Truly great professors may be rare, but when found, they should be honored for their dedication and impactful teaching style. The Milton Plesur Award, which allows students to nominate their outstanding professors, may be a simple way to express gratitude for these influential individuals.
Dr. Milton Plesur taught at the University at Buffalo from 1955-1987 in the history department. Although he wrote six books, won the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching, and is a renowned scholar, most do not remember him for his academic success. Instead, his commitment to both teaching and to student life is Plesur's lasting impression. Thus, the Student Association created this award to recognize exceptional professors.
"This gives students the opportunity to give back and say ‘thanks' to the professors who have made an impact on their life," said Anika Brabham, a senior psychology major and the academic liaison for the SA student affairs department. "Professors are not recognized and appreciated enough for their hard work and effort."
Started in 1987 after Plesur's death, this award is presented annually to faculty members who have had a positive and memorable effect on students that they have taught. It is an effort to better recognize the important role that education plays in students' lives, both inside and outside of the classroom.
This honor is unique because it comes not from someone who just reads their accomplishments on paper, but from students who have the chance to experience these instructors' outstanding characters on a daily basis.
"Because it is from the undergrads, with no other people involved, it really meant a lot," said Hershini Young, an associate professor in the English department who has taught at UB for seven years and was a winner of last year's Milton Plesur Award. "One of my favorite students gave me my award, and it meant the world to me."
Students have the opportunity to nominate their professors once during the fall semester and once during the spring semester. An awards ceremony is held at the end of the year to honor the winning faculty members.
"Students don't always have the power and opportunity to reward their professors in such a tangible way," said Steven Powell, a senior civil engineering major and the administrative director of communication for the SA. "A professor that receives an award can hold onto that forever."
Any person teaching an undergraduate class who has not won the award in the past five years is eligible to win. To nominate a professor, students must submit the form electronically on SA's website, at sa.buffalo.edu, by March 25.
The form asks for general information, such as the professor's name and the class in which the nominating student is enrolled. In addition, it also asks for the student to explain in approximately 250 words why their professor deserves to win.
"Many professors are motivated by students. They might be working for the moral incentive of helping others," Powell said. "Receiving an award like this from your own students would be a solid confirmation that, as a teacher, you are benefiting the younger generation."