Professors Honored For Teaching Excellence
Published: Monday, April 23, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 19:11
On Wednesday afternoon students, faculty, and family members gathered in Baird Recital Hall to honor professors who have gone above the typical expectations of their students.
The Milton Plesur Excellence in Teaching Award is given out annually to professors who create a helpful learning environment and continue their impact outside of the classroom. The award is named after late UB history professor, Milton Plesur. Plesur crossed the boundaries of the typical student/teacher relationship by establishing friendships with students. The winners of this award have Plesur’s attributes and are nominated by students.
The recipients of the award were Dr. James Jensen, professor of civil, structural, and environmental engineering and director of the environmental science program; Bradley Owens, Ph.D., assistant professor of organization and human resources; David F. Watson, associate professor of chemistry; Sarah Elder, professor of media studies; and Peter Morgan, Ph.D., director of undergraduate studies and professor of economics.
Catherine Boatman, a senior media study major, nominated Elder. Boatman dreamed of going to Hawaii to shoot a film during college, but couldn’t afford to. When Boatman met documentary film professor, Sarah Elder, her dream came true. Elder helped her apply for the grant that allowed her to go to Hawaii.
“A lot of the films that come out of our [media] department are Buffalo-based because you don’t get exposure to other parts of the world,” Boatman said. “[The grant] allowed me to travel to Hawaii to do a film, which was very rare for an undergrad here at UB to have the opportunity.”
Elder devotes her life to producing, teaching, and studying films. She said she was caught off guard that she received the award.
Boatman wasn’t Elder’s only student present at the ceremony.
“You don’t really get feedback from students, they move on to their jobs and their families,” Elder said. “The fact that so many of my students came to support me today, brought me to tears; I didn’t expect it.”
Morgan won this award for the second time in eight years because of his ability to understand and entertain students.
Ofhir Yabocowiz, a freshman business major, was personally affected after being in Morgan’s class.
“He really changed my life,” Yabocowiz said. “I was in trouble and he was just understanding and compassionate. You just don’t get a lot of teachers like this.”
Morgan has recently gone through tough times in his own life, the specifics of which he was not interested in disclosing to The Spectrum. He has always been there for his students, and by nominating him for this award his students were there for him.
Morgan takes his role as a professor beyond just being an educator.
“We [are] also mentors,” Morgan said. “It’s my obligation and my responsibility. Teaching is only a part of the job.”
The Student Association, which saw a record-breaking amount of applicants, oversaw recommendations. Students who nominated their teachers must describe how their professor specifically creates an enthusiastic atmosphere in the classroom.
SA received about 50 applicants, according to Amanda Horn, SA representative for Student Affairs.
“We read through each and every applicant,” Horn said. “It took a long time but we thought it was important to read each and every word written, and make sure that each professor we chose [actually met] the standards of Milton Plesur.”