Ten faculty to receive Distinguished Teaching Awards

April 8, 2009

Ten faculty will receive this year’s Distinguished Teaching Awards. A ceremony and reception are scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 22, in the Lee Lounge at the Pyle Center.

This year’s honorees are:

Photo of Bolt


Daniel Bolt, professor of educational psychology, Chancellor’s Award

Bolt has a reputation as “the person to go to when one needs to learn anything about quantitative methods,” writes his nominator, Charles Kalish, professor and chair of the department of educational psychology. Bolt teaches both introductory and advanced courses in quantitative methods both to students who are simply fulfilling a statistics requirement and to those who will need to apply what they’ve learned in their future academic and professional pursuits. A doctoral student wrote that “Students were literally sitting in the hallway in order to attend his class.”

Bolt is committed to and excels at “ensuring that students achieve a deep and functional understanding of even the most complicated statistical techniques,” writes Kalish. Bolt’s teaching philosophy, in fact, relates to the importance of reaching students of varying abilities.

“I think one of the most challenging but critically important roles of a teacher in applied statistics is to appreciate and reach out to students of varying levels of mathematical sophistication,” says Bolt. “I feel it is important to ensure that each class meeting has something that reaches each of these segments of the class.”

Bolt succeeds in this goal, writes Amy Atwood, a graduate student in the department. “It is common for people of Dr. Bolt’s exceptional intellect to find it difficult to simplify concepts enough for a layperson to comprehend,” she writes. “Some students want to know everything about a method, while others simply want to understand the basics. Dr. Bolt works to ensure that everyone gains practical knowledge from his teaching, no matter how advanced their methodology backgrounds may be or what they may want from the class.”

Atwood adds, “It has been interesting over the years to overhear conversations between other students discussing how much they like his classes and how surprised they are because they could not ever imagine enjoying a statistics class.”

One of Bolt’s colleagues even audited one of Bolt’s courses during a sabbatical. “I decided that my knowledge on multilevel modeling needed to be extended,” writes Professor Bruce Wampold. “I should mention that the class was standing-room only! Professor Bolt could limit enrollment, but he chooses to accommodate students because he wants them to acquire the statistical skills necessary to conduct quality social-science research. Even then, he gives individual attention to any student who requests it. Dedicated is an understatement.”

Bolt clearly embraces his role as teacher. “One of the most enjoyable aspects of teaching courses in applied statistical methods is the opportunity it provides to interact with students from a wide variety of disciplines,” he says. “The examples students bring to class and ask about are remarkably diverse and provide me with ongoing challenges in thinking about limitations as well as the potential of the methods I teach.”



Kenneth Goldstein, professor of political science, Chancellor’s Award

Teaching “is who I am,” says Goldstein. “I like politics, I like American politics, I like campaigns, but what I enjoy most is teaching.”

Goldstein’s research and practical experience in politics are infused into his teaching, writes nominator John Coleman, chair of the Department of Political Science. Goldstein’s Wisconsin Advertising Project analyzes all political advertising aired in the top media markets in the United States, and the work has been cited in many top media outlets, including The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune and the Wall Street Journal.

Goldstein also founded and is director of the Wisconsin NewsLab, which is the most comprehensive collection of news coverage on local television stations ever gathered. The NewsLab has captured and archived local news from a random sample of the top 50 U.S. media markets in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2007, giving scholars a chance to use long-standing data to investigate long-standing questions, writes Coleman.

Two hundred undergraduates have worked in the NewsLab or on the Wisconsin Advertising Project. “His work has been inspirational, with many students describing their experience working on these projects as life-changing events,” Coleman adds. “Ken Goldstein is the first political scientist at the University of Wisconsin to have such a direct hand in teaching so many undergraduates about the research process.”

Former undergraduate Benjamin Taibleson writes, “it was there, out of the classroom, that Professor Goldstein taught me the most about how to think rigorously and analytically. I learned from him that intellectual integrity was an enormous part of conducting important and meaningful research — and I learned that it was not just social-science research that was improved by that kind of integrity.”

Goldstein excels with his creativity in the classroom, writes Coleman. “This semester, Goldstein is teaching a course overload to teach undergraduate students how to put together a television program. The result will be a 15-part series running on the Big Ten Network that will profile the university and various faculty.”

Students cite Goldstein’s ability to use anecdotes to illustrate concepts and his ability to present lectures in an engaging way among his strengths. Writes one student evaluator: “Taking this class has spoiled my ability to pay attention in other lectures because Goldstein teaches so well that other profs can’t compete.”



