Webb Receives Teaching Award; Other College Faculty Named As Finalists

Jennifer Webb of the Department of Psychological Science is the 2019 recipient of the Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence. Each fall, through the University Teaching Excellence Awards, UNC Charlotte recognizes faculty members who are exemplary educators.

“Dr. Webb has demonstrated a strong commitment to teaching and has proven to be an outstanding classroom instructor,” said Eric Heggestad, associate professor and chair of the Department of Psychological Science. “She is widely regarded as a passionate, caring and knowledgeable instructor who is exceedingly skilled at sharing her knowledge with students in a way that they can fully grasp and, in fact, get excited about.”

Thomas Marshall, a lecturer in Risk Management and Insurance, received the inaugural UNC Charlotte Award for Teaching Excellence.

From the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, three other faculty also were honored as finalists for the University’s two teaching awards during the university’s celebration ceremony on Friday, Sept. 6, at the Hilton Center City.

For the Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence award, finalists are Jordan Poler, professor, Chemistry; and James Franki, associate professor, Art and Art History. For the new UNC Charlotte Teaching Excellence Award, the two finalists both come from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. They are Oscar Lansen, teaching professor, History; and Terry Shirley Jr., senior lecturer, Geography and Earth Sciences.

Webb, an associate professor in the Department of Psychological Science, joined UNC Charlotte in 2007. She has taught eight courses in the psychology undergraduate program and four courses for the health psychology doctoral program. Additionally, she developed two new courses for the undergraduate major.

When engaging with students, Webb strives for respect, fairness, transparency and authenticity. She considers her classroom a space where students are co-creators in the process of learning with the goal of enhancing student motivation and learning.

“I do not believe in lecturing at students. I view the classroom as a creative space for our collective wisdom to dynamically unfold through lively exchanges in which we can comfortably debate the merits of multiple sides of an issue. Engaging this critical lens supports students’ consciousness-raising capacities and cognitive flexibility as personal resources.”

— Jennifer Webb

She also uses group projects and assignments around community engagement and advocacy themes to “advance students’ ability to synergize their collective personal strengths in a meaningful way to help strengthen campus or community resources.”

The Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence, first presented in 1968, is given to a full-time, tenured faculty member with at least seven years of service to UNC Charlotte.

Terry Shirley Jr. (from left), Jennifer Webb, Jordan Poler and Oscar Lansen.

Finalists Share Teaching Philosophies

Poler said even after 24 years teaching chemistry, “I love watching all the furrowed brows become raised, with widened eyes.”

Connecting with his students is important to Poler. He developed a “Pledge of Allegiance” method to check in with students, by asking multiple choice queries that students can answer by holding that number of fingers to their chest.

“It is private, but not anonymous, since I can connect with them directly, even in the back row,” he said.

Recognizing that inexperienced students need more resources to be successful, for the past eight years Poler has offered a weeklong boot camp for rising first-year students called, “Summer Intensive Chemistry Orientation.” This camp helps improve student success, increase retention, lower withdrawal rates and improve overall GPAs.

Lansen has witnessed how societal and structural changes present challenges for today’s undergraduates, and he seeks to countermand that by employing classroom innovations such as experiential didactics, visuals-spatial modeling, collaborative teaching and specialized course design, in order to develop students’ analytical and expressive skills. As a testament to his professional excellence, Lansen has received eight teaching awards during his time at UNC Charlotte.

“I love to teach: to awaken critical inquiry and equip young minds with the essential skills for meaningful action in life and work,” said Lansen. He seeks to engage students in learning by developing course themes and foci that are inclusive of and relevant to the diverse backgrounds of his students. In some courses, he has students view the content through the eyes and action of their historical peers.

Shirley is widely known for his enthusiasm for meteorology, and he wants to share that passion with others.

“Getting someone excited to learn, to grow as a person, to embrace diversity, to problem solve, to ask ‘Why?’, and to effectively communicate is what I center my career around,” said Shirley.

During his 13 years at UNC Charlotte, Shirley has developed two general education electives and several upper division bachelor’s courses. He also developed and delivered one of the department’s first online courses. In addition, Terry is the department’s faculty fellow for LEADS, a transdisciplinary career preparation program, and was elected to the University’s Faculty Integrity Board. He also serves on the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.

The new UNC Charlotte Award for Teaching Excellence is open to full- or part-time non-tenure track faculty members who have at least five years of teaching service at UNC Charlotte (lecturers and adjunct faculty). Eligibility for the Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence, first presented in 1968, continues to be for full-time, tenured faculty members with at least seven years of service to UNC Charlotte.