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Excellence Awards

Excellence in Teaching 2005

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

Lee FranklinLee Franklin
Lee Franklin was hired by the Department of Philosophy in 2000. Students and colleagues alike attest to his ability to foster student interest in difficult topics. Franklin has taught Introduction to Philosophical Topics and Ancient Philosophy, and goes out of his way to kindle student interest whether he is teaching a large lecture or addressing a small group.

"As a specialist in ancient philosophy, Lee faces the standard challenge of making clear the relevance of, say, Aristotle, to a 21st-century undergraduate without losing track of the historical context of the work. When I observed his undergraduate course, I watched him do this with grace, subtlety, and humor," wrote colleague Ron McClamrock.

Franklin willingly takes on a large lecture class almost every semester, which makes his high student evaluation scores even more striking, and seeks new ways to improve his already outstanding teaching skills.

One student noted that Franklin established a "conversation-like atmosphere" with the class by encouraging questions and responding to them. The student wrote, "By establishing a rapport with the class, he, like Socrates and Plato, was able to advance the learning process through a series of questions and answers."

David McDowallDavid McDowall
David McDowall of the School of Criminal Justice teaches the school's three-course quantitative sequence for Ph.D. students, and ensures UAlbany students leave with the best possible training in statistical methods. McDowall also serves as editor of the Journal of Quantitative Criminology. Dean Julie Horney wrote that students often approach the subject of statistics with some trepidation. "Professor McDowall, however, not only possesses a rare quantitative sophistication, but he puts tremendous effort into making his courses accessible to students," she noted.

He previously received an outstanding teacher award from the school's Graduate Student Association. "The students appreciate the great effort Professor McDowall makes in order to make difficult subjects non-intimidating to students without lowering his expectations or watering down the course content," Horney wrote.

She added, "The contributions David McDowall makes to our school help to keep us in the forefront of the criminal justice field as we produce students who go out to make their own significant contributions to research on crime and justice."

Professor Alan Lizotte teaches the required four-course statistics/research methods sequence with McDowall for the Ph.D. program in criminal justice. Lizotte teaches the design courses, while McDowall teaches statistics. Lizotte noted, "Many people teach Ph.D.-level statistics as a tour de force, dragging students kicking and screaming through the alien material. David does just the opposite. He makes advanced statistics user friendly.

In addition, McDowall is a tireless contributor to comprehensive exam and dissertation committees.

Rabi MusahRabi Musah
Rabi Musah of the Department of Chemistry joined the University in 1998. Known as a riveting speaker who is effective at communicating difficult concepts, Musah gives generously of her time in and outside of the classroom. Among the courses she has taught are Organic Chemistry, Experimental Methods of Organic Structure Determination, and Chemistry Biochemistry.

She participates in the Ronald McNair Scholar Program each summer, devoting seven hours a day for seven weeks as the faculty mentor to several undergraduate researchers. She has also served as a guest lecturer in WSS 590, Research Seminar, where she has discussed her work on the chemistry of African traditional medicine and her efforts to fund this research.

One student who has worked for Musah as an undergraduate research assistant noted,"Reflecting back on my first encounters with her, I remember being particularly struck by her approach to chemistry and me – as if it were an art and I was her apprentice – and time was of no consequence. I could sense a genuine love, fascination, and unyielding curiosity for her field, and a sincere desire to foster and develop my interest in the field."

Christopher J. SmithChristopher J. Smith
Christopher J. Smith of the Department of Geography and Planning is a Fulbright Scholar this academic year in the Hong Kong America Center at Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is pursuing his principal teaching interests, which are China, world urbanism, urban social geography, and advanced urban geography.

With the exception of several short breaks, Smith has been with the department since 1980. A previous chair described him as a "departmental treasure." He is a distinguished and internationally recognized scholar for whom excellence in research and teaching are inextricably linked.

His world-ranging interests are informed by travel, which has included research, field experiences, and college teaching in China (at Xibei Daxue and at Hong Kong Baptist University), New Zealand, Scotland, and in the University of Pittsburgh's Semester at Sea program.

"Above all, Professor Smith speaks with a real authority, an authority that students immediately recognize and respect," noted colleagues Youqin Huang and John Pipkin.

A former student of Smith's wrote: "There was a time when I thought all geographers wore 'pith' helmets, sat on a mountaintop, and scanned the horizon with binoculars wrapped around their necks. However, Dr. Smith, with great patience, was able to demonstrate the broad influence that geography has on all the human sciences."