May 04, 2011

University Names Wittke Award Winners

For more than 45 years, Case Western Reserve University has honored faculty members for exemplary teaching skills with the Carl F. Wittke Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching.

The award, named for Carl Frederick Wittke, professor of history, chair of the Department of History and vice president of Western Reserve University from 1948 to 1963, is given to any faculty member who teaches undergraduate students.

The 2011 Wittke Award winners, nominated by undergraduate students, are Bernard Jim and Brian Metrovich.

Bernard Jim
Bernard Jim

Throughout his 14 years teaching at Case Western Reserve University, Bernard Jim has developed many critical skills, but perhaps one of the most valuable, in terms of connecting with the students, is “unlearning.”

“It is very important for me to ‘unlearn’ what I know about the material that I am teaching,” Jim said. “This keeps things fresh for me and helps me to meet the students at their level of knowledge regarding the topic.”

Jim, who leads SAGES seminars such as Spectacle in American Culture and Puzzled, started teaching at Case Western Reserve University in 1997 as a teaching assistant for History 112 while working on his PhD; he then taught courses on technology and culture for the Department of History and Weatherhead School of Management before being named a SAGES Fellow in 2007.

This is his first time winning the Wittke Award, and when President Barbara R. Snyder entered his classroom to announce the news, he was shocked. “President Snyder doesn’t tap you on the shoulder in a darkened classroom too often. I was,” he said, “pleasantly terrified.”

In the classroom, Jim is known for his interactive, engaging and approachable style. “He kept the entire class awake and engaged throughout the period and always had something funny to add in,” a student nominator said. Outside the classroom, students said, he is available to help in any way possible.

For Jim, it’s all part of the job—and something he can’t get enough of. “I love everything about my gig. Case students are smart, hardworking, and they offer enough resistance to make every seminar meeting a challenge,” he said.


Brian Metrovich
Brian Metrovich

Less than a year into his career at Case Western Reserve University, Brian Metrovich is already making a name for himself on campus.

An associate professor of civil engineering, Metrovich came to Case Western Reserve last fall after spending the past six years on the faculty at University of Miami and Tulane University, where he developed methods to improve the safety of the nation’s infrastructure, including highway bridges.

In his courses at Case Western Reserve, such as Strength of Materials, Metrovich constantly evolves his teaching style based on student feedback. “My general approach is to provide theory followed by examples that elaborate the important points,” he said.

This thoughtful approach has already gained attention. Metrovich, one student nominator said, is “an incredible teacher. Others have been telling me this but now I am experiencing it firsthand.” The student struggled in another course before taking the class under Metrovich’s instruction, and now has an excellent understanding of the material.

“His commitment to students in and out of the classroom is fantastic and demonstrated by his ability to answer questions about nearly anything pertaining to the studied materials,” the nominator said.

Metrovich is surprised and humbled to have earned the Wittke Award, and he hopes to use the skills he’s gleaned from his mentors in the past to assist his students in the future. “I have had some wonderful mentors over the years who helped to guide me along,” he said. “Hopefully I can have a similar impact on our current students.”

Posted by: Emily Mayock, May 4, 2011 08:58 AM | News Topics:

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