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Diggs Teaching Scholar Awards activities highlighted

By Sally Harris

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 29 - April 25, 1996

Two faculty members from the College of Arts and Sciences and one from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences have been named recipients of the 1995-96 Diggs Teaching Scholar Awards.

Barbara Carlisle of the Department of Theatre Arts, Nancy Metz from the Department of English, and James R. McKenna of the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences will receive the awards.

The events commemorating the Diggs awards begin at 7:30 p.m. tonight, Thursday, April 25, with a keynote address by Ben Shneiderman of the University of Maryland at College Park. His topic will be "Engagement and Construction: New Strategies for Learning with Multimedia Digital Libraries." Shneiderman will speak in Litton Reaves auditorium.

Shneiderman is a professor in the Department of Computer Science, head of the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory, and member of the Institute for Systems Research at the University of Maryland. He teaches popular short courses and organizes an annual satellite television presentation on User Interface Strategies.

The Diggs Teaching Scholar recipients will participate in a brown-bag teaching exchange of ideas on the teaching/learning environment at Virginia Tech Friday, April 26, noon-2 p.m. in the Hillcrest living room. Shneiderman will participate. At 3:30 p.m., the Diggs Teaching Roundtable will include the recognition of the Diggs Teaching Scholar awardees by Jack Dudley, director of the University Honors Program. Award recipients will lead a public discussion devoted to pedagogical issues with Shneiderman as guest respondent.

Carlisle juggles one of the heaviest teaching schedules in the theatre-arts department with working one-on-one with students in independent studies and field studies. She has consistently received some of the highest student evaluations in the department and has great success in teaching a wide range of material. "It is rare to find someone with the ability to cover so wide a range of subjects and provide instruction at such a high level," wrote Donald Drapeau, head of theatre arts.

Carlisle has been successful in using the forum of theatrical production as a vehicle for teaching and learning and has shared her skills as a director, choreographer, and playwright. She also has become recognized as an innovator of teaching theory and practice.

"Perhaps the most significant contribution she has made to the teaching mission of the department is in the area of playwriting," Drapeau said. A published playwright, Carlisle has mentored students who have had success with playwriting, including two undergraduates whose plays were included in this year's regional American College Festival new-play competition. Carlisle also organized the Annual New Play Extravaganza to provide visibility to the developing playwrights.

Metz combines several areas of service to the university and its students, including teaching first-year writing, serving as a GTA advisor, teaching literature, and pursuing scholarship in 19th-century literature. She served as the first director of the University Writing Program. She is known to students as a demanding but gifted and dedicated teacher, and her teaching methods get results: an essay written for one of her classes later won the Phi Beta Kappa John Wilson Essay contest and another was accepted by a professional journal.

Her excellence as a teacher was rewarded by two Certificates of Teaching Excellence from the College of Arts and Sciences, and she has served on numerous departmental and university committees.

"It is no surprise," wrote Department Chair Hilbert Campbell, "that Professor Metz's statement of topic for the Roundtable Discussion emphasizes collaboration and outreach. Over many years, she has consistently made it clear that she understands the crucial importance of colleagueship, interconnectedness, and service."

McKenna has been instrumental in the department's development of new courses and in recruiting students. He is actively involved in the development of program options in agroecology and international agriculture for his department and the multi-collegiate graduate-degree program in agroforestry.

"In response to increasing enrollment and diminishing resources in the college, McKenna took it upon himself to solve the problem by developing a multimedia curriculum...to enhance student learning," Department Head John R. Hall said. McKenna did so by dividing large classes into multiple sections and using computer-aided, self-paced lessons to replace a class period each week. This allowed for much of the first-order learning to be presented in the Supplemental Learning Center, for which McKenna obtained set-up funding, and allowed for smaller, more interactive classes without a significant increase in contact hours. McKenna also has generated more than $550,000 in grants, much of that in teaching grants.

McKenna's teaching and research have been acknowledged with such awards as the Certificate of Teaching Excellence, the Wine Award, the Teaching Fellowship of the National Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture, and election to the University Academy of Teaching Excellence.

All Diggs events are free and open to the public.