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October 30, 2012

College faculty honored for excellence in teaching

Mark Bocko
Mark Bocko

Alison Frontier
Alison Frontier

Richard Kaeuper

Chosen for their passion for learning and their ability to inspire the same enthusiasm in students, Mark Bocko, Alison Frontier, and Richard Kaeuper are this year’s recipients of the Goergen Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

The Goergen Awards, which are named for and sponsored by Robert Goergen ’60, a University trustee and board chairman emeritus, and his wife, Pamela, recognize faculty members who have made substantial contributions to the undergraduate experience at Rochester. The University recognized this year’s winners, who were chosen from among the College’s more than 300 faculty members, during a luncheon and awards ceremony on Oct. 12.

Mark Bocko, distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering

During his more than 30-year career at the University, Mark Bocko has taught courses on solid state devices, microwaves, nonlinear dynamics, circuits, and engineering design. According to current student David Heid ’13, Bocko is always willing to discuss ideas on how to incorporate music and technology and how to help students achieve their research goals.

Heid also notes Bocko’s individual mentoring and interest in undergraduate research as instrumental to his project on beat detection. “Whenever I hit a roadblock, he would sit down with me and help me solve problems ‘the engineering way,’ by helping me identify the individual parts of the task,” Heid writes in his nomination letter. Heid, a dual-degree student earning bachelor’s degrees at both the Eastman School and the College, is just one of the many students on both campuses who have received mentoring and support from Bocko, who is an affiliated professor of music theory at Eastman.

Bocko, who has been a member of the electrical and computer engineering faculty since 1985, is the recipient of four other teaching awards at the University. He was given the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award by the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Science in 1991 and 2002. In 2002 he was named Professor of the Year by the University’s Students’ Association Senate and in 2007 was given the Graduate Dean’s Award for Meritorious Service in PhD Education. In addition to his teaching duties, Bocko serves as the technical director of the Center for Future Health and the director of the Center for Emerging Innovative Systems.

Alison Frontier, associate professor of chemistry

Alison Frontier joined the faculty in 2002 and since then has earned grants from the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation for her research group and has published multiple articles in prestigious journals. But, colleagues write, it’s her dedication and contribution to undergraduate education and unique ability to engage students in the classroom that make her a deserving recipient of the Goergen Award.

“Alison is a naturally gifted teacher and mentor,” writes Robert Boeckman, the Marshall D. Gates Jr. Professor of Chemistry and chair of the department. “She would be a role model for any student but has been a particularly positive role model for our female students and we are fortunate to have her in our department.”

In a letter of support for her nomination, Boeckman cites Frontier’s website, Not Voodoo, as an essential tool for students of chemistry. He adds that student evaluations describe Frontier as innovative and highly creative, with a “natural sense of how to relate science, even complex concepts, to students in a real and engaging fashion that inspires and elicits interest.”

Rachel Park ’14, who was a member of Frontier’s research group through the Research Experience for Undergraduates program, described the support and mentorship offered throughout the experience as influential to her future academic and career goals. “With her passion and energy toward chemistry, teaching, and nurturing students, Professor Frontier has undoubtedly brought the most significant influence on my academic career,” she writes. “I am most certain that she has and will continue to bring the same inspiration and positive lights to current and future students.”

Richard Kaeuper, professor of history

Richard Kaeuper’s colleagues point to a long record of teaching success in Goergen Award nomination letters. An internationally recognized scholar of medieval history, Kaeuper has published seven books and has one in press as well as three more in preparation.

He is a two-time recipient of the Students’ Association’s Award to Teaching Excellence (1986, 1999) and a 1990 recipient of the University’s Edward Peck Curtis Teaching Award. In course evaluations and personal letters, year after year, Kaeuper’s students have expressed deep appreciation for his strengths as a teacher and passion for the subject matter.

“Students have praised him for challenging their preconceptions about medieval history, pushing them to think critically, surprising them with new approaches to primary source documents, and teaching them writing skills through intensive one-on-one collaboration,” writes Matthew Lenoe, chair of the history department, in a letter nominating Kaueper for the award.

Stewart Weaver, professor of history, agrees. “Long before ‘undergraduate research’ became a signature mantra of student recruitment, Dick made it a central feature of his seminar instruction,” Weaver says. “He simultaneously immerses his students in the wealth of primary material available in our library and instructs them in the best uses of the same.”

Among dozens of students who can speak to Kaeuper’s influence on their academic careers is Katherine Newell Conwell ’06, a doctoral candidate in early American history at Binghamton University. “It was his genuine and contagious passion for history that sparked my own love of historical research early in my undergraduate career,” she writes. “He has provided me with the necessary knowledge and skills I need to continue on my journey to become the best scholar and teacher I can be.”

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