The Diekhoff Award honors John S. Diekhoff, who served Case Western Reserve University in several capacities during his tenure, from 1956 to 1970. He was professor of English, chair of the Department of English, dean of Cleveland College, acting dean of the School of Graduate Studies and vice provost of the university.
The Diekhoff Award recognizes outstanding contributions to the education of graduate students through advising and classroom teaching. The annual award has been presented to two full-time faculty members who epitomize what it means to mentor graduate students: to connect them with experts in their discipline, engage them academically in a forthright and collegial manner, and actively promote their professional development. In 2009, the award was expanded to also recognize two full-time faculty members who excel in the teaching of graduate students.
This year's winners are Daniel Goldmark, Susan Hinze, Barbara Lewis and Mendel Singer.
Teaching is definitely in the genes for Associate Professor of Music Daniel Goldmark: “Practically everyone in my family is a teacher.” Goldmark also credits his success to the many teachers he has had — claiming he can still recall all of their names. What they shared, he says, was the idea that whatever is taught should go beyond facts and be meaningful and relevant. The University’s guru of cartoon, film and popular music has sought an untraditional path in his discipline and is always open to new ideas raised by his graduate students in his seminars on music and film. “I really enjoy exposing people to new things--particularly ideas that are interesting, neat and just grab you. Every day is a new and memorable experience in teaching,” One student describes his casual teaching style as “comfortable” in that he talks openly and honestly to students to create an important dialogue of ideas.
One rewarding aspect of mentoring graduate students, says Associate Professor of Sociology Susan Hinze, is being part of their evolution from student to professional peer. “It’s a joy to watch students develop into accomplished teachers and researchers,” Hinze says. “Graduate training can be lengthy, and our life course trajectories intersect so we may share personal as well as professional milestones with students, including marriages, children’s births, and sometimes even deaths of family members.” Hinze, sociologist and Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, learned mentoring through experience, and observed that careers do not always have perfectly linear trajectories. She thinks it is important is to engage students in a running dialogue so there is mutual understanding about where the student wants to go, and what they need to reach those goals.
“Each students has strengths and weaknesses,” says Barbara Lewis, professor of communication sciences with a secondary appointment in pediatrics. “I start where the students are and use those strengths to help them with what they need.” This is particularly important as the Department of Communication Sciences transforms its requirements to include a meta-analysis or research-based master’s thesis. Lewis is the sideline cheerleader, encouraging and mentoring her students through the maze of balancing their required clinical experiences with research. Her students describe her as calm in stressful situations, available for meetings and discussions, excellent problem solver, and creative in her approach to challenges. They also cite her experiences in communication sciences. Lewis draws from research as the lead investigator on a 23-year, National Institute of Health-funded study that explores the genetic basis for speech sound problems in young children.
Funny, considerate, motivating, and knowledgeable describe Mendel Singer, who teaches statistics in the Master of Public Health Program and in the Division of Health Services Research and Policy in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. He’s known since 13 that his passion is for teaching, and even gave up a country music songwriting career for it. Statistics daunt some students, but Singer builds their confidence by engaging them in classroom discussions, creating opportunities for their success. As each semester ends with student presentations, he sees the culmination of his work in building a new generation of public health researchers. Singer, the father of eight children, says being a teacher and father has helped both his family and students. Largely due to his wife, he has learned about phases of human development and sees his students progressing in ways similar to how his children explore and understand the world.
All photos by Susan Griffith.
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