Pinanski Prize Full Citation

Connie Bauman, Daniel Brabander, and Paul Fisher

Presentation of the Awards

Connie Bauman

Connie Bauman, Associate Professor of the Practice of Sports Medicine, is commended by her students and colleagues alike for her enthusiasm, knowledge and ability to engage students. In the words of one nominator, “Connie Bauman embodies the very essence of what a professor should be: inspiring, encouraging, passionate and a lover and sharer of knowledge.”

Describing Professor Bauman, another nominator explains that her “dedication to her students is unparalleled. Her quest for new information, technology and teaching methods is never sated. Her preparation is impeccable. Her labs are practical. Her love of the subject matter is evident to all.”

The letters praise her “gem of a class,” not just for the invaluable knowledge she imparts to students, but also for the technology and interactive tools she uses to provide her students with the most exciting class possible. Students note that the outside enrichment activities she plans make her course a “must take” and that her commitment to engagement in learning through physical activity sets her apart.

Professor Bauman’s commitment does not end in the classroom: one student writes that she “truly inspires and encourages her students to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it in the real world.” One example of this is the program she created in which Wellesley students mentor local middle school girls about sports medicine—an ongoing testament to her dedication to her field, her students and the community.

Connie gives her time freely to advise students and helps them “find their passions.” She is praised for “her ability to build up a student’s confidence.” Her “unyielding commitment” to students is a theme throughout her nominations, and as one student concludes, “Her impact on students is life-long.”

I am honored to present the 2010 Anna and Samuel Pinanski teaching prize to Connie Bauman.

Daniel Brabander

Dan Brabander, associate professor of Geosciences, is described by student nominators as an enthusiastic and skilled teacher and “unusually perceptive mentor,” with an “infectious enthusiasm for science,” who “helps each individual discover what they’re truly passionate about.” Students praise his ability to inspire a “love of learning…that will stay with [us] in the years to come.” In the words of one nominator, Professor Brabander’s “amazing and engaging attitude makes every class exciting and interesting…. He truly has a gift!”

Students leave Professor Brabander’s classroom with an enjoyment for working collaboratively, often an underappreciated practice in undergraduate learning. In his classroom, students come to appreciate the challenge of effectively communicating their ideas to other scientists and to the public. His emphasis on group work and simulating real-world collaborations introduces students to the idea that science is both a group effort, as well as an interdisciplinary one in which each student has a particular contribution to make. A student nominator described this learning opportunity as “an unforgettable, interactive, and practical education, the likes of which I have seldom experienced.”

Professor Brabander is further commended for his innovative and dynamic teaching style, described by his students as “charismatic,” “inviting,” “inquisitive” and “engaging.” Students describe Professor Brabander as a student of his own classroom who adjusts his curriculum as he adopts new ways of conceptualizing problems, as well as to meet the abilities and interests of each unique group of students. The result is that his labs and classes across semesters are “never identical and almost always surprising.” Students repeatedly praise him for incorporating real-world applications in his classes. Moreover, students emphasize that Dan’s effective integration of teaching and research gives them the “enriching” and “refreshing” experience of “dealing with results that can’t be fully explained.”

Professor Brabander is described by his student nominators as one of the best professors they have had at Wellesley and an “invaluable member of the Wellesley College faculty.” As one student puts it, Professor Brabander is “passionate about his work in the lab, classroom, and in the field, and makes school FUN!”

Paul Fisher

In the words of one student nominator, Paul Fisher, assistant professor of American studies, “is unlike any other professor I’ve had at Wellesley—he is fiercely smart, funny, humble, gets a great class dynamic rolling and always encourages his students to pursue new and interesting ideas.” Other student nominators praise Professor Fisher’s ability to facilitate collegial discussions, both between professors and students and also among students, in and outside of the classroom. This, the students explain, leads them to value their own opinions as well as those of others.

Professor Fisher’s classes leave his students with new perspectives that influence their outlook on life. As one student explains, “he challenges each of his students to be a ‘Wellesley Wonderwoman’ who understands and appreciates the true power of literature.” His nominators express a deep admiration for his ability to create a classroom atmosphere in which students are eager to participate and for a teaching style that encourages creativity and fosters a desire to know more.

Professor Fisher challenges his students to strive beyond their perceived limitations and “empowers [them] to pursue new and unusual lines of argument.” He is, in addition, according to one of his students, a superb writer and scholar: “He writes beautifully, sensitively, and is a walking encyclopedia on American material culture….”

“Professor Fisher is an educator who passionately cares for the learning and development of his students,” according to another student. His availability and willingness to read students’ work and to provide insightful comments designed to help them understand how to improve their writing was commended in almost every nomination letter. Most importantly, Professor Fisher was described as “wear[ing] his own intelligence lightly and humbly.” Th is humility, combined with a sense of humor which makes his students feel like they’re entering a friendly discussion rather than a class, fosters an environment in which students of different backgrounds encourage and challenge each other.

In sum, Professor Fisher’s ability not only to engage but also to honor a classroom of diverse students embodies the best of Wellesley College and he richly deserves the Anna and Samuel Pinanski Teaching Prize.