Richard Goodkin, professor of French and Italian, Chancellor’s Award

Goodkin has taught everything ranging from French language courses to graduate seminars, specializing in 17th century French literature, and in doing so has developed a reputation as a professor who prizes interaction with students in the classroom and who devotes himself to responding to students’ work, writes nominator Anne Vila, chair of the department.

Professor Bill Berg adds that Goodkin is “not just an excellent teacher, he is a consummate educator.” The Department of French and Italian prides itself on its quality of teaching, and Goodkin’s student evaluations place him consistently among the top two or three professors in the department. Although the department’s undergraduate program has focused mainly on literature, with students now combining their studies in French with other disciplines, Goodkin developed a course on French cinema and another in French literature in translation.

Goodkin also encourages students to be full participants in his classes, writes Berg. “Rather than seeking to dazzle the student with the power of his own insights, Richard Goodkin seeks to empower the student to develop his or own insights and methods for communicating them in speaking and writing,” Berg adds.

Goodkin acts a mentor to his students, through extensive preparation for each class, interaction with students and constructive criticism. “He invites a good discussion and encourages you to think in ways you wouldn’t have otherwise,” one student writes.

“Beyond being fundamental to my formal academic education, Professor Goodkin has also shown me what it takes to be an extraordinary teacher outside of the classroom,” writes Ph.D. candidate Kristina Kosnick. “I am grateful for the countless hours of his own time he has spent engaging my questions and concerns, prompting me to conceptualize my ideas in new ways and suggesting interesting foreign films for the weekend.”

Goodkin’s philosophy on teaching reveals his dedication to his students. “Teachers must bring to their students two sets of skills: one requiring constant compromises, the other absolute adherence. The first involves finding methods for presenting material in a way that the least well-prepared students need and the best-equipped students benefit from,” he says. “The second relates to making students feel at ease with and passionate about learning: never treating a question as foolish, always showing students respect and expecting it from them, and never second-guessing their seriousness.”



Douglas Hill, professor of music and Emily Mead Baldwin-Bascom Professor in the Creative Arts, Chancellor’s Award

Many of Hill’s most important early role models were teachers, with his primary musical influence being his junior high school music teacher, Kenneth Freese. “He took me under his wing and nurtured what had already become my focus and my identity, which was music, and all that that could be,” Hill says.

Initially, Hill pursued a professional career as a horn player, but early in his performance career, teaching others began to take precedence. “I soon realized that to share what I knew and what I could do and to thus be much more directly and personally involved in the development of specific musical talents, while still being able to continue to grow as a performer myself, was the balanced life that I truly wished to pursue,” he says. “I’ve been lucky.”

On the UW–Madison faculty for more than 30 years, Hill attracts undergraduate and graduate students from around the country to the horn studio, writes nominator John Schaffer, director of the School of Music. “Many of them come to study with him despite receiving little or no funding, simply because they see the inherent value of studying with one of the top teachers in the country,” Schaffer writes. “His teaching style is always about the student.”

Former graduate student Adam Unsworth writes, “I have never played for a teacher who could make a diagnosis on my playing more quickly and accurately, and then delve into his vast warehouse of teaching knowledge to effectively fix each problem.” With Hill’s teaching, Unworth moved on to a professional career performing with the Detroit Symphony and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Hill also has literally written the book on how to teach the horn, writes Schaffer. The book “Collected Thoughts on Teaching and Learning, Creativity and Horn Performance” is nationally thought to be the preeminent text for horn pedagogues, performers and students alike.

Hill says, “I believe strongly that the best way for the student to learn and grow and the best way for the teacher to learn and teach is through the ‘responsible student/respond-able teacher’ approach. If the student can learn to accept the responsibility to present their self-identified needs and their personal solutions at each lesson, then I can help most if I respond and assist, enhance and expand upon their process. Thus, they own the lesson, and they own the solutions. I am only a facilitator helping them to discover what they already know.”



Rudy Koshar, George L. Mosse WARF Professor of History and Religious Studies, Chancellor’s Award

Koshar is the “cornerstone of the department’s scholarship and teaching of the history of modern Europe,” writes nominator David McDonald, professor and chair of the Department of History. Koshar regularly teaches the department’s large introductory undergraduate survey course on Europe since 1815, and he also offers a wider variety of undergraduate lecture courses than any of his colleagues.

Koshar’s current area of research is the history of European religious thought, and he recently created a new course on the subject. “This course constitutes a valuable addition in an unjustly neglected area of interest, as well as a contribution to the university’s major in religious studies,” McDonald writes.

