University of Rochester

Goergen Awards Recognize Excellence in Teaching at Rochester

October 14, 2010

Praised by fellow faculty members, students, and alumni as "passionate," "influential," and "caring," three University of Rochester professors from the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering will be awarded 2010 Goergen Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. The University will recognize this year's winners during a luncheon and awards ceremony at noon on Friday, Oct. 15, in the Meliora Grand Ballroom of the Frederick Douglass Building.

Named for and sponsored by alumnus, trustee, and former board chairman Robert B. Goergen and his wife, Pamela, the Goergen Awards recognize faculty members who have made substantial contributions to the undergraduate experience at the University. This year's recipients, chosen from among the University's more than 300 faculty members, are Carmala Garzione, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences; Kenneth Gross, professor of English; and Renato Perucchio, professor of mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering.

Carmala Garzione's students and colleagues say she inspires students by challenging and supporting them. Students call her an "insightful lecturer" who constantly tries to improve the course material and the way she presents it.

"Professor Garzione is one of the most dynamic, encouraging, and inspiring teachers I have ever met," says Mary Dzaughis '11 in a letter supporting Garzione's nomination.

Udo Fehn, professor emeritus of earth and environmental science, praises Garzione's adoption of the workshop approach to the introductory geology course she began teaching in the fall of 2007. With this approach, Garzione invites the best undergraduates from the previous year's course to help students master the material.

"The basic idea is that students learn better when, in addition to the traditional lecture approach, they directly interact with other students who have already taken the course in the year before," Fehn writes in a nomination letter.

Garzione also is credited for encouraging learning opportunities outside the classroom, allowing many students to work or volunteer in her lab or taking students as far as Bolivia and Peru to assist with her field research.

"Carmala is a very gifted teacher who combines the right amount of enthusiasm with the seriousness of an ambitious researcher in her field," Fehn adds.

"Carmala thrives as a teacher because she couples expectation with opportunity," says David Auerbach '09 (MS). "She provides the tools that her students need to be successful, and she simultaneously expects that they will take advantage of those tools to thrive."

For Timothy Green '03, recollections of the Small Literature of the Bible course he took with Professor Ken Gross come easily. "We'd all sit around a conference table arguing passionately about these ancient stories," Green says. "Professor Gross always encouraged dissent, and even more, creativity."

Gross, who also serves as director of undergraduate studies for the English department, has used some unconventional methods of learning in his class, incorporating puppets and props to help engage students in the course material.

"Ken has a deep respect for the intellectual capacities of his undergraduate students. While his classes were often jokey and informal in tone, there was nothing cheap or pandering about this approach. Ken expected us to follow him, to rise to his level—and for the most part, it worked," says Lina Perkins Wilder '99.

While at Rochester, Gross has taught courses on Shakespeare, Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, lyric poetry, and modern drama, among other topics. He also has worked on several of the theatre program's Shakespearean productions; as a dramaturge Gross helps students to fully develop into their roles.

James Longenbach, the Joseph Henry Gilmore Professor of English, says he has seen the impact Gross has on students.

"Students walk away from his classes having seen not only the material at hand but having seen themselves. Their confidence in their own intellectual capacities has been confirmed," wrote Longenbach in his nomination letter. "Within the classroom and without, he makes literature a living, breathing thing, and every undergraduate who has passed through Morey Hall has—whether they've taken a class from Ken or not—been invigorated by Ken's intelligence and generosity."

Renato Perucchio's dedication to teaching engineering and his passion for history and archaeology have had a profound impact on undergraduate curriculum through the newly created Archaeology, Technology, and Historical Structures (ATHS) program. As director of this multidisciplinary program, Perucchio works with faculty across the College to develop lesson plans, exercises, and course materials from scratch. The ATHS program was designed to attract both engineering and non-engineering students, bringing in disciplines including classics, history, and art, as well.

"Dr. Perucchio is a respected colleague, an original and authoritative scholar and, above all, a dedicated and innovative teacher," says Emil Homerin, professor of religion.

Perucchio's students agree. David Simpson '11, who is majoring in mechanical engineering and pursuing a minor in classics, worked with Perucchio as a Xerox Undergraduate Research Fellow. The pair studied the structural mechanics of the Baths of Diocletian, a Roman bath complex.

"With certainty I can say that Professor Perucchio is one of the most popular professors in the department and is well known for his dynamic teaching style and love for all things engineering and classical," he explains. "He has a unique way of engaging his students throughout the course, using his own enthusiasm to make learning fun."

Throughout his 25-year career at Rochester, Perucchio has supported students as a mentor and research supervisor, and he has led countless students through tours of Rome's ancient structures.

"Renato's students are profoundly impressed with his pedagogy and clearly very inspired by his enthusiasm," says Alfred Clark, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering, and mathematics. "He is the kind of teacher that makes students aware of what it means to be a mechanical engineer. He has high standards but he is kind—there is encouragement and guidance but absolutely no intimidation in his teaching."