The Catholic University of America

Nov. 11, 2011

Three Professors Win Top Teaching Awards

  Teaching awards photo 1
 

Flanked by President John Garvey and Provost James Brennan, this year's winners of the 2011 Faculty Awards for Teaching Excellence Professors Christopher Grech, Mary Leary, and J. Steven Brown pose after the awards ceremony Nov. 9.


Three professors have won Catholic University’s annual awards for exemplary teaching.

In a ceremony Nov. 9, Provost James Brennan presented the 2011 Faculty Awards for Teaching Excellence to:

• Mary G. Leary, associate professor of law;
• Christopher P. Grech, associate professor of architecture and planning;
• J. Steven Brown, associate professor of mechanical engineering.

The three were chosen out of 24 faculty members nominated by the 12 schools of the University. The honorees each received a plaque and a check for $2,500.

Along with President John Garvey, about 100 faculty members attended the presentation in the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center.

Teaching Excellence in Early Career

Mary G. Leary, associate professor at the Columbus School of Law, received the Teaching Excellence in Early Career Award. The award recognizes faculty who have excelled in teaching in fewer than 10 years at the University.

Since 2006, Leary has taught at the law school, first as a visiting professor and then on the tenure track.
At the awards ceremony, Brennan lauded Leary for a deep commitment to the success of her students, from the classroom to the courtroom.

According to one nominator, Brennan recounted, Leary is a “constant presence” at the law school and a “sought-after” adviser to students who receive Leary’s attentive help on criminal law papers and clerkship applications. “It is rare to walk past her office when she does not have a student speaking with her,” the nominator wrote.

Leary’s outreach to students takes form also in several extracurricular programs. She has initiated externship programs and a regular “Crimes and Coffee” session, in which the former criminal prosecutor discusses criminal law with students over a cup of coffee.

According to Brennan, another colleague praised Leary’s service to the Church and to the vulnerable, which the nominator said helps make her a role model for others.

Previously, Leary was director of the National Center for the Prosecution of Child Abuse; deputy director for the Office of Legal Counsel at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; and assistant district attorney in Philadelphia and Cambridge, Mass. She is an expert on the prosecution of crimes against women and children.

Receiving her award from President Garvey, Leary demurred. “I have to say this is a group effort…This is an award for all of my colleagues who help make us all a little bit better,” she said.

Advancement of Teaching

Christopher P. Grech, associate professor of architecture and planning, earned the Advancement of Teaching Award, which recognizes “creative and innovative contributions” to effective teaching — from adding technologies that improve the delivery of information to students to introducing new areas of study.

Brennan praised Grech’s leadership in initiating the Master of Science in Sustainable Design Program, which prepares architects and designers to build with care for the natural environment.

One award nominator wrote that Grech had devised a “winning formula” for the program. As a result, “student enrollment from day one was about double our projections, and now in its third year, the program can boast of an enrollment of 53 students — over double the projected number of 22 students.”

The Sustainable Design Program promotes and sponsors lectures by visiting experts and architectural competitions, which are “excellent opportunities for our students to be informed of the best sustainable architectural work being executed nationally,” added Brennan.

Grech earned degrees in architecture in England. He taught at the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning at the University of Michigan and at the School of Architecture at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte prior to joining Catholic University in 2007.

During the awards ceremony, Grech thanked his Catholic University colleagues for teaching cutting-edge classes in the Sustainable Design Program. Grech also expressed gratitude for the University community at large, noting the expressions of sympathy sent on the recent death of his father were a “tangible demonstration” of collegiality on campus.

Teaching awards photo 2  

President Garvey and Provost Brennan congratulate Professors Grech, Leary, and Brown on winning Catholic University's awards for excellent teaching.

 
Overall Teaching Excellence

Associate Professor J. Steven Brown received the Overall Teaching Excellence Award, for 10 or more years of excellent teaching.

Brown has taught at Catholic University since 1998, during which time he chaired the Department of Mechanical Engineering for nine years.

Brennan called Brown’s achievements in teaching and mentoring “remarkable.”

Brown has taught seven undergraduate courses and eight graduate courses, receiving “superlative” instructor evaluation ratings in all, Brennan noted. Moreover, Brown is consistently named as one of the two best professors by mechanical engineering seniors during their exit interviews. And he has earned two teaching awards from the School of Engineering and one from the Society of Automotive Engineers.

During his tenure, Brown has initiated six new courses and revised two others. In addition, Brown has taught the humanities class, Classics in Conversation, as part of the First Year Experience Program, which Brennan said shows a “willingness and ability” to support the liberal arts core of the University and exemplifies cross-disciplinary extensions of scholarship.

Outside the classroom, over the past decade, Brown has tutored, advised, and mentored several hundred undergraduate students, said Brennan.

Brown has served on numerous department, school, and University committees on curricula development and assessment. And most recently, he is leading the work to update the undergraduate thermal sciences lab in Pangborn Hall.

Brennan said Brown continuously strives to improve his teaching techniques and methodologies, attending teaching workshops and introducing extra lectures and problem-solving sessions via video.

Brown earned his mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology and his doctorate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Receiving his award, Brown thanked his colleagues from around the University for their friendship and for “the seriousness with which they deal with things ranging from teaching and research to the nature of the university and the meaning of Catholic identity.”

Catholic University’s Teaching Excellence Awards were established in 2006.
 

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