Excellence in Teaching

Stephen R. Pugh

Associate Professor of Biology
University of New Hampshire, Manchester

Stephen R. Pugh
 

"... you can give a lecture about beaver feeding strategies, or you can sit in a canoe for an hour watching a beaver devour a maple sapling."
—Steve Pugh

UNH Manchester's urban campus is not exactly the Coe College Wilderness Field Station in Ely, Minnesota.

"The one place where I love to teach—and simply love to be—is the field station in Minnesota," says Pugh. It's the largest, most pristine wilderness area in the Eastern U.S. and Pugh has a long history there: as a college student when he met his wife Barbara; as part of the support staff after graduating from college; and as a faculty member teaching summer courses.

But Steve Pugh has created a small-scale learning laboratory in Manchester that operates on the same principles.

"There is no better place than in the field to teach a class on the ecology of mammals," says Pugh. "For example, you can give a lecture about beaver feeding strategies, or you can sit in a canoe for an hour watching a beaver devour a maple sapling." For Pugh, science is a way of thinking, observing, and testing to explain natural phenomena. This method becomes a tool to "tease apart the science from the rhetoric."

Just outside of Manchester, on Hackett Hill Road, is Cedar Swamp, an 800-acre preserve. When Pugh joined the faculty at UNH Manchester in 1998, his goal was to transform the associate's degree in biological sciences. At the swamp, he created a field site for learning and research in the study of biology, ecology, and genetics.

Last year, as chair of the college's science and technology division, Pugh successfully championed a proposal for a bachelor's degree in biological sciences. Now, students can continue their studies and complete their biology degrees in small classes that guarantee one-on-one interaction with professors without having to transfer to another school.

"Many of Steve's students say that he has a gift for taking challenging and detailed course content and making it lucid and nonintimidating," says John Sparrow, a colleague and associate professor of psychology. "Of course, in the world of science education that's an extraordinary challenge, and Steve manages to accomplish that feat semester after semester."

—Ginger Lever

—Jody Record