The positive impact Case Western Reserve University professors have on the lives of their students is recognized annually with the J. Bruce Jackson, M.D. Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Mentoring. This year, Anne Helmreich, art history associate professor, and Stacy Williams, communications studies assistant professor, have been named Jackson Award recipients.
The Jackson Award was established in 2003 by J. Bruce Jackson, M.D., in honor of Dean Carl F. Wittke, his advisor, mentor and friend.
Also the director for the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities, Helmreich has undoubtedly made a mark on her students in her brief time at Case Western Reserve. She joined the staff here in 2004.
"Anne Helmreich is the single most influential person in my undergraduate career," said her anonymous nominator. "She deserves the Jackson Award for simultaneously challenging me to meet high expectations, facilitating my lofty academic and personal goals, supporting me in achieving those goals and consistently being available to listen and give advice as a good friend."
Helmreich challenges her students by having them identify their own goals, then working with them throughout the semester.
"How students meet their goals, to my mind, is a shared responsibility between both student and teacher," she said. "I feel that this award, in many ways, is a reflection of the students more than me. I believe in the idea of 'rising to the occasion.' That is, if you set the bar high, our bright and intelligent students can go far beyond it. And this applies to faculty as well. If our students set the bar high for us we will go above and beyond for them."
A scholar of Western European art from the mid-eighteenth through the early twentieth centuries, Helmreich also pursues several interdisciplinary interests, including the history of photography, gender studies, and museum studies. She has assisted with exhibitions at several internationally known museums and her recent book, "The English Garden and National Identity: the Competing Styles of Garden Design, 1870-1914" (Cambridge University Press, 2002), received the Historians of British Art Prize for Best Book on a post-1800 topic. She also has been recognized for her teaching; including being named a Mortar Board Preferred Professor in 2000.
And it's her teaching, and working with students, that Helmreich finds enriching on a day-to-day basis.
"I enjoy working with students both in and outside of the classroom," she said. I like them to work through the problems on their own and I see myself – in my best moments – as a guide or coach – so that the revelation of knowledge is really their own. It's great working with the undergraduate students here; they amaze me each and every day! And, I learn from them each and every day!"
The faith she shows in her students is appreciated and valued by those in her classes.
"Dr. Helmreich has done so much for me; it is difficult to choose a single most important thing," said her nominator. "She had faith in me when I was down on myself, she helped me to find self-confidence, she encouraged me more than anyone else—letting me know that I have what it takes to achieve my academic and life goals. But I think the most significant thing is that she helped me to 'find my voice,' as she says."
As a teacher of communication sciences and disorders and the founder and director of the Virtual Immersion Center for Simulation Research, an interactive virtual reality theater designed to aid speech pathology started in 2005, Williams combines active teaching techniques with patience to foster a productive learning environment.
"An effective teacher/mentor is someone that promotes the successful transfer of knowledge and skills learned in a classroom to everyday situations," said Williams, also a faculty member only since 2004. "Along with that, I have come to realize the teaching process is a genuine partnership between the instructor and the students and that requires time and trust on both sides."
In the classroom and the lab, Williams strives to create a learning environment that incorporates practice-based approaches with routine, everyday activities that lead to successful carry-over of clinical skills and knowledge. She feels this teaching model represents challenges students to higher levels of learning and problem solving. She also incorporates technology into every subject area and requires students to complete community service projects applying the knowledge and skills they have learned in the classroom to everyday. These types of teaching practices require the student to be an active participant in the learning process which keeps them engaged and motivated.
"Dr. Williams has helped me learn how to take my well-founded ideas and turn them into reality," said her nominator. "She has been extremely patient with me, as some areas have taken me longer to learn than others. She has taught me all the 'ins and outs' of research and invested her time and energy in my dreams and academic goals."
Hearing the glowing remarks from the students she mentors causes Williams to reflect not only on the significance of the award itself, but the power of being a positive influence as well.
"Given how busy students are today between studying, researching, working and being active in the campus community, to think that one of my students took the time to write about the impact my mentoring had and to nominate me is truly overwhelming," she said. "And it has taught me a life lesson of the importance of taking time to thank those who have impacted my life and career, because it really does make a difference."
Williams serves on numerous boards and committees inside and outside the university and has previously been honored with the 2007 Thompson Hine LLP, Woman of Excellence recognition for research, scholarship and accomplishments and the Northern Ohio Live Magazine Award of Achievement for Science and Technology in 2006.
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