Professor of Economics Fred Smith and Brown Professor of Political Science Shelley Rigger were presented with Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Awards at the college's May 15 commencement ceremony. Each award includes $7,500 for the recipient, and $7,500 more for the recipient to designate to a college cause.
The following was read in advance of Prof. Smith's award presentation.
Students have long admired this professor for taking uncommon care to create a classroom that welcomes all students, takes seriously their questions, and teems with a sense of shared intellectual inquiry. A successful scholar, this faculty member brings research to life and always foregrounds the "big picture" when introducing students to this discipline.
Initially viewing this subject as highly abstract, students celebrate this professor for forging connections between theory, on the one hand, and the current events and socioeconomic issues so relevant to students' lives, on the other. They lavish praise on this professor's superb lectures-for their clarity, pacing and rigor and for being so absorbing that their effect lingers beyond the classroom. As one student memorably puts it, "[this teacher's] lectures were so fascinating that I found myself reading blogs outside of the classroom, thinking about the lectures as I lay in bed at night."
Many students' first course with this professor influenced them so powerfully that they took another, and from there decided to major in the discipline. One major, now an alumnus, recalls his experience in this professor's introductory course, "I remember leaving the very first day of class and saying to myself ‘If I can keep taking classes with this teacher, I think I will be a major.'" As he thought back on his life at Davidson this same alumnus concluded that this professor had "singlehandedly made [his] academic career at Davidson College the exceptional and fulfilling experience that it was."
As powerful as this professor's classroom presence is, it almost pales in comparison to the dedication of time and concern he offers to students outside of class. One grateful student writes, "I recall many appointments lasting far beyond scheduled office hours. Evening help sessions were regularly offered before reviews, sometimes lasting several hours, and if those did not correspond with a student's schedule, he would arrange to come in again for that struggling student."
One year, a group of students was so eager to learn that they asked this professor to meet with them to explore and debate justice and fairness. This professor happily agreed, and one student recommender in that fortunate group wrote "Each Thursday, [he] met with us faithfully for over two hours, responding to our questions and providing both sides of the argument, encouraging us to decide a solution for ourselves."
A master lecturer, tutor and motivator of student interest, our honoree also attends carefully to his students' personal trials. One former student, who praises his mentor's clear and engaging lectures, remembers him more vividly for the quiet compassion he showed during this student's season of great personal struggle. After the student unburdened himself during office hours, our honoree-this student writes–"listened patiently and openly, never giving me the slightest feeling that I was being judged. That afternoon in [his] office, was the first time I ... felt as though I had a place at Davidson College and could succeed academically and socially. We scheduled a weekly time to meet and check-in. His guidance and advice were always compassionate, honest, and encouraging. ...Without him as a professor, mentor and friend, I do not know where I would be today."
Because you have given so generously of your time and energy, inspired so many students to see the world through a new lens, and because–in defiance of the laws of economics–your compassion miraculously never loses value, even when its supply meets and exceeds student demand, we are honored to present the 2016 Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award to you, Professor Fred Smith.
The following was read in advance of Prof. Rigger's award presentation.
"Fascinating, knowledgeable, and entertaining." These are some of the adjectives that students use to describe the professor we honor today. As one student explains, "this professor is encouraging, interested, and excited [...] supportive but does not feel the need to hold my hand as I move through the process and all its challenges." Lectures from this professor are riveting because, according to an alumna, this educator "possesses the desire and ability to explain concepts in a way that students truly grasp [by means] of a diverse group or readings, videos, current events and examples to help us understand difficult or culturally incomprehensible concepts." For this professor, teaching, however, is not confined within the walls of the classroom. This individual inspires students and, as one of them puts it, challenges them "to grow, to learn, and to pursue their ambitions with enduring lessons that carry well beyond graduation day" an idea which is confirmed by an alumnus who explains that this professor's "counsel and its accompanying wit do not cease to be available once a Davidson diploma is in hand, but are offered readily to me and all past advisees beyond graduation."
Praise does not come solely from students and alumni, but also from colleagues who have team-taught classes with this professor. One colleague notes that this teacher challenges students to develop their critical faculties while "engaging them as people, laughing with them, learning about their lives and interests, and supporting them in their struggles whether academic or personal." In fact, another colleague writes, "this professor is an intellectual adventurer [...] whether in conversation with another professor or with students in the classroom, [this professor] thrives on the active give and take of ideas [and is always] eager and open to new approaches and willing to test out new ideas and strategies."
"This professor," an alumna shares, "always seemed to strike the ideal balance between straight delivery of important information, probing questions that pushed students to look for trends and question preconceived notions, and comedic asides." Not only does this professor exhibit an acute sense of humor while teaching but, as several students note, also has an unparalleled talent to create "elucidative metaphors (usually involving monkeys and coconuts)" and develop "remarkably creative comparisons" to illustrate even the most complex interplay of actors and factors; In one alumna's words: "the vivid descriptions, and even performance, of these metaphors keep us laughing but certainly help us understand and remember the information we cover in class."
Known among students as the "Queen of metaphors," or the "Professor with the Hello Kitty watch," this professor possesses a "unique ability to encourage and inspire a wide range of students, which often leads to experiences that transform their lives." An alumna writes, "I cannot thank her enough for all the advice on academic, career development, and life decisions." Whether directing a Senior thesis, in conversation with students in office hours, teaching in the Humanities Program, or a methods and statistics class, or an East Asia politics seminar, this professor has a deep impact on her students by means of a rare combination of, as an admirer writes, "her dedicated service, her imaginative teaching, her prodigious intellect and her generosity of spirit."
Because of your unparalleled commitment to your students, your unusual aptitude for analogies and metaphors, your genuine love of teaching along with the humanity that you bring to the art of teaching, we are honored to present the 2016 Hunter-Hamilton Award to you, Professor Shelley Rigger.