Washington State Magazine

Winter 2004


Winter 2004

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In This Issue...

Features

How Cougar Gold Made the World a Better Place :: Washington may not yet have reached cheese heaven. But we're now well past the purgatory of cheese sameness. And we have the WSU Creamery, and Cougar Gold as a delicious standard, to thank for much of this progress.

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Gallery: The Cheesemaking Process at WSU :: Photography by Robert Hubner.}

Our Kind of Town :: Spokane is undeniably a beautiful place to live and raise a family. Its downtown is once again vibrant. But it takes more than attitude and livability to drive an economy. That's where higher education comes in.

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Story: It's Right Here: An interview with Spokane's economic development officer Tom Reese }

Ideas, Buildings, and Mirrors :: Torn between respect for its natural surroundings and a desire for cosmopolitan sophistication, Spokane lends a unique perspective to the notion that works of architecture reflect what a community thinks of itself.

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Gallery: Ideas, Buildings and Mirrors :: Photographs of Spokane by George Bedirian.}

Seen from the Street: Photographs of Spokane :: One lens. One photographer. A unique perspective on Spokane.

Maughan Brothers :: Following the death of her husband, H. Delight Maughan raised six children-while teaching full-time. Despite the challenge, she clearly did it right. All three of her scientist sons, Paul, David, and Lowell, have been honored with alumni achievement awards.

Panoramas

Departments

:: FROM THE PRESIDENT: Opening minds, setting lives on course

:: A SENSE OF PLACE: Plants of the Wild

:: SEASONS|SPORTS: Training Table

Tracking

Cover: Riverpark Square, downtown Spokane. Read the story. Photograph by Rajah Bose.

Perspective
Teaching Academy member Carol Sheppard (center) examines a research project with Shannon Reive (left), an undergraduate in the Honors College, and Harmony Borchardt-Wier, an entomology graduate student.

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Teaching Academy member Carol Sheppard (center) examines a research project with Shannon Reive (left), an undergraduate in the Honors College, and Harmony Borchardt-Wier, an entomology graduate student. Robert Hubner

Opening minds, setting lives on course

by | © Washington State University

In my conversations with alumni and supporters of Washington State University, the subject often turns to some teacher who opened their minds and set their lives on a new course. I am certainly no exception to that. I remember Professor Richard Wirthlin, who opened my mind to questions I would never have asked, and first introduced me to the notion of graduate school. Later, I was mentored and inspired by Clark Kerr, whose passion for excellence in higher education was infectious.

Some believe that this ability to teach and inspire is simply a gift that you either have or do not have. Certainly, it comes easier for some than others, but as one who has spent a lifetime in universities, I can tell you that good teaching, like any good art, is 90 percent perspiration. That work is easier if you have help. While I was a young professor here, I found that I had much to learn from master teachers on our faculty who were eager to help me. From Ralph Thayer I learned how to conduct a seminar. I watched and learned from outstanding faculty members like Howard Payne, Rom Markin, Paul Castleberry, Wallace Petersen, Don Bushaw, and others. The best faculty have always set the standard that the rest of us tried to reach.

The Washington State University strategic plan states that we will provide the best learning experience for undergraduate students in a research university. We adopted this goal because we know that to prepare our students to be part of what one author calls "the creative class"-his term for the intellectual and creative segment of our population on whom we increasingly depend for a competitive edge-we must give them opportunities to work with world-class researchers, scholars, and performers.
We strive to keep this goal foremost as we design and redesign the spaces and places that make up our campus learning environments. It is a driving factor in new program development, advising, and faculty and staff recruitment. We strive to foster an environment free of prejudice and open to new ideas and people.

With all of this, the learning process we seek to create still depends more on good teachers than any other factor. Most of us know from personal experience how much difference excellent teaching and mentoring makes. In reading a biography of Edward R. Murrow recently, I was deeply impressed by the account of his relationship with his mentor, Ida Lou Anderson, when he was in college here. Ms. Anderson had been deformed by polio, but this physical challenge did not dampen her spirit. Her teaching methods were unusual, and she used no notes and gave no examinations. Murrow was clearly her prize student, but an entire generation of students responded to her dedicated teaching. Murrow's biographer writes, "Under her influence he became a voracious reader, soaking up what he could, like a sponge, in every possible area, the beginnings of a lifelong curiosity about the world." (A. M. Sperber, Murrow, His Life and Times, Freundlich Books, 1986, p. 26).

In recognition of the importance of good teaching, and in an effort to provide a more effective way to spread our best practices, we have recently created the "President's Teaching Academy." The academy members were selected from many nominees across the University for their reputation as inspirational, creative teachers. At a dinner honoring the first class appointed to the academy, I sought their opinion as to why they were selected for this recognition and responsibility. In their comments, I heard dozens of ideas that would have made me a more effective teacher and, as they talked about their interaction with students, I was reminded of this statement that I once read in a teaching manual: "Our job is not to straighten people out, but to lift them up."

The academy includes some of our best teachers, and we are grateful that they have accepted the responsibility to help us realize our goal of providing the best undergraduate education. They are working to provide processes that will reach all faculty and encourage them to help each other in teaching, as they do in research and scholarship. In our earlier meeting I noted that, even as master teachers, members of the academy were learning from each other about how to be even more effective.

Vice Provost Doug Baker is taking the lead in providing the support for the academy and many other teaching and learning initiatives that involve hundreds of our staff and faculty through our new Office of Undergraduate Education. We will provide many opportunities for interchange and dialogue. The academy is working to raise our standards, provide opportunities to improve teaching, and establish measures of performance. I am lifted up by their efforts.

Categories: WSU faculty, Education | Tags: Research, Teaching

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