A former student who recently visited David Fisher, professor of philosophy, told him that his Philosophy of Law course was among the most memorable of her years at North Central College. “She remembered being engaged, her brain was alive,” he says. For Fisher, those conversations are welcome reassurances that his teaching methods reach his students. “I know that I’ve succeeded,” he says.
Recognition of masterful teaching came in another form for Fisher and two other professors when they were named Ruge Fellows in November. Lisa Long, associate professor of English, Karl Kelley, professor of psychology and Fisher joined three other professors named in 2007.
The College established the Ruge Fellows program to recognize and reward senior faculty for their contributions to teaching and learning. The program is named for the late Daniel Ruge ’39, M.D., a neuro- surgeon and White House physician to President Ronald Reagan, and former chair of the College Board of Trustees.
Like earlier Ruge Fellows, the three were selected based on detailed personal statements, course evaluations, faculty references and interviews. “Dr. Kelley, Dr. Fisher and Dr. Long approach the classroom with teaching styles that are very different from one another, yet share the distinction of achieving extraordinary teaching and student learning,” says R. Devadoss Pandian, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty.
All three Ruge Fellows are devoted to encouraging the growth of their students as they delve further into their academic coursework and mature as learners, thinkers and researchers.
“My job is not to proselytize students or get them to think the way I think,” says Long, who teaches courses in gender studies and African-American studies, among other areas. “Rather, I hope to make students aware of the ways that they think, to be able to really see and respect others’ views, and to be aware of the implications of arguing and acting in the way that they do.”
Fisher feels that teachers progress through several stages, beginning as post-graduate teachers who simply want their students to understand the current state of research. Later in their careers, great teachers know how to encourage reflective thinking. “A reflective thinker discovers the questions he or she must answer,” he says. “What does a certain text ask students to think about in their lives?”
Kelley finds his most rewarding teaching moments occur when working with students on research projects. Over the past few years, nine students have made significant contributions to his research and were listed as co-authors on papers presented at national and regional psychology conferences. “I believe everyone learns a great deal when we collaborate in solving a problem,” he says. “And to watch my students present a project to a professional audience has been among the most rewarding experiences I’ve had at North Central College.”
North Central NOW Winter 2008