The University of New Hampshire annually selects a small number of outstanding faculty for special recognition of achievement. This year, five faculty members from the College of Liberal Arts are honored for their excellence in teaching and engagement. Learn about their work in the videos and profiles below.
Associate Professor of Italian Studies
Excellence in Teaching Award
When you think of Italians, do you imagine people dressed in striped shirts like gondoliers? Passionate souls who, under a hot Tuscan sun, eat spaghetti from dawn til dusk, gesticulating about soccer matches and fashion shows? “Sorry to burst your bubble,” Amy Boylan might say to that characterization. As a scholar and teacher of Italian Studies, Boylan is dedicated to providing a nuanced picture of Italian culture that unsettles these romanticized stereotypes. Yet she is careful to help students understand rather than judge the very real differences between Italian and American culture. Her passion may be a single Mediterranean country, but her objective is nothing less than teaching the habits of mind that define all skilled global citizens.
Her expert methodology puts students front and center. That means active student participation through small group work, peer-to-peer instruction and student-led group discussions that challenge students to perform at the highest levels. And her instruction is innovative. Using social media and other web technologies, she brings the outside world in, putting students in virtual contact with native speakers and cultural experiences. She also takes students to the source, teaching onsite in Italy in the UNH study abroad program she directs. Department chair Stephen Trzaskoma notes, “Professor Boylan has consistently been the one who has taught the rest of us more than a thing or two about how to do it right.”
Though she’s described by colleagues as humble, there are times when even Boylan must admit she’s doing it right. Note what she calls a small but significant moment in her classroom: a recent discussion about verb tenses and historical figures resulted in a riotous digression rich with learning about the movie “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” Boylan recalls: “Everybody in class was laughing and participating and learning new vocabulary, and the students barely realized they were doing it all in Italian. It was a very satisfying moment.”
At such times, Boylan might just sit back and feel gratified for creating a safe environment in which students can enjoy learning so much that they forget themselves.
Associate Professor of Classics, Humanities and Italian Studies
Gregory McMahon won the Jean Brierley Award for Excellence in Teaching, which recognizes excellence in teaching by a faculty member over the course of a long-term distinguished career at UNH.
Senior Lecturer in English
Excellence in Teaching Award
“What often makes an excellent teacher,” says Stephanie Harzewski, “…is the ability to work through fatigue.”
It’s an apt statement from this senior lecturer in English whose students characterize her as consistently energetic, passionate, funny and challenging. They say she’s available on Skype at all hours and she’ll come in early or stay late to help them with their writing. What sets her apart, notes one student, is that “she genuinely cares about her students and would do anything to see them succeed both in the classroom and in life.” That kind of dedication takes energy, indeed.
Harzewski has been tireless in curriculum development, as well. She’s created several classroom-based literatures courses and played a leading role at UNH in online offerings. One of her most successful courses, “Sex and Sensibility: The Rise of Chick Lit from Jane Austen to Bridget Jones,” was profiled at both international and national conferences for exemplary online pedagogy. The course arose from research for her book, “Chick Lit and Postfeminism,” published by University of Virginia Press, a work that exemplifies the active scholarly agenda she pursues to inform her teaching.
Harzewski’s success in the classroom is achieved through organization, enthusiasm and integrity. Consider her teaching of Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play “Waiting for Godot,” a work famously reviewed as "a two-act play in which nothing happens twice." She notes that, sometimes, by the third day of discussing the work, she’s inclined to feel as if she’s in the "nobody comes, nobody goes" purgatory of the play. But she’s ready and springs into action. She turns to comic relief, using the Sesame Street "Monsterpiece Theater" parody of the play, and employs the Socratic method to rally students out of the seeming pointlessness of the play to expose its deep engagement with the significance of life. Every class meeting must and will have purpose and meaning. She insists upon it. “There are typically no deus ex machina solutions for the teacher and students,” says Harzewski. “We work together to save ourselves from repetition.”
Associate Professor of Education
Judy Sharkey won the Excellence in International Engagement Award, which recognizes exceptional international engagement by a UNH faculty member.
Associate Professor of Political Science
Excellence in Teaching Award
Here are some awards that Susan Siggelakis might win if they existed: Professor Most Likely to be in Touch with Former Students Throughout their Lifetimes; Professor Most Likely to Write Recommendation Letters for Scholarships, Awards, Graduate Schools and Jobs; Professor Most Likely to Convince Students that Joining Phi Beta Kappa is a Wise Move; Professor Most Likely to Advise and Mentor Students; and Professor Most Likely to Help Colleagues Through a Pedagogical Crisis. As it happens, this professor of political science has won a Teaching Excellence Award, for all the reasons listed above, and more.
Siggelakis teaches constitutional law, the judicial process, law and society, and American political thought, among other topics. Students are impressed by her mastery of subject but equally impressed by her go-the-extra-mile dedication. “She took teaching to a different level and really understands that it goes beyond the classroom,” says one of her former students. “She took time to get to know her students.”
Her teaching philosophy is this: “No one can be interested in everything but everyone can be interested in at least one thing in my courses. I try and help people find that one thing.” In her Supreme Court and Constitution course, she focuses on constitutional law but also covers the history of judicial nominations, media coverage of federal courts and even the architecture of the Supreme Court building. She’s determined to spark curiosity one way or another. Along the way, it’s most important that students develop excellent writing, research and presentation skills to prepare them for careers. Students may not remember the specifics from her courses, and that’s OK, she says. She just needs to be sure they have learned good habits of thought.
On the other hand, some students do remember the specifics. An alumna who works for the City of Nashua wrote Siggelakis to tell her that what she learned in the administrative law course allowed her to correct city officials when they misinterpreted a new bedbug ordinance. “A small thing to some,” says Siggelakis, “but it meant a lot to me.”