Indeed, Koshar’s teaching springs from his research interests. “My teaching has always proceeded from my scholarship, or at least from my scholarly interests,” he says, “and then reshaped my research as I respond to students and recognized problems or issues in the historical narratives I developed.”

It is his “reinvention” as a historian that make Koshar stand out among his colleagues, writes history professor Laird Boswell. “Koshar’s research has moved from the social history of modern Europe to the problem of German memory to automobility and leisure in the 20th century and finally to a growing interest in the history of German theology,” Boswell writes. “Koshar has reinvented himself in the classroom by developing a series of new lecture courses and seminar that mirror his research interests.” Koshar has taught seven different lecture courses since 2002 (most history department faculty have two to four lecture courses they offer regularly).

Koshar has taught hundreds of graduate students in the cultural, religious and social history of modern Europe and has been a major adviser to 18 doctoral students since coming to the university in 1991. “It can be a terrifying thing for a student who knows so little to ask a question of a professor who knows so much, yet I have never felt this way about Professor Koshar,” writes 2006 alumna Carolyn Averill. “Not only does he provide you with what you need to success in his classroom (and beyond), he also gently reminds his students to take care of themselves and one another during an upcoming Halloween weekend. If more professors taught with the openness, fairness and dedication that this man does, our university would be greater still.”



Thomas R. Kratochwill, Sears Roebuck Foundation — Bascom Professor of Educational Psychology, Van Hise Outreach Teaching Award

For more than three decades, Kratochwill has been recognized as a leading scholar in school psychology and an outstanding educator of professional and research psychologists at the national and international levels.

“One of the most enjoyable things about teaching seasoned psychologists and other mental-health professionals is the challenge that they provide to make my presentations relevant and critical to their practice,” says Kratochwill. “It is that challenge that always keeps my teaching and research grounded in the realities of practice.”

Kratochwill has taught a wide range of courses, including those in the areas of assessment, intervention research and professional issues. His work is required reading in virtually all graduate programs in school psychology in the U.S.

“His strong empirical background and excellent teaching skills have enabled him to be an engaging, versatile contributor to the instructional offerings in our department,” says Ronald Serlin, chair of the Department of Educational Psychology.

Kratochwill received his Ph.D. in educational psychology from UW–Madison in 1973 and was recruited back to the university in 1983 after several years on the faculty at the University of Arizona.

He was hired as director of the School Psychology Program in the School of Education and was a major leader in developing it into the top-rated program of its kind in the nation.

Today, Kratochwill is the director of the School Psychology Program and the Educational and Psychological Training Center, an interdisciplinary unit for clinical and applied training. He is also co-director of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Education Resource Center.

“His research and writings on problem-solving consultation and school-based interventions have become centerpieces of many school improvement efforts designed to enhance the success of all students and support educators as they strive to promote positive student outcomes,” writes Serlin.

Serlin adds it is impossible to adequately address the innumerable ways in which Kratochwill has impacted educational practices. “Whether working with individual students, educators, schools, school districts, or state educational agencies, Tom’s outreach has been felt in every corner of the United States.”

A former student writes, “Other scholars with similar career-long accomplishments and recognition might seclude themselves in an ivory tower, writing scholarly research articles and securing funding to move their research agenda forward. This does not apply to Tom. Although he is fully engaged in research, his scholarly endeavors are situated squarely within an applied arena with a direct focus on integrating science and practice and supporting educators and parents to promote positive outcomes for learners.”

That kind of feedback from his students gives Kratochwill great satisfaction, which he also gets from the many practicing psychologists who have attended his workshops and lectures.

“There is nothing more satisfying than receiving a message from one of the participants in a workshop or session who reports that what I taught them made a difference in the life of a child, a family or the community,” says Kratochwill.



Kristyn Masters, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, Emil H. Steiger Award

Colleagues of Masters describe her as a highly talented academic and scholar who has demonstrated excellence in numerous aspects of biomedical engineering education, including course development, innovative instruction methods, research in engineering education, and campus-wide promotion of teaching and mentoring improvement.

“In less than five years, she has had an extraordinary impact on engineering education and is currently disseminating this work to broader audiences at national and international conferences,” says her department chair, Robert Radwin. “Her activities in teaching and learning stand out as exemplary not only in our department, but in the College of Engineering and on the Madison campus as a whole. Our department, college and campus have all benefited from her innovation and passion for education.”

Masters began teaching at UW–Madison in the fall of 2004, and quickly demonstrated a profound dedication to teaching, says Radwin.

In her first year, she attended five different teaching-related workshops, initiated outreach collaboration with a local high school, formed a collaboration with the Delta Program in Research, Teaching and Learning, and developed two new courses.

