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1996 Pinanski Prize citation
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Emily Griffin Buchholtz
Emily Griffin brings the science of life to life. Through her articulate, stimulating, and passionate teaching of biology she imbues her students with her own sense of wonder for the intricacies of plants, animals, evolution, and the diversity of biosystems.
Students are inspired not only by Professor Griffin’s deep knowledge of her subject but also by her humor and vitality. It is “as if she were talking to her best friend,” one student writes of being in her classroom. She conveys “a wonderful passion for science,” another writes, “ and each lecture is…both a treat and a privilege.”
In INCIPIT, the new interdisciplinary course for first-year students, Professor Griffin made the complexities of modern evolution and biological diversity understandable first to her colleagues on the faculty from across the college and then to a group of nearly 100 students with widely varying backgrounds in biology. She “also tackled poetry, political science, history, anthropology” another student observed with wonder that this teacher was herself a learner alongside of the students.
Kathryn Lynch is described by her students as creative, demanding, thoughtful and supportive, a complex mix. She excels at finding every student’s voice to create a dynamic classroom. Her inventive classes and assignments encourage freedom in both thought and design.
In addition, Professor Lynch encourages her students to find connections between medieval literature and everyday life. One student writes, she “has the rare gift of an imaginative, yet effectively captivating, teaching style. A professor who can take an Ann Landers column about marriage and relate it to Chaucer’s ‘Merchant’s Tale’ is exceptional!”
Another student writes that Kathryn Lynch’s methods “embody the true meaning of a liberal arts education by ingeniously bringing the readings of Chaucer and the legends of King Arthur to questions of learning and growth in the modern world.”
Ifeanyi Menkiti’s holistic style of teaching touches his students’ lives inside and outside the classroom. He pushes his students beyond traditional modes of thought by revealing the study of philosophy as an integral part of culture. Professor Menkiti encourages his students to explore new ideas and in the words of one student who wrote on his behalf, to “be brave with the work, and run with it.”
Another student writes, “I felt like I could express my thoughts, ideas, and my knowledge as an individual person, rather than ‘just’ a student. My ideas were accepted rather than judged.” Professor Menkiti goes to great pains to understand not only what a student is learning, but how she is learning it, building students’ confidence in their own ability to construct a powerful and persuasive argument.
Ifeanyi Menkiti is not just a professor, but a pre-medical advisor, a mentor, a friend to his students, encouraging the creative writing (he himself is an accomplished poet) as well as their work in philosophy. One student wrote, “I have learned a great deal from this man, and not just about philosophy, but about what it means to be a giving, thoughtful, and inspiring individual.”