Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives


Three Faculty Members Receive 2013 Teaching Awards

  • Arun Jacob presents the teaching award for visiting and part-time faculty members to Patricia Sciaffini, part-time instruc...
    Arun Jacob presents the teaching award for visiting and part-time faculty members to Patricia Sciaffini, part-time instructor of Chinese.

Patricia Schiaffini makes learning Chinese easy

A language professor who makes learning Chinese easy, a communication studies professor who helps students polish their public speaking skills, and a political science professor who helps students develop their analytical and critical thinking skills have received the 2013 Southwestern University Teaching Awards.

The awards were presented at the April 23 faculty meeting. 

Political science major Arun Jacob presented the teaching award for visiting and part-time faculty members to Patricia Schiaffini, part-time instructor of Chinese. “She takes something hard and makes it easy,” Jacobs said. Jacob said Schiaffini has inspired him to continue studying Chinese and he plans to attend an eight-week intensive summer language program at Middlebury College this summer to become proficient in the language.

Erica Grant, a junior communication studies major, presented the teaching award for a non-tenured faculty member to David Olson, assistant professor of communication studies. Olson teaches public speaking and is also the internship advisor for the Communication Studies Department. He has taught at Southwestern since 1992.

“Throughout the time I have known Professor Olson, he has inspired me to chase my dreams, to believe in myself, and to build upon my self-confidence,” Grant said. “These are tools that will prove to be useful throughout life.”

Ben Bracher, a senior political science major, presented the teaching award for a tenured faculty member to Alisa Gaunder, who was recently promoted to professor of political science. Gaunder has taught at Southwestern since 2002 and currently serves as chair of the Political Science Department. Most of the classes she teaches focus on Japanese politics or comparative politics. Bracher did an honors thesis with her and the two have written a paper together.

“ I nominated Dr. Gaunder because not only does she set high expectations for her students and teaches how to research and work at advanced levels of scholarship, but she shows enthusiasm for interdisciplinary and collaborative learning,” Bracher said. “Time and time again Dr. Gaunder went above and beyond what one would expect of a professor while working one-on-one with me to make sure that my work met her rigorous standards. She also did her utmost to make sure that each experience was an opportunity for me to learn and improve my scholarship, as well as an opportunity for her to learn from me and improve her teaching skills. Working with Dr. Gaunder has taught me not only critical thinking and writing skills − two hallmarks of a great liberal arts education − but has been an enjoyable collaborative experience.”

The Teaching Award was created by the Southwestern faculty in 1999 to recognize faculty members who have demonstrated excellence in teaching. Nominations for the award are submitted by students in the spring semester, and recipients are selected by the Honorary Degrees Committee. The awards to full time faculty members come with a $1,500 prize and the awards to part-time faculty members come with a $1,000 prize.

“All three of these professors are representative of the outstanding faculty we have at Southwestern,” said Provost Jim Hunt.

The 2013 Excellence in Academic Advising Award, which includes a $500 prize, went to Josh Long, assistant professor of environmental studies.

“Professor Long motivates me both inside and outside the classroom, said Seve DeGrand, an environmental studies major who nominated him for the award.

Long has been a member of the Southwestern faculty since 2011.