Image: Millicent Abel Image: Laura Cruz
Millicent Abel
Laura Cruz
Image: Don Livingston Image: James Murphy
Don Livingston
James Murphy
Image: Will Peebles  
Will Peebles  

CULLOWHEE – Five Western Carolina University faculty members are in the running for Western's top teaching honor, the Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award, which will be presented during the spring General Faculty Meeting and Awards Convocation on Friday, April 22.

Established in 1976, the award is the highest honor given by Western in recognition of superior teaching. Winners are chosen through a two-stage process that includes nominations by students and faculty members, and a review of portfolios and classroom teaching videos by an awards committee composed of students and faculty. The recipient will receive a $1,000 honorarium and engraved plaque.

Nominees are listed, along with educational background and an excerpt from their teaching philosophies:

- Millicent Abel, professor of psychology, who began teaching at Western in 1992. Abel, a Sylva resident, earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and mathematics at Indiana University Southeast in 1979, and master's and doctoral degrees in experimental psychology at the University of Louisville in 1982 and 1988, respectively.

“My primary teaching goal is to instill a love of learning for its own sake,” Abel wrote. “If I can effectively impart the intrinsic motivation and excitement for learning, all else will follow."

“Therefore, two of my major responsibilities as a teacher are motivating students in the learning process and modeling the learning process as a lifelong commitment. In addition, a primary objective of instruction is not only to teach issues and concepts, but also critical thinking by encouraging students to analyze and process the issues and concepts.”

- Laura Cruz, assistant professor of history, who joined Western's faculty in 2002. A resident of Canton, Cruz earned a bachelor's degree in history and political science at Virginia Commonwealth University in 1990, a master's degree in history at Purdue University in 1994, and a doctoral degree in history at the University of California at Berkeley in 2001.

“Perhaps the most fundamental belief of my teaching philosophy is that every student has something to offer and every student is, in his or her own way, interesting and worth getting to know,” Cruz wrote.

“Through exercises such as role-playing, I try to accommodate and show appreciation for different talents and personalities in the classroom. The open environment provides students opportunities to make contributions tailored to their interests and abilities.”

- Don Livingston, professor of political science and public affairs, who began teaching at Western in 1984. A Dillsboro resident, Livingston earned a bachelor's degree in government and international studies at the University of South Carolina in 1972, a master's degree in international relations and comparative politics at the University of South Carolina in 1974, and a doctoral degree in American government, public administration, public law and international relations at the University of Mississippi in 1984.

“Effective teaching, in my opinion, requires an earnest effort on the part of the instructor to establish and nurture a personal mentoring relationship with students,” Livingston wrote. “This is why I think that it is so important that an instructor take the time to learn all the names of his students and new advisees at the beginning of each semester."

“I cannot honestly tell you that I have a teaching philosophy. I can only tell you that I truly believe that I have a gift, and that nothing gives me more pleasure and satisfaction that sharing that gift with those who enroll in my classes.”

- James Murphy, assistant professor of economics, who previously taught at Western from 1998 to 2000, and rejoined the faculty in 2001. Murphy, a resident of Cullowhee, earned a bachelor's degree in history at Emory University in 1986, a master's degree in business administration, business economics and international management at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in 1988, a master's degree in finance at Cornell University in 1989, a master's degree in economics at Georgia State University in 1996, and a doctoral degree in economics at Georgia State University in 2000.

“Providing students with a useful toolkit to interpret their economic surroundings is my primary goal,” Murphy wrote. “To achieve this objective, students often must creatively apply fundamental principles or relationships to new questions. To equip them to meet this challenge, my teaching methods emphasize active learning, collaboration, conceptual rigor and developing a rapport with students."

“I try to bring a sense of curiosity and enthusiasm to the classroom. Students are encouraged to ask questions and interact, both with me and their peers, to develop an understanding of their economic surroundings.”

- Will Peebles, professor of music, who joined Western's faculty in 1992. A Cullowhee resident, Peebles earned a bachelor's degree in social work in 1979, a master's degree in social work in 1980, a master's degree in applied music in 1982, and a doctoral degree in applied music in 1994 – all from Michigan State University.

“My goal is to teach my students to teach themselves,” Peebles wrote. “I do this by being honest about my own process of education, whether I am learning to perform a new piece of music or following up a lead on one of the many topics of which I am still ignorant."

“I do this by encouraging students to consider their own process of education, which may be different from mine, but which must be brought to consciousness in order to be enhanced. I do this by using whatever level of technology may be appropriate to the task.”

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Last modified: Friday, April 8, 2005
Copyright 2005 by Western Carolina University