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SCS is pleased to announce the award citations for the winners of the College and University Teaching Prize for 2022:

Chelsea Gardner

Clifford Robinson

Click on the names above to read the full award citations below.

Chelsea Gardner

Professor Chelsea Gardner’s pedagogy expands the boundaries of learning far beyond the classroom. Her “Introduction to Archaeology” students are invited into Acadia University’s STEAMspace lab to learn techniques such as drone photography, 3D scanning & printing, and pottery conservation. Her “Ancient Greece and Rome in Film” students compose storyboards for movie scenes they design themselves. Her “Peopling the Past” podcast reaches out to give a voice to young scholars from under-represented groups, offering them an opportunity to share their expertise on this award-winning project platform, which in turn provides a freely available learning resource to Classics instructors everywhere. Indeed, she places a high value on creating and using free or low-cost teaching materials of many kinds to make sure her courses are accessible to all.

Her innovative digital humanities methods and materials have proved a great success in engaging students, particularly during the difficult semesters of COVID-19 remote teaching. The Dean of Arts at Acadia comments that in her courses, “students felt that they were valued members of a learning community... instead of being merely passive consumers of information delivered to them via a computer screen.” Professor Gardner achieved this sense of deep community ties through a combination of novel pedagogical tools like integrating “Peopling the Past” into her courses and assiduous check-ins with her students to see how the new teaching methods were working for them. Furthermore, she offers her students a wide range of assessment options for projects, including not only writing traditional papers but also creating digital resources like podcasts or websites and even original artistic and creative projects.

Such a broad range of options might prove confusing to students in other hands, but Professor Gardner provides careful guidance to help them excel in any medium. Her teaching materials are meticulously detailed with rubrics explaining the types of responses that can earn marks in categories like “exemplary” or “needs revision,” as well as reminders to the student of the goals of the assignment and suggestions for students from different backgrounds about how to adapt their interests to those goals. She also leads by example, connecting students to projects hosted on another remarkable digital project she developed, “From Stone to Screen,” as well as to web-based projects created by other students. One student remarks that their friends from other courses were jealous of the opportunities for creative expression Professor Gardner offered.

Not only does Professor Gardner create innovative and accessible teaching methods to draw a broader range of students into the study of Classics, but she is hailed by her students for her compassion and kindness. She invites students to dine with visiting speakers to give them another window onto the discipline and works closely with them to help them achieve goals that include admission to their “dream grad school,” attending conferences, or simply overcoming academic and emotional challenges. As one student puts it, “there are not enough words in the English, Greek, and Latin languages to describe how great a professor Dr. Gardner is!”

The SCS is delighted to honor Chelsea Gardner with the 2022 Award for Excellence in Teaching of the Classics at the College and University Level.

Clifford Robinson

A group of students record the changes in the phases of moon over the course of a month. Others show up for a digital lab, adding commentary to an ancient scientific encyclopedia. Still others are deep in a bibliography project that is teaching them to take their scholarship public through the software program Zotero. These assignments—and many more like them—were designed, adapted, or crafted by Dr. Clifford Robinson while he was the Assistant Professor of Classics at the University of the Sciences from 2016-22, where he taught and received promotion with tenure prior to the University’s merger in June 2022. Dr. Robinson’s success in teaching not only shows the myriad ways that humanistic study has power and currency for aspiring scientists such as the ones he taught; it also demonstrates how scientific culture can challenge prevailing ideas about which texts and which modes of learning we prioritize for undergraduate education.

Dr. Robinson never seems to forget his audience, no matter what he is teaching. From the beginning, his introductory Latin class invited students to encounter and work with the Latin of Vitruvius and Newton, offering them a way to see how this new (to them) language links the past to their present pursuits. Stretching himself to guide students through material far removed from his specialization in Latin consolatory literature, he found ways to enliven students’ imaginations by examining Babylonian astronomical diaries, sharing in perplexities at Galen’s diagnostic technique, or unpacking Ptolemy’s mathematical diagrams. Student praise for his course on Ancient Science reveals a class that accomplishes multiple goals simultaneously: a rich and complex understanding of the past, the cultivation of humanistic research and analysis, and the application of critical thinking skills to contemporary scientific issues. Students attest to his ability to enliven the scientific past with “cross-cultural and multi-disciplinary inquiry” and acclaim that he “nurtures intellectual curiosity” through his immersive teaching. One student observes that a project on a catapult allowed him “to learn more about its engineering process, but also the significance of it from a geo-political perspective.” Dr. Robinson not only reveals the past, but makes the impact of scientific topics and controversies immediate: a topic like pseudo-science is not just a medieval curiosity, but rather has been “greatly important at a science institution where we are the future of healthcare and science.”

His desire for students to engage in work that is meaningful to them has resulted in numerous student presentations and publications in classics. Yet, his mentorship extends well beyond this: advising students for MD/PhD programs, encouraging them to apply for all manner of research grants, reading abstracts and papers prior to submission, helping them prepare posters, cheering them on in the audience. Dr. Robinson’s personal support, however, remains the most memorable for students: “Sometimes coming into our meetings, I would feel so unsure and defeated with my work, like I had hit a brick wall. After leaving, I always felt reinvigorated and reassured.”

Students’ praise for Professor Robinson’s teaching is only exceeded by their esteem for him as a person. His “welcoming, positive classroom” is a place where he cultivates learning by supporting students. Appreciation for his kindness, his individualized attention, his ability to see the whole person are constant refrains. Professor Robinson’s respect for his students, honesty, and supportive structures mean that students who did not previously see themselves as philosophers or classicists, or who did not previously value the humanities, now see the two as necessary and interrelated.

We are honored to recognize Clifford Robinson for his outstanding teaching with the SCS’s 2022 Award for Excellence in Teaching of the Classics at the College and University Level.