ALUMNI AWARDS FOR TEACHING EXCELLENCE
By Sandy Broughton
Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 26 - April 2, 1998
In describing Rosemary Blieszner, Department of Family and Child Development head Michael J. Sporakowski said "She has made spectacular contributions to the university's teaching mission during her 17 years at Virginia Tech. She excels in research and publication and as an inspiring teacher. She is a genuine, respectful mentor with the highest concern for the scholarly process and for students. Students are well aware that she continually seeks to improve her own teaching effectiveness, and they revere her for this commitment to learning."
Blieszner is honored with the 1998 Alumni Teaching Award, made in recognition of Blieszner as a model academic who has embraced the notion of scholarship to include teaching, research, and outreach.
An expert in family and aging, Blieszner is a member of the Department of Family and Child Development in the College of Human Resources and Education. She joined the Tech faculty in 1981. An internationally recognized innovator in research and scholarship, focusing on friend and family relationships among older adults, Blieszner also showed a dedication to classroom instruction.
Colleague Katherine Allen said Blieszner has been especially innovative and assertive in providing new academic programming through teaching-related grants. "She is constantly revising her courses to bring the best teaching and learning practices to the classroom, from integrating multi-culturalism content to using the Internet," Allen said. "She is absolutely committed to the very principle she teaches: lifelong learning. We count on Blieszner's unique leadership in guiding the transformation of our curriculum."
Blieszner's contributions extend beyond her department, and are multi-disciplinary. As associate director for education in Virginia Tech's Center for Gerontology, she supervises the progress of more than 25 students in at least 14 departments across campus as they work toward earning the graduate certificate in gerontology. She is the faculty sponsor for the gerontological honor society, Sigma Phi Omega. And she coordinated seven departments in revising the syllabus for the Project Home Repair course, "Appalachian Communities." Recently, Blieszner chaired a national project for Division 20 of the American Psychological Association to disseminate teaching materials on the World Wide Web.
Janet Johnson, dean of the College of Human Resources and Education, said Blieszner has long been known as a caring teacher with high standards who elicits the very best of her students in and out of the classroom, and in turn gains their respect. "On the occasion of her promotion to full professor, the Wallace Hall atrium was filled with students who came to celebrate her work," Johnson said.
By Sally Harris
In giving reasons they supported Tim Luke's nomination for the Alumni Teaching Award, most people enumerated many qualities that made him deserving of the award.
The thing Luke, professor of political science, finds most exciting, though--and the endeavor for which he has become most prominently known--is the use of technology to re-invent education. Called the "intellectual architect of Cyberschool," Luke said that "technology can be used to create a new kind of fairly meaningful and intense contact between students and the material we are studying," and that technological innovations in teaching need not result in impersonality or distance between students and professor.
"Technology does nothing by itself," he said. "It's how you use it. In Cyberschool, we're finding ways to use it that are as rewarding as, if not more rewarding than, face-to-face kinds of instruction."
His students agree. They wrote that they appreciate Luke's extensive knowledge of his subject matter, his enthusiasm for every course, and his skill at making difficult subjects understandable, whether in traditional or on-line classes. "He brings such an immeasurable amount of enthusiasm, knowledge, and passion into the classroom that in most cases it overflows into cyberspace," said graduate student D.J. Malazzi-Hensen, who appreciated being able to continue the classroom debates via Internet long after the three-hour seminar was over.
Luke is very pleased with the new interdisciplinary connections Cyberschool has developed within the College of Arts and Sciences and across the university. The connections enable faculty members "to do new things not only with teaching, but with research and administration and service," he said.
"The technology," Luke said, "is allowing us to re-invent the institution to do new things."
Luke's considerable leadership in bringing Virginia Tech to the forefront of the educational application of technology includes being integral to the continued successful development of VTOnline, working on the development of NET.WORK.VIRGINIA, creating the political-science department's on-line master's program, and serving on the governing board for the Center for Innovation in Learning and the Provost's Special Committee for Technology Planning.
But that is just one of the many ways Tim Luke serves the university, department, and his students. He also has been "an incredibly productive, internationally recognized scholar who is highly active and visible in the profession," said Richard Rich, chair of political science.
Author of six books and 80 articles in top-tier journals and winner of eight previous teaching awards, Luke has done work that has been described as "nothing short of visionary."