She developed an interdisciplinary course, Political, Ethical, Social and Global Issues in BME, which offers an issues-based approach to learning technical concepts while training students how to be responsible scientist and science-literate citizens.

She has done research to find out why instructors are reluctant to include ethics material in their courses.

“Many universities are trying to tackle the challenge of introducing ethics into the engineering curriculum, and Professor Masters has certainly emerged as a leader in this area,” says Radwin.

Masters employs nine graduate students and five undergraduates in her lab.

She is a faculty adviser for the Society of Women Engineers chapter and a member of the Biomedical Engineering Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.

“I have always been slightly unsure about the concept of pursuing a career in a research-dominated field,” says one of her students, “but if any of my future work environments are as welcoming and supportive as the one that Kristyn creates, I would not hesitate to join them. She is excited about her research, and that enthusiasm is contagious.”

April Zehm, an M.D. candidate in the School of Medicine and Public Health, says Masters displays a genuine concern for her students on both the academic and personal levels and is a great role model, particularly for females in science and engineering.

“Her high levels of commitment, confidence and sense of focus predict that she will continue to motivate her students and help them achieve their educational and professional goals for many years to come.”

Masters says her favorite part of teaching is directly interacting with a diverse range of students.

“Their creativity is often quite invigorating and inspiring, and I am frequently amazed at what our students are able to brainstorm and accomplish. I also find it extremely satisfying when the classroom transforms into a mutual learning environment, where both the students and I come away from class with new knowledge and experiences. I greatly enjoy lively classroom discussions, where students engage each other in discussing or debating a concept, and I am able to become more of a learning facilitator, rather than teacher,” says Masters. “This is somewhat amusing and ironic, as I personally went through my entire undergraduate and graduate education without raising my hand or volunteering an answer even once!”



Jenny Saffran, professor of psychology, Chancellor’s Award

When asked what she enjoys most about teaching, Saffran says the question was hard to answer. “If I have to pick one thing, it is encouraging students to think in new ways and to care about what they are learning.”

Saffran says she gets the most satisfaction from “that moment when you see a spark in a student’s eyes or a rapt silence in the classroom and you know that your students are not just listening, but that they are also actively thinking for themselves!”

Saffran joined the Department of Psychology faculty in 1997 after earning her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Rochester. Her research and teaching are focused on learning and child development.

Her colleagues describe her as an exceptional and innovative teacher, an outstanding scholar, and a wise, caring and highly effective mentor.

“Professor Saffran is a scholar-teacher in the classic mold,” says Patricia Devine, chair of the psychology department. “She delights in sharing her knowledge with her students, and her enthusiasm leads them to excel. She teaches courses ranging from first-year undergraduate seminars to large lecture courses to advanced graduate seminars. In all of these venues her primary goal is to encourage critical thinking and argumentation.”

Saffran’s reputation as an outstanding classroom instructor has resulted in invitations to share her teaching techniques at multiple symposia during the past decade, including the Teaching Academy’s summer workshop.

According to her colleagues, many of Saffran’s most valuable teaching experiences have occurred in her lab in the course of mentoring undergraduates engaged in their first independent research projects.

She is highly engaged in her students’ research and has supervised numerous independent research projects, many of which have been published in top journals with undergraduate students as co-authors.

“It is clear that these experiences, working closely with an engaged faculty member, have been a powerful influence on her students,” says Devine.

Saffran has been actively involved as a mentor in the Undergraduate Research Scholars program and has worked closely with students in the Psychology Research Experiences Program, which is designed to bring to the campus excellent students from groups that are underrepresented in academia.

She developed the innovative Undergraduate Teaching Fellows program in her department. It provides students with the opportunity to get academic leadership experience by leading their peers in optional discussion sections for Saffran’s course on child psychology.

Writing in support of her nomination, Erik Thiessen, one of Saffran’s former graduate students and now an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University, says that Saffran taught him that “teaching is as important a part of being a university professor as research is and one is incomplete without the other.”

“Jenny has devoted her professional career to creating knowledge, but also to passing that knowledge on and giving others the tools to create knowledge themselves. This is the ideal of being a professor that I am trying to live up to,” writes Thiessen.



Patrick Sims, assistant professor of theatre and drama Class of 1955 Distinguished Teaching Award

When Sims sees young students who are hungry for knowledge like he was, he gets a kick out of giving them a heads up on life and showing them that learning can happen in a variety of ways.

“If I can help them make their own mistakes and not mine or the ones my generation made, then I’m satisfied knowing a new lesson has been learned and that my students understand their responsibility to give someone else a heads up. The key,” says Sims, “is to figure out what you’re going to do with the lessons learned.”

