teaching and learning excellence
The department was one of two that received the first Departmental Awards for Teaching and Learning Excellence given by the provost’s office. “We were very pleased,” said Dr. Margaret E. Daub, department head. “Our department has a long history of excellence in teaching. We’re glad the selection committee recognized that as well.”
The recognition did not come without effort. When the award program was first announced last fall, the department began putting together information. “The application was quite rigorous,” Daub said.
The Botany Department application included letters from alumni, faculty and other institutions, results of alumni and student surveys, and faculty awards. The department also outlined three ideals of its teaching and learning philosophy. The first ideal is that departmental activities are student centered and driven by needs of the department’s diverse student population.
Secondly, research and teaching are viewed by the department as inseparable and mutually beneficial. And finally, the department’s educational mission has no boundaries and extends beyond the department to the university and to a national and international audience of learners.
To the delight of botany faculty, the award comes with more than apples and a pat on the back. In addition to a one-time award of $5,000, the department received an award of $15,000 that will be used to support teaching; this teaching-support award will recur annually.
A department committee will examine unfunded teaching needs and decide how the money should be spent. “This award gives us more flexibility. Faculty all have wish lists of improvements they’d like to be able to offer their classes,” Daub said.
Many ideas for using the money have been put on the table, she said. Student fees provide quite a bit of money for things like equipment and field trips. The department may decide to fund needs such as improved technology and field manuals for plant identification.
“We want our students to have access to the best resources available,” she said.
The Botany Department includes 18 faculty members, 55 undergraduate majors and 33 graduate students. But the department counts among its students a large number of undergraduates who are not botany majors.
They are drawn to botany to study plant biology and plant physiology, as well as ecology and plant systematics. Other students, including humanities majors, take popular courses in medicinal plants, ethnobotany, and plants and civilization.
“Our educational mission is focused beyond our department. We reach out to students in all disciplines,” Daub said.
The Botany Department requires its undergraduates to participate in a research or teaching experience. Students may take a class on teaching and earn credits for assisting in labs. Upperclassmen who go through the class as well as an apprenticeship may be hired to teach a lab section.
Other students choose the research experience, either on campus or with nearby plant biotechnology firms. Some may work with Dr. Nina Allen, botany professor, in the state-of-the-art Cellular and Molecular Imaging Facility to create images of microscopic life. Others work with faculty involved in plant genetic engineering, plant cell biology and genetics, as well as plant ecology and systematics.
Botany faculty are proud of their achievement and delighted that outstanding teaching is being rewarded at the university. Said Daub, “This award shows our provost has a real commitment to teaching.”