MAY 12, 2014 BY EDWIN SMITH
The College of Liberal Arts at the University of Mississippi recognized three faculty members May 10 for their excellence in teaching.
The Liberal Arts Outstanding Teacher of the Year award went to Jay Watson, Howry Professor of Faulkner Studies and professor of English. Melvin S. “Buddy” Arrington Jr., professor of modern languages, received the Cora Lee Graham Award for Outstanding Teaching of Freshmen. The Liberal Arts Outstanding Instructor of the Year honor was presented to Joan Wylie Hall, lecturer in English.
Each recipient was recognized at the college’s commencement ceremony and presented a plaque and $1,000. His or her name was also added to an award plaque in the dean’s office.
“The recipients of this year’s outstanding teaching awards join the cadre of past honorees recognized as the best and most accomplished faculty within the University of Mississippi,” said Glenn Hopkins, dean of liberal arts. “We commend each of them for dedication, excellence and service to our students and their educational pursuits.”
Each recipient reflected upon the meaning of his or her selection for the prestigious honors.
“For me as a literature professor, teaching is primarily about bringing energy to the classroom, conveying enthusiasm and excitement about the material, asking good questions – and modeling how to ask them – and challenging students to get out of their comfort zones, take intellectual chances and enjoy the conversation about what writing – including their writing – can do,” Watson said.
“What makes the award so fulfilling is knowing that these priorities seem to resonate with the college, and hopefully with my students as well.”
Arrington said he feels like he’s just been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“This award is for ‘Outstanding Teaching of Freshmen,’ but in my case I think it should read for ‘Teaching Outstanding Freshmen,’” Arrington said. “I have had the privilege over the last 15-plus years of being a part of the teaching team for Honors 101 and 102. The students in these classes are always among the top achievers at the university, and it is very gratifying to think that I may have made some contribution to their education.”
Winning her teaching award makes Hall feel more connected than ever to the university and those who have walked there in the past two centuries.
“Most of my life as a teacher has taken place on this campus, but the university has also provided me with a lifetime of learning opportunities, from lectures and concerts to teaching workshops and the annual Oxford Conference for the Book,” Hall said. “The Center for the Study of Southern Culture and the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies have enriched my teaching and research in many ways. Sharing the work of Southern authors with my students has been a special pleasure of teaching.”
Criteria for Teacher and Instructor of the Year awards include excellence of class instruction, intellectual stimulation of students and concern for students’ welfare.
Established 30 years ago by Cora Lee Graham of Union City, Tennessee, the Graham award was established to help retain better professors who teach freshman classes in the College of Liberal Arts. Criteria for this annual award also include excellence of class instruction, intellectual stimulation of students and concern for students’ welfare.
Administrators in the school said all the honorees are worthy of the recognition of their success.
“It’s not uncommon for students to report that Dr. Watson’s class is the best they’ve taken while at the University of Mississippi,” said Ivo Kamps, chair and professor of English. “Dr. Hall makes a significant contribution semester after semester, and she is highly deserving of this prestigious teaching award.”
Arrington’s latest recognition adds to a long and deep list of Department of Modern Languages faculty who have received teaching awards, said Donald Dyer, chair and professor of modern languages.
“His engaging and enduring professionalism, as well as his encouraging manner, are hallmarks of the department’s faculty, who provide daily some of the finest teaching available on our campus,” Dyer said.