Nov. 7, 2012
Three professors were honored Nov. 6 at Catholic University's annual teaching awards ceremony and reception, held at the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center.
With fellow faculty members, staff, family, friends, and President John Garvey standing by, Provost James Brennan presented the 2012-2013 Faculty Awards for Teaching Excellence to George Mavroeidis, assistant professor of civil engineering; Andrew Weaver, associate professor of music; and Stephen Wright, professor of English.
Honoring faculty for exemplary teaching is important, as "teaching is so central to our mission and really ennobles so much of what we do as faculty members at The Catholic University of America," said Brennan.
The provost presented awards in three categories: Teaching Excellence in Early Career, Advancement of Teaching, and Overall Teaching Excellence. The professors each received a plaque and a check for $2,500.
Teaching Excellence in Early Career George Mavroeidis, assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, received the Teaching Excellence in Early Career Award. This award is given to the faculty member who has excelled in teaching in fewer than 10 years at the University.
Mavroeidis joined the University in 2007, said Brennan, and has taught six different undergraduate and graduate courses, developing course materials and class projects for each. He redesigned two general engineering courses to reflect better the interdisciplinary nature of evolving pedagogy in engineering, and revised the civil engineering undergraduate curriculum.
He received a diploma in civil engineering from the National Technical University of Athens in 1997, followed in 1998 with a master's in civil engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He completed his Ph.D. in civil engineering in 2004 with a specialization in earthquake engineering and engineering seismology from State University of New York at Buffalo, and served in postdoctoral research positions at both SUNY Buffalo and the University of California, San Diego.
He was a Marie Curie Fellow, which is an award from the European Union for collaborative research among several European universities, at the Institute of Engineering Seismology and Earthquake Engineering, Thessaloniki, Greece.
During his time at Catholic University, Mavroeidis "has accumulated an impressive record of grants, conference presentations, and peer-reviewed papers," said Brennan. Three years ago, he received the Charles H. Kaman Award for Excellence in Teaching, and in 2011, he received the Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation.
"His classroom and extra-classroom engagement reflects a genuine concern for his students' learning, and he is deeply committed to their academic and professional development," said Brennan. He is a sought-after adviser for students. "Dr. Mavroeidis is a talented and committed teacher who personifies the intersection between research and teaching, and brings excellence to both."
Mavroeidis thanked his colleagues and said he was delighted and honored to receive the award. "If you had told me five years ago when I had first joined the faculty that I would be recognized in this way, I would have been surprised," he said.
Having not had much experience teaching in front of a classroom, he said he was "very fortunate; my students were very patient with me, especially the first semester. Along the way, I have discovered that teaching can be a most rewarding experience."
Advancement of Teaching Andrew Weaver, associate professor in the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, received the Advancement of Teaching Award, which recognizes creative and innovative contributions to effective teaching, from adding technologies that improve delivery of information to students to introducing new areas of study.
Weaver received his bachelor's in music, magna cum laude, at Rice University, with a double major in musicology and viola performance, and then went on to Yale University, where he completed his M.Phil. in 2000 and Ph.D. in 2002. He has taught at the University since 2005, and was promoted to associate professor in 2011.
"He has been an active scholar and performer throughout his career," said Brennan, noting that Weaver's book "Sacred Music as Public Image for Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III: Representing the Counter-Reformation Monarch at the End of the Thirty Years' War" was recently published.
Weaver is known for encouraging projects with performance opportunities for his students.
"His nominators noted specifically the work in his seminar coordinated with the opera production of the great Italian composer Monteverdi's 'Poppea,'" said Brennan. "He coached many of the singers participating in the performances, both graduate and undergraduate, and taught them various performance possibilities suggested by scholars in recent research." This performance was acclaimed in The Washington Post and other media, he added.
A colleague noted that Weaver's greatest achievement was the creation of a B.A. in music, a program that doesn't require an audition and is designed to provide students with advanced music preparation at the university level combined with a broad liberal arts education.
Brennan noted Weaver was praised by colleagues for "his caring and innovative approach to education. He truly embodies the ideal of 'scholar as performer, or 'musicologist as performer.'"
"It's a tremendous honor to receive this award," said Weaver, adding that his parents had traveled from North Carolina to see him honored. "I am thankful to be teaching at this school that encourages us to be innovative and creative and provides the rich environment that made this award possible."
He added that the award is not his alone, but belongs to the colleagues "without whom I never could have pursued the activities for which I'm being honored." The award, he said, speaks to a cornerstone of his pedagogy "and that is of collaboration," with students, colleagues, and other schools at the University. "I love what I do."
Overall Teaching Excellence Stephen K. Wright, professor in the Department of English in the School of Arts and Sciences, was honored for Overall Teaching Excellence, for 10 or more years of excellent teaching. With this award, said Brennan, the University honors someone who "personifies what it means to be a master teacher."
Wright has been a University faculty member since 1982, and an ordinary professor since 1998. He received a B.A., summa cum laude, from Texas Christian University, with honors in English and German. He studied at the University of Freiburg, and received a B.Phil. in medieval studies in 1977 from the University of York. He completed a master's in 1978 and a Ph.D. in 1984 at Indiana University, both in comparative literature.
He has written numerous books, articles, and book chapters, as well as served as general editor of the "Early European Drama in Translation Series" for Pegasus Press. During his career, he held a number of international teaching positions as visiting professor at the University of Amsterdam, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Lianing Normal University in Dalian, China, and at the Catholic University Center in Rome.
Brennan noted that Wright's undergraduate course in Chaucer is one of the most popular in the curriculum and one of the most demanding in the English department. Wright has directed dissertations and mentored many scholars who are now teaching at higher education institutions across the country.
"His chair summarized his nomination by calling Steve Wright 'our MVP, Most Valuable Professor,' a person who is passionate about his subject, inspires his students, and is a world-class scholar,'" said Brennan. "Professor Wright seems to have an uncanny ability to bring out the very best in students, without their realizing that he is bringing them to new standards of excellence. He is an exacting mentor."
In thanking his colleagues, Wright talked emotionally about his experience as a 19-year-old student and about being offered a teaching position at his college. He never thought about being a teacher, but took the job. "I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew, from that point, there was only one thing I wanted to do with my life, and that was to be in a classroom," he said. "Thirty years later, I thank my lucky stars every morning that you have made this life possible for me."