Magazine On-line [summer 2008]
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Around the Campus

Faculty receive Bingham Awards, promotions, tenure

Five Transylvania professors have been recognized with Bingham Awards for Excellence in Teaching, and five other faculty members have been granted tenure and promotions.

History professor Gregg Bocketti, psychology professor Melissa Fortner ’96, psychology professor Mark Jackson, education professor Amy Maupin, and Robert England, who joins the computer science faculty in September, received Bingham Awards.

Bingham Awards are accompanied by annual salary supplements for five years. A committee comprised of outside educators selects the award recipients based on classroom visits, essays, and student evaluations.

Gregg Bocketti came to Transylvania in 2004 after earning a Ph.D. from Tulane University. With a primary focus in Latin America and the Caribbean, his aim as a teacher is to widen and deepen students’ knowledge and understanding of history, and to develop their abilities in discovering, examining, and responding to knowledge.

“While I expect students to absorb certain particularly significant historical details, I always emphasize that history is much more than the ‘names and dates’ approach students may be familiar with from high school,” he said. “Instead, I emphasize the importance of students’ understanding of general course themes, as this will make the course experience particularly useful in their larger academic and post-academic careers.”

Melissa Fortner came to Transylvania in 2004 after earning a Ph.D. from The Pennsylvania State University. She teaches courses ranging from Foundations of the Liberal Arts to Developmental Psychopathology, and is guided in her teaching by her understanding of the broad goals of liberal education—that liberal education promotes understanding of the human condition, of humanity itself.

Psychology courses, she said, provide students with a social scientific perspective on humanity. In her classes, she endeavors to communicate not just facts but methods. “I portray psychology as a dynamic, rather than static field of inquiry,” she said.

It is her intention to promote a love of learning for learning’s sake, not just as a way to motivate students to perform in the classroom. “If students are to embrace the goal of understanding the human condition, they must do so from personal desire,” she said. “Otherwise, learning dissolves into passive acceptance of facts and truths.”

Mark Jackson came to Transylvania in 2003 after earning a Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky. One of his goals as an educator is to help students understand that human behavior is complex and has complex causes. “Questions about why people do the things they do rarely, if ever, have simple answers,” he said, “and the origins of behavior rarely, if ever, can be traced back to a single cause.”

He said that achieving a deeper understanding of human behavior requires approaching issues from multiple perspectives and appreciating the complex interactions of the factors addressed in each perspective.

“I try to ensure that each course has a kind of narrative,” he said, “and doesn’t come across as a potpourri of loosely related topics. This helps students see the themes and bigger ideas inherent in the course content.”

Amy Maupin came to Transylvania in 2001 after earning an Ed.D. from the University of Tennessee and teaching at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.

Her goals as a professor of education are tied to her belief that the teacher should be one of society’s greatest public intellectuals. “The teacher,” she said, “should be the model of intellectual curiosity and an agent for change and social justice.”

To this end, she aims to inspire her students to ask the big questions, particularly, “What does it mean to be human?”

“I bombard my students with ‘why’ questions,” she said. “As often as possible I give students choices and ownership of the class. Because I teach constructivist pedagogy, it is especially important for me to incorporate such constructivist principles frequently.”

In choosing readings, she often steers clear of traditional textbooks, turning instead to philosophical essays, books by contemporary scholars, and literature, including poetry. The poet, she maintains, is the person who best keeps the question alive: what is my purpose and place in this world?

Promotions and tenure

Anthropology professor Chris Begley and philosophy professor Ellen Cox have been granted tenure and promotion to associate professor. Promotion to full professor has been granted to physical education/exercise science professor Sharon Brown, physics professor Jamie Day, and sociology professor Brian Rich.

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