Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Transparency, Diversity of Perspective Yield Teaching Award

Associate professor Joanne Robinson from the Religious Studies Department in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences is the 2012 recipient of the highest teaching honor bestowed by UNC Charlotte, the Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence.

James Tabor, chair of religious studies, described Robinson’s impressive teaching accomplishments: “I think I can say without the slightest exaggeration that no faculty member I know of, in our department or outside of it, has had more of a high quality educational, inspirational and life-mentoring influence on students than Professor Joanne Robinson.”

Robinson was selected from an esteemed list of finalists for the award. The other nominees were: Anabel Aliaga-Buchenau, associate professor of German; Sunil Erevelles, chair and associate professor of Marketing; Harold Henry “Hal” Jaus, professor of reading and elementary education; and Michael J. Turner, associate professor of kinesiology.

The announcement was made at a reception on Oct. 19, at Bank of America’s Founder’s Hall.  Robinson, an associate professor, and the other finalists were honored during an evening ceremony and gala attended by UNC Charlotte faculty members and their guests.

Since joining the Department of Religious Studies faculty in 1996, Robinson has received an impressive number of teaching-related awards and grants.  She received the B.E.S.T. (Building Educational Strengths and Talents) Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2008 and became a University College Faculty Fellow in 2010-11. She also has received funding and recognition from the Wabash Center in Indiana and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

According to Robinson, the key to her success as a teacher is transparency; by ensuring that the goals and outcomes of the course are transparent, she establishes a classroom ethos of mutual respect and high expectation. She extends this engaged and collegial intellectual atmosphere beyond the classroom. Her students describe weekly informal gatherings hosted by Robinson in which interested graduate and undergraduate students stop by her office for “playtime,” where they ask questions, discuss related issues and exchange ideas.

One graduate student wrote: “Dr. Robinson brings enthusiasm and openness to active student engagement that encourages a free exchange of ideas and diversity of perspective that make the course material accessible and interesting.” By creating a stimulating environment, Robinson has been able to cultivate a practice of intellectual courage and creativity among her students, achieving her goal of instilling “analytical sophistication about complex issues, even in the absence of solutions or agreement.”
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