The Catholic University of America

Nov. 23, 2009

Provost Recognizes CUA Professors with Top Teaching Awards

Three Catholic University professors have been named 2009 Faculty Award winners in honor of their innovation, creativity and excellence in teaching.

During a Nov. 18 celebration of teaching at the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center, Provost James Brennan presented top faculty awards to:

      At the 2009 Faculty Awards reception, from left, Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, Diane Bunce, Gunnar Lucko, Sharon Christman and James Brennan.
    Sharon Christman, associate professor of music
  • Diane Bunce, professor of chemistry
  • Gunnar Lucko, assistant professor of civil engineering

The three were chosen by a committee of faculty from among 17 professors nominated by their schools.

Christman was honored with the Overall Teaching Excellence Award for what Brennan called her remarkable connection to students, teaching contributions and impressive vocal career. The award is given to faculty members who have excelled in teaching for at least 10 years.

The chair of the voice division in the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, Christman is credited with developing an open-studio policy that inspires students by enabling them to study with more than one voice instructor during a semester. She also developed a master's program for working professional artists who eventually would like to teach in higher education. She has extended the master's program to military personnel who want to teach after completing their service.


Sharon Christman developed a master's program for professional artists interested in teaching.


Nominators said Christman, who has taught at CUA since 1989, has "the rare ability to excel in both the performance and teaching aspects of music."

Beyond teaching many who have gone on to stardom, Christman is a star herself, Brennan noted. "She still maintains a full-time performance career with the Metropolitan Opera and other companies and symphonies around the world. From one of her signature roles, I often call her Catholic University's own Queen of the Night."

Bunce received the Advancement of Teaching Award in recognition of her contributions in curriculum development, teaching methods and research on chemistry education.

Bunce is known internationally for her expertise in chemistry education. Brennan noted that she is an expert at turning her research into strategies to help students understand the principles of chemistry. "Dr. Bunce has served as a model for teaching chemistry to both science majors and those who tremble at the very thought of chemistry," he said.

  Diane Bunce is known internationally for her expertise in chemistry education.

Since joining CUA in 1985, she has been awarded a number of grants and shared her research in a variety of prestigious journals such as the Journal of College Science Teachers.

Nominators noted that Bunce has created academic programs to support the development of faculty well grounded in both chemistry and education. She also was praised for her mentorship of students in the Ph.D. program in chemistry education.

The Teaching Excellence in Early Career Award was presented to Lucko, director of the Construction Engineering and Management Program, who was honored for his accessibility to students, interactive style, enthusiasm and scholarship. The award is given to exemplary faculty members who have been at CUA for less than 10 years.

"Professor Lucko has gone well beyond the norm in developing an interesting and state-of-the-art engineering curriculum for his students," Brennan said.

Gunnar Lucko, center, motivates his students to become critical thinkers.  

Lucko, who joined CUA in 2005, developed the interdisciplinary course Disaster-Resistant Design for the Developing World in which students develop and test low-cost earthquake-mitigating designs for small structures in developing regions.

Nominators noted that Lucko is especially adept at presenting complex material and motivating his students to become critical thinkers capable of evaluating and improving their work.