Shortly after he came to the Department of Theatre and Drama in 2004, he founded and became director of the Theatre for Cultural and Social Awareness, a service-learning outreach initiative in which students engage in critical analysis of plays, films, personal experiences and current events surrounding race, gender, sexual orientation, power and privilege.

“These are all topics which demand a greater social awareness, but lack meaningful and respectful discourse,” writes department chair Ann Archbold in support of Sims’ award nomination.

The initiative reaches beyond the campus, providing quality theatrical-based staff trainings in a non-threatening manner designed to enhance cultural competencies in schools, communities, and workplaces.

“The very qualities that his performances and workshops try to represent in a theatrical learning environment are truly a part of what makes Patrick’s work so special,” says Tony Simotes, director of University Theatre. “The tough social questions of racism, sexism, sensitivity to sexual orientations, and hate speech in general are put into theatrical scenes and presented to groups as a means of opening up dialogue and discussion among the participants.”

Sims also works closely with Willie Ney and the service-learning component of the First Wave Spoken Word and Urban Arts Learning Community.

“In both of these capacities, Patrick excels as a teacher and innovator,” said Archbold.

“Students who take his classes find that they emerge changed in their perception of others and are more aware of their own responsibilities toward a tolerant society.”

“Patrick’s students, including myself, did not just learn in his class. We thrived,” said Stefanie Jones. “I once suggested that his TCSA class should be a requirement for every student at this university. In order to truly be able to advance in any field, from the sciences to the arts to business, we need to work across our differences.”

Sims also teaches conventional acting classes and occasionally takes on a theater research class titled African-American Performance.

“In both he shows the ability to adapt his service-learning methods to the course content in order to enliven student learning. He is a popular and well-regarded teacher in these courses,” says colleague Mike Vanden Heuvel.

Sims serves on the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission and volunteers for local arts groups.



Scott Straus, associate professor of political science and international studies, William H. Kiekhofer Distinguished Teaching Award

Straus arrived at UW–Madison in 2004 after earning his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in political science from the University of California–Berkeley.

John Coleman, chair of the political science department, says his award nomination was unprecedented, given that he is only in his fifth year on the faculty.

“Scott Straus requires us to break the mold. He has achieved an unusually high level of excellence and, based on his research, he specializes in teaching a subject that is extremely challenging.”

That subject is genocide.

“Genocide evokes the strongest possible emotions and is an area fraught with teaching challenges,” says Coleman. “To be able to teach it analytically and focus students on social science investigation rather than advocacy takes a special kind of instructor.”

Coleman says that Straus is one of the most visible and respected scholars of genocide in the world, and UW–Madison has recently fended off efforts by several other universities to hire him away.

Straus was a freelance journalist in East and Central Africa from 1995–98 and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for articles he wrote for the Houston Chronicle.

“I had a series of very intense experiences covering the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda,” says Straus. Those experiences led him to want to understand the origins of genocide, the causes and consequences of which he says are not well understood.

“It is really an awesome opportunity to be able to take a class about human rights from someone who has had so much real-life, impactful experience in the field,” said one of his students. “The lectures make it obvious that he’s more than knowledgeable and his passion for his subject is infectious.”

Steve Stern, vice provost for faculty and staff, says Straus’s accomplishments as an educator are not limited to classroom instruction.

He has been a consultant for the Genocide Prevention Task Force co-chaired by Madeleine Albright and William Cohen and has actively shared the results of his research with media and the public.

Straus has organized and helped raise money for the Symposium on Humanitarian Intervention After 9/11, and he is the coordinator of the Human Rights Initiative for the Division of International Studies.

“He has been the key faculty coordinator and inspiration of the Human Rights Initiative, a multidisciplinary group that has brought speakers to campus for talks well-attended by students and deepened their interest in human rights as an evolving field of knowledge and action,” says Stern. “He has proven critical in the development of a scholarly agenda that will culminate in a conference on human rights, resilience and vulnerability in the spring of 2011.”

“Scott Straus lives out a teaching creed in which the purpose is to reach each and every student one-on-one and thereby overcome the supposed structural constraints of a large public university,” says colleague Edward Friedman.

Straus cherishes the opportunity to get to know young people who are eager to learn.

“I love turning them on to ideas or helping them see issues and questions in new ways.”

Also to be recognized at the April 22 event will be Susan Hagness, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who is nominated for the UW System’s Alliant Energy Underkofler Excellence in Teaching Award, and Michael Cox, a professor in the Department of Chemistry, who is nominated for the Regents Teaching Excellence Award.