Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching
The recipient of this year’s Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching has been at Fordham as a faculty member for less than a decade, but his Fordham roots reach deeper: he received his Master’s degree from GSAS at the turn of the millennium, and some of his colleagues remember him as a graduate student. After that, he may have strayed to a certain university in Princeton, New Jersey for his PhD.
Born in Ontario, Canada, this year’s awardee grew up in Sydney, Nova Scotia, in a gorgeous maritime province of Cape Breton. One of his teachers in an elementary school there noticed that his young student had “a great military mind.” This quality has been evident in his work with graduate students, as he asks them to approach the dissertation and the job market as a complex set of tactical maneuvers.
His extraordinary commitment to graduate education is reflected in his teaching and mentoring, as well as his transformative contributions to the graduate program. But much of his teaching happens outside of the classroom. For example, he has spent countless hours mentoring undergraduate majors applying to graduate school and master’s students applying to PhD programs; he has led regular “works-in-progress” seminars that allow students to share drafts of conference papers, dissertation chapters, and journal article submissions. Indeed, he has become an essential resource in the department for students learning to make their ideas legible and persuasive to a scholarly audience and the public at large.
His work as Director of Placement and Professional Development has not only helped them to develop their research and teaching profiles and to navigate the conventions and rituals of academic life, but it has produced a placement record that is the envy of other departments around the country. Graduate student advising is, of course, like the military, a team effort, but the placements speak for themselves. Today’s awardee’s maritime influence now stretches from at least New Haven south to Miami.
In his so-called spare time, he has also been involved in nearly every aspect of the graduate program, including recruitment, admissions, fellowships, colloquia, and assessment. As one colleague put it, the awardee has a “preternatural devotion to helping graduate students succeed.” His approach to professional development is as academic as it is holistic: he is known to conduct last-minute mock interviews in convention hotel lobbies and to lend his blazers to his students. He has a granola bar or two always on hand, in case the future professoriate suffers from a sugar crash.
He encourages graduate students to aim as high as possible. He coaches them to send their work to the best journals, as he believes they can place it there, and they often do. He puts faith in the students he advises, and they succeed because that confidence translates into matchless professional and practical support. He himself is a highly published and productive scholar, whose work graces the lists of the best presses and the pages of the most prestigious journals in his field, so he certainly mentors by example, too.