LAWRENCE — Two University of Kansas faculty members were recently recognized for their creative and effective approaches to instruction.
Laura Mielke, associate professor of English, received the Byron T. Shutz Award for Excellence in Teaching. Evangelia Chrysikou, assistant professor of psychology, received the Ned N. Fleming Trust Teaching Award. Both awards, which were presented by Chancellor Douglas A. Girod at the annual KU Teaching Summit, recognize aspects of excellent instruction, including innovation and quality of teaching, intellectual content, depth and breadth of student understanding, and dedication to students and the profession.
“After the initial excitement, one of my first thoughts was how lucky I have been to be part of a department of exceptional teachers — faculty and GTAs — who have supported, mentored and inspired me,” Mielke said. “This includes Professor Anna Neill, our immediate past chair and an award-winning teacher herself. And just as I have been blessed to work within a community committed to excellent teaching, I have had fantastic students who ask hard questions, take risks in their writing, seek unique opportunities, collaborate with peers and read a whole lot. Every day my students help me become a better teacher and writer.”
The Shutz award was established by the late Byron Shutz in 1978. Faculty members are nominated for this annual award by deans, department chairs or faculty colleagues. The honoree receives a one-time stipend of $4,000 and delivers a public lecture later in the academic year. The lecture is followed by a reception in the recipient’s honor.
Chrysikou also expressed appreciation for the distinction.
“I felt truly honored — and humbled — to receive this recognition for my teaching efforts at the university level, especially as a junior faculty member,” Chrysikou said. “I am in the company of great teachers both within and beyond my department and, thus, this award is especially meaningful to me. Teaching and mentoring students comprise a significant portion of our daily activities as university faculty; yet, this aspect of our work is not always acknowledged or appreciated. Awards such as the Fleming award are key in highlighting the importance of excellence in teaching for the quality of college education.”
The Fleming award was established through a bequest from the late Ned Fleming of Topeka. Faculty members are nominated for this annual award by deans, department chairs or faculty colleagues. The award includes a one-time stipend of $5,000.
Nominator Praise for Laura Mielke
Laura Mielke is characterized as an outstanding instructor and adviser who is enormously dedicated to and reflective about student learning. She teaches a range of undergraduate and graduate level courses and has consistently earned superior evaluation scores from students. Peer evaluators comment on her fine course design and dynamic and effecting teaching style.
Mielke designs her courses so her students have hands-on engagement with the material and they review it at multiple stages. Her tactics help remind students not only of the content of what they are learning but how they are applying key skills to arrive at interpretive conclusions. Her animated and engaged classroom presence and how she works hard to draw every student into discussion point to the ways that she extends discussion and learning beyond the classroom.
Her courses are all rigorously organized around distinct but interrelated learning goals that include honing analytic reading, writing and conversation skills; strengthening student ability to develop clear and effective critical arguments; and becoming practiced with the methodologies of critical thinking and scholarly research. Mielke is highly sensitive to issues of diversity and inclusivity in her classrooms, and her courses encourage students to apply what they learn about the past to their own cultural moment. Mielke’s redesign of a required graduate level course directly addressed core areas of preparation, and it has since served as a model for every other faculty member who has taught it.
Nominator praise for Evangelia Chrysikou
Evangelia Chrysikou is an excellent teacher and mentor and has used her experiences as a scientist as a teaching tool for her students and advisees.
She has been instrumental in the department’s efforts to reorganize the course requirements for the bachelor’s degree in behavioral neuroscience to promote both breadth and depth. The materials for all her courses reflect the most recent advances and provide students with content that truly represents the current status of the field.
Chrysikou uses a variety of innovative methods to teach about the structure and function of the human brain – electronic flash cards, outlines, and video and audio summaries of book chapters. Her lectures are full of visual aids, examples, animations, videos and movie excerpts demonstrating different functions of the brain or the behavior of patients with brain damage who exhibit disruptions in these functions.
Her classes are designed to satisfy a series of specific learning outcomes for the behavioral neuroscience major. Additionally all students in the capstone Experimental Psychology course are required to conduct their own research study and to present their findings in the form of a manuscript, an oral presentation and a poster. The quality of their work is significant, and students from her class are typically winners of the annual Psychology Class Project Awards. In 2016, students were invited to attend and present their work at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, where they were honored with the best student research project award.