. “Students learn best when they are challenged,” he wrote. “I therefore set high expectations for their performance.”

Wagner believes students should “learn how to learn.” Former students agree with his style. “He has consistently held me to the highest standards of academic research and integrity, while simultaneously challenging me to expand my intellectual capacity, to think creatively ‘outside the box,’ and to ‘push the envelope,’ ” wrote one student. “He has afforded me the intellectual freedom to find my own niche within academia.”

In addition to his dedication to his students, Wagner is thoroughly involved with service to the University and to his own profession. He is chair of the Special Committee on Institutional Review Board Integration, Council on Research. He is a member of the University Senate and is serving on the University Senate Executive Committee. He spent nearly two years on the College of Arts and Sciences Academic Support Committee, including one year as chair, and has been president of the New York State Sociological Association. Wagner has served on the editorial board of three publications, and as a reviewer for 11 publications.

Currently the recipient of a grant from the University’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, Wagner has written one book, been co-author of one more and has written 24 articles in refereed journals such as the American Journal of Sociology and American Sociological Review. An avid participant in sociological conferences, Wagner has been awarded two separate SUNY Faculty Research Awards, as well as an American Sociological Association Problems of the Discipline grant.