Heller Announces Winners of 2010 Teaching and Mentoring Awards

April 23, 2010

Every year the Heller School presents two faculty awards – one for excellence in teaching and one for excellence in mentoring. Nominations for either award may be made by current students or recent graduates of any of the five programs (PhD, MA, MS, MBA, and MPP). Beyond identifying and rewarding individual excellence in teaching and mentoring, this award process provides a way to advance a Heller-wide commitment to rigor and creativity in teaching and learning. Any Heller faculty or research/program staff member was eligible for this year's award if he or she taught any Heller graduate course or mentored students in any Heller graduate program in calendar year 2009.

A selection committee composed of faculty, students, staff and alumni reviewed nominations. The committee was guided by the number of nominations received as well as the content of the nomination letters and course evaluations. For the 2009-2010 academic year, the committee included:

  • Brenda Anderson
  • Janet Boguslaw
  • Doris Breay
  • Mary Brooks
  • Deborah Garnick
  • Leslie Godoff
  • Ricardo Godoy
  • Nina Kammerer
  • Maureen Stewart

Student representatives:

  • Jeff Bernstein
  • Elema Dido
  • Edward Ihejirika
  • Alec Mkwamba
  • Gambere Elijah Mwita
  • Abra Pollock
  • Amity Quinn
  • Sarong Vit-Kory

Teaching Award: Eric Olson

Professor Eric Olson received a PhD in Biology from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master's degree in Forest Science from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and a BA in Geology from Carleton College.

Professor Olson has been teaching at Heller since 2001. His current research focuses on the ecology of Nicaraguan water supplies and on natural enemy, herbivorous insect, and host plant interactions in the tropical dry forests of northwestern Costa Rica. His most recent paper, published in Current Biology on the first identified vegetarian spider, Bagheera Kiplingi, named this spider after the friendly panther in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book.

Heller School Dean Lisa Lynch said in presenting the award to Professor Olson, "The choice of the name for this spider gives you some insight into the rigor and humor that Professor Olson brings into the classroom. In his own words, Professor Olson 'excels in the teaching of basic scientific literacy to adults from an unusually broad range of educational, cultural and language backgrounds.' ”

His students say, “Prof. Olson has so much passion for the subject he teaches and hence is capable of transferring this enthusiasm to the students using clear, easy to grasp examples and sometime humorous anecdotes. He drives home important messages on environmental degradation, consequences of human action and moral responsibility of humans all to make us better development professionals and human beings.”

“He provides subject material in a variety of ways including bringing in rocks, soil and water from the field.”

“He is excited about what he teaches, responds well to student interests, stimulates interest with creativity, thought provoking questions, and pictures. He encourages involvement and participation. He is one of those teachers who not only transmit ideas but are able to implant the curiosity seed. After his class you keep thinking about what he said and you want to look for more.”

“He’s an approachable teacher. Students can see that he has a deep appreciation for what he’s teaching and this is inspiring for us.”

“Professor Olson should receive the teaching award for his dedication, preparedness, intelligence, expectations, humor, warmth, and for using a fishing pole during class.”

Mentoring Award: Lorraine Klerman

Professor Lorraine Klerman received a Master's and Doctorate in Public Health from Harvard University and a BA from Cornell University.

Dean Lynch said of Professor Klerman, "Lorraine has been a member of our faculty three times and we are so glad that she kept coming back! Lorraine’s major research interest is in the well-being of children. Her work integrates the fields of maternal and child health and child welfare. Lorraine is a prolific scholar, and it is no wonder that so many of our students nominated her for this year’s mentoring award." In their words:

“Lorraine kept me on my toes, carefully critiquing and commenting on my work and meeting with me numerous times to discuss papers or projects. She always listened, explained her thoughts, ideas, commentary, and critiques. Most importantly Lorraine was supportive. She made sure that when I came to her discourages or upset that I moved past those feelings into action, and each time, what was produced was far better than what had come before.”

“Although I was frustrated at times by the sheer number of comments and edits on the pages of my dissertation chapters I never doubted the wisdom of her feedback, and knew that ultimately her advice would strengthen my dissertation and my skills as an academic writer.”

“Despite making me feel like I am one of her only students, this is not the case. Indeed it floors me that she can be a mentor to so many while still producing first rate scholarship in the field of maternal and child health.”

“Lorraine stands out as a true mentor, and I feel so fortunate to have worked with her at Heller. She stands out because of her devotion to all of her students, her deep appreciation of what it takes to complete the PhD program, and her willingness to personally invest her time in the success of her students.”

2010 Teaching and Mentoring Award winners

L-R: Lorraine Klerman, 2010 Mentoring Award Winner; Dean Lisa Lynch; and Eric Olson, 2010 Teaching Award Winner.

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