Anne Beal, Benjamin Callard, Trevor Hyde, John Kennedy and Veronica Vegna have been awarded the Glenn and Claire Swogger Award for Exemplary Classroom Teaching, which recognizes outstanding teachers with College appointments who introduce students to habits of scholarly thinking, inquiry and engagement in the Core Curriculum—the College’s general education program.
In addition to the Swogger Award, five faculty members were recently awarded the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Awards and five graduate students received the Wayne C. Booth Prize.
Read more about the Swogger Award recipients below.
Anne Beal, Co-Chair of Self, Culture, and Society, Senior Lecturer and Senior Fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts
When Anne Beal was a college student in the 1980s, it was typical at her institution for professors to maintain a formal and somewhat distant relationship from undergraduates.
As a first-generation student who said she found college life baffling and overwhelming, this approach played a role in her not feeling supported. That experience shaped her view that providing empathic support to students makes for better classroom learning.
“I think I have a distinctive approach to class discussion, which is to really listen to what each student says and to find value in each comment made,” Beal said.
She began teaching in the College in 1999 as a sociocultural anthropologist with research interests in consumerism, class, national identity and gender in Jordan. Teaching Freud in Self, Society, and Culture in the UChicago Core Curriculum, however, she felt increasingly drawn to the study of psychoanalysis.
“[Psychoanalysis] provided an approach to questions of human meaning-making that was definitely distinct from my anthropological training, yet in many ways complementary to it,” she said. “It is not an exaggeration to say that teaching in the Core changed the trajectory of my life, as it was the impetus for my training as a psychoanalyst.”
Beal is currently teaching Self, Culture, and Society in the Social Sciences Core, as well as Thinking Psychoanalytically: From the Sciences to the Arts in the Big Problems course program. She said she appreciates how Core brings together students across multiple disciplines, which fosters great classroom discussions.
“I like to leave my students with a message of possibility, with the insight that even though there are great social challenges ahead, we are adequate to the task if we continue to strive and work together,” Beal said.
Benjamin Callard, Instructional Professor, Department of Philosophy
Benjamin Callard learned that he could build a career out of philosophy while in college, but his passion for the subject developed even earlier when he read Plato’s Cave allegory in a high school journalism course.
“I got indignant at Plato and wrote a fifty-page paper showing why Plato was wrong about everything, but I had a nagging (and correct) feeling throughout the writing of it that my refutation was hopelessly inadequate, and that Plato was operating down in the deepest, darkest part of the ocean, and I was just skimming on the surface. And I wanted to know how not to do that,” he said.
Now, as a professor at the College, Callard has taught courses in a variety of areas within philosophy: epistemology, political philosophy, ethics, philosophy or religion and more. He credits an undergraduate professor of his, Palle Yourgrau, for teaching him much of what he strives for as an instructor.
In his courses, Callard values the flexibility philosophy provides to adjust a syllabus or class focus as needed. “It's more important to bring out the wonder and mysteries of the subject, even if this means you cover less material,” he said.
Callard also values student input and discussion in his courses at the College.
“There are smart, serious students everywhere, but there is definitely a sensibility among many of the students here–an intellectualism which somehow manages to be simultaneously self-conscious and earnest–which makes teaching here a great pleasure,” he said. “I also find that students here are willing to grapple with an idea they find ethically dubious or politically problematic–more so, I think, than at other institutions.”
Trevor Hyde, Dickson Instructor, Department of Mathematics
Trevor Hyde's passion for mathematics began when he was sixteen. Now, fifteen years later, Hyde enjoys sharing that passion for his subject with students.
In the College, Hyde has taught several undergraduate mathematics courses, including most recently algebraic number theory. In the classroom, he aims to give his students perspectives they won't find in any text.
“The students here are incredibly talented, hardworking, and diligent, which allows me to be ambitious in designing courses--that's a lot of rewarding fun for me.”
Hyde's approach to teaching is influenced by formative experiences from his time as an undergraduate. He recalled one such moment from a reading course with an ever escalating workload. After weeks of increasingly long and difficult assignments,
“I came to my professor's office, dispirited, after a fruitless all-nighter, to admit that I'd failed. The professor was not disappointed,” he said, “instead he assured me this was inevitable and intentional---he wanted me to see how far I could go if I really pushed myself. I learned a lot of mathematics and a lot about myself. As a teacher, this lesson on the value of high expectations is never far from my mind.”
Hyde's favorite memories of teaching in the College are when his office is full of students just before an assignment is due.
“Everyone is engaged with the problems after struggling with them for a week. I get to guide them to the insight they need and watch them have the satisfying ‘Ah ha!’ experience in real time. The mathematics feels alive in moments like that.”
John M. Kennedy, Senior Lecturer, Director of Undergraduate Research, Biological Sciences Collegiate Division
After 25 years of teaching physiology and biophysics at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, John Kennedy, who completed a postdoctorate fellowship in the cardiology department at UChicago, came back to Hyde Park seeking more hands-on teaching experiences in an undergraduate setting.
Kennedy said he has been impressed by the intelligence of the UChicago students he now teaches, and their passion for learning.
“Here at UChicago, the students are really interested in learning for the sake of learning and are more open to wide-ranging topics,” said Kennedy, who left the medical school as director of physiology education. “I enjoy talking to students in labs and in office hours to really tackle the issues that give them the most trouble. I also like to hear about the students' ambitions and plans for the future.”
While primarily teaching Human Physiology for biology majors, Kennedy runs physiology labs, as well as metabolism and exercise labs. He said that in his teaching, he makes a concentrated effort to make the small details relatable, which is crucial in a fact-based subject like physiology.
“I talk to the students about muscle cell death and the maladaptive regeneration that takes place in patients with muscular dystrophy, or how molecular events in the heart allow us to perform exercise and mutations in these same molecules can lead to heart failure. I try to make the facts come alive by giving as many examples as possible,” he said.
As someone who changed his career path, Kennedy encourages his students to value the process of their education, and look beyond the grades they receive in his class towards a lifetime of learning.
“Education is ongoing and life-long and you never really know what twists and turns you might have along the road that makes up your career path,” he said. “It's about showing up and doing your work on a daily basis.”
Veronica Vegna, Director of the Italian Language Program, Languages Across the Curriculum Coordinator, and Senior Instructional Professor
Veronica Vegna teaches Italian language and culture courses, particularly Italian cinema. This year, Vegna’s cinema course explored migration, gender and sexuality, and various regional representations, while next year it will focus on women and the mafia. The latter formed the basis of her doctoral dissertation and is a topic she became invested in while working as a journalist in her home city of Palermo.
In all of her courses, conversation and collaborative learning are essential.
“Learner-led discussions are central to my courses,” Vegna said. “I strive to create a friendly and welcoming environment where students can reflect collectively about social issues through the course content, while contributing to shape the class itself.”
After receiving her education in Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, Vegna has been able to grow and reflect on her own pedagogy.
“My college experience was very different from UChicago, particularly when I studied in Italy. The learning process there left little space for questioning and focused primarily on acquisition of knowledge. When I studied in the U.K. and, later on, when I completed my doctoral studies in the U.S., I appreciated the conversational structure of some of the courses and the sense of agency I felt.”
One of the aspects Vegna values most about teaching is collective discovery through conversation. In this process, she finds herself learning right alongside her students.
“I find myself in the privileged position to explore my own culture with outstanding learners, who are eager to reflect critically on their identity and society through a cultural lens different from their own,” Vegna said. “My hope is that what they learn in my courses will contribute to their growing process as individuals wishing to make positive changes to society.”