Nominations can now be submitted for two annual awards given to Cal Poly faculty members for excellence in teaching and for scholarly or creative contributions to their field of study.
The Distinguished Teaching Award, which began in 1963, takes into account not only how the faculty member communicates their class material, but also how they relate to students, award committee chair and architecture professor Michael Lucas said.
“This isn’t the type of school that faculty move through to get somewhere else,” Lucas said. “The senate wanted to have something that said, ‘Wow, we’ve got so many amazing people here, let’s acknowledge some of the people that we’ve seen have techniques that really made us the kind of institution we are.’”
This award is given to full-time tenured faculty, and nominations can be submitted by students and alumni. Lucas said the committee has consistently voted not to include submissions from higher up in the university because they want the process to be exclusively initiated by students.
After receiving the submissions, Lucas said the committee narrows down the number of candidates by the middle of winter quarter. Then the committee begins “visitations,” or observations of the nominees as they teach. These visitations happen during the last half of the winter quarter and the first half of spring, Lucas said.
“There’s nobody that I’ve seen … that I haven’t thought was a great teacher,” Lucas said.
Music professor and Cal Poly director of choral activities Thomas Davies won an award last year. When he heard he was a finalist, Davies said he was “pleasantly surprised.”
“As a teacher, I think it is incredibly rewarding to be nominated by students,” Davies said. “When they recognize and appreciate what you do and it comes back in a form like this, it’s very humbling.”
Because the Distinguished Teaching Award comes from students, Davies said he thinks it’s “one of the most rewarding rewards out there.”
Similar to the Distinguished Teaching Award, the Distinguished Scholarship Award also recognizes the efforts of faculty members. However, this award goes to faculty members who have contributed some sort of work that advances knowledge in their field of study and has an impact on students, according to award committee chair Brett Bodemer.
“It creates wider recognition and sort of gives them a hat tip for work well done,” Bodemer said.
The award was created in 2003 and recognizes faculty who are at Cal Poly for at least three years. Nominations are submitted by students, faculty, alumni and even faculty members voting for themselves. However, some faculty might be doing something “amazing” and not nominate themselves, Bodemer said.
Though the award can be given for scholarly work that relates to what a faculty member teaches, it doesn’t have to. For example, an art faculty member could be given the award for “a body of (art)work that is really outstanding,” Bodemer said.
Business management professor Michael Geringer won the award last year.
Committee member and business management professor Colette Frayne said, “(Geringer) stood out for us because of the ever-increasing importance of international business, and he is by far the most outstanding scholar in that area.”
Geringer also won the Distinguished Teaching Award in 2000 and served as the chair of that award’s committee for eight years. While he said the Distinguished Teaching Award is “the ultimate award” at Cal Poly is, he said winning the Distinguished Scholarship Award was also “a huge honor.”
“To be recognized as one of the top teachers and one of the top scholars means that you have a balance,” Geringer said. “So from that standpoint being recognized for each award is really gratifying because it says, you know, you can do both and do both well and it’s not an inherent trade-off between one or the other.”
Both of the committees that choose the winners are made up of faculty from each college, two Associated Students, Inc., student representatives and a member of the library staff. The committee for the Distinguished Scholarship Award also has one administration member.
Both committees select the winners spring quarter, and the recipients are recognized at spring commencement and the following fall conference. Winners of both awards also receive a cash prize as well as the recognition. Nominations are submitted through the Academic Senate website.