A gift from an appreciative alumna will recognize and help graduate teaching assistants in the department of history at the University of Rochester.
Debra Meyers, who received both her master's and doctoral degrees from the University, has presented a donation to the department that will fund an annual prize for a graduate student who has excelled in teaching.
The award will be based on undergraduate evaluations and letters of support from faculty, which will be reviewed by the department's Graduate Studies Committee. The prize will be awarded for the first time during commencement this May. Students who assisted during the fall semester or who will be assisting in a course in the spring are eligible to apply.
"Teaching in today's job market is highly valued, as it should be, and this type of recognition for work well-done is extremely significant," said Alice Conklin, associate professor and director of graduate studies. "Schools are looking for strong teachers and put weight on these awards."
Meyers is an assistant professor at Long Island University CW Post Campus, an appointment she received not long after being awarded her doctorate in 1997. She credits her education in Rochester with her swift placement.
"In today's market it's difficult for Ph.Ds to find positions," she comments. "Since I was offered a tenure track position so quickly, I think the University deserves some of the credit. The school's status and the fine preparation the history department gave me proved essential for my success."
Meyers' graduate work in Rochester focused on colonial American history, but she also completed minors in women's studies and African-American history. Her advisors were John Waters, Stanley Engerman, and Larry Hudson, and she did her doctoral dissertation on "Religion, Women and the Family in Maryland, 1634-1713."
During her five graduate years Meyers worked as a teaching assistant with Celia Applegate and Daniel Borus, and also assisted Waters and Hudson.
"All of those experiences were very important for my development as a teacher," she recalls. "I learned a lot from these professors about how to teach and what to expect from students, but also their personal interactions with students were enlightening." The experience helped determine how her donation would be used when she discussed her gift with department chair Robert Westbrook.
"I thought that one way to show my appreciation and commend the department was to do something that also helped the graduate students," she explains. "I felt that offering a prize in teaching was a great way to recognize the work of TAs, especially since most of the TAs at the University put forth 150 percent effort."
Meyers is a former Webster resident and Webster High School graduate who completed an associate's degree at Monroe Community College. Her husband's job kept the couple moving throughout the East Coast before they returned to the Rochester area in the late 1980s. Meyers enrolled in Nazareth College, where she earned her bachelor's degree in history and where she also lectured while completing her graduate degrees.
Meyers lives in Huntington, Long Island, and has been teaching courses in early American history since she joined the faculty of LIU in 1997.