Passionate professors, stellar students to be honored with annual awards

Hannah Brooks and Nadine Fox

The  Office  of  Academic  Affairs  is  seeking  nominations  for the  Teaching  Excellence  Award for  the  2021-2022  school  year.  The teaching  excellence  award recognizes    Mercyhurst faculty  who  have  significantly  contributed  to  the  intellectual  life of  the  university through  their teaching.  This  award  was  established   to   recognize   important contributions  to  the  university and honor faculty members who embody excellence in all aspects of   teaching   through   advising, mentoring, teaching to mission,

Debbie Morton

and  engaging  students  in  their learning.

The Teaching Excellence Award has been an annual tradition at Mercyhurst starting back in  1990.  The  award  is  designed to  recognize full  time  faculty members. Per the Mercyhurst Sharepoint Page for the Teaching Excellence Award, “Mercyhurst’s primary institutional  priority  has  always been,  and  still  is,  exceptional teaching  inside  and  outside  of the classroom setting.” Further the description for the award explains  that  the  award recognizes faculty who have made a significant impact on students  at  Mercyhurst  through their teaching. Recipients  are  recognized  at graduation,  as  well  as  at  a  separate  ceremony  and  receive  a small monetary award. The previous  year’s  recipient  forms  the selection  committee and reviews nominations from students, colleagues  and  alumni  to  select  a single faculty member to receive the award. Students,  faculty  and  alumni  are  all  eligible  to  nominate professors for this prestigious award.  They  are  asked  to  think of a professor who inspires, promotes and sustains student intellectual development the most.

This prestigious award is looking for a teaching style that is innovative, intellectually rigorous, creative, engaging and fosters critical thinking.  A  person  who is dedicated to going above and beyond as an advisor and a mentor with outstanding teaching effectiveness both in and out of the classroom. This means that the recipient should also support the mission of the Sisters of Mercy by raising global awareness, promoting social justice, and educating both the heart and mind. The nominated professor should promote active and collaborative learning through a variety of hands-on projects, simulations, case studies, service learning and outreach experiences. Professors should encourage students to not only learn the information but to apply what they are actively teaching.

The award was not given to any specific teacher for the 2020 school year due to COVID-19, but rather, given the challenges from teaching in a global pandemic, the committee felt that every single member of the faculty met the criteria during the unprecedented year. Every professor went above and beyond for their students and therefore were recognized for teaching excellence.

One of the past recipients of the award was Scott McKenzie who received this award in 2021. He is the assistant professor of Geology and Paleontology and has been teaching in the Geology department for twenty three years.

“I have a real interest in the subject and believe that people should understand the planet we all live on. I try to include some humor and a bit of romance in my classes wherever possible,” said McKenzie. “As for who will win the award this year, I know it will be someone that cares about our students, our university and our mercy heritage.”

If there is a particular teacher that comes to mind who really stands out and inspires you, make sure to nominate them for this prestigious award. The deadline to nominate a professor is Friday, April 1. Please visit the Teaching Excellence Award page on Sharepoint to submit your nominations.

In addition to awards for teaching excellence, the winners of senior graduation awards will be chosen soon. Winners will be chosen by the Presidential Awards Committee and winners will be presented with their awards during graduation weekend. There are several awards which will be given to students. 

The Carpe Diem Award for Academic Excellence is “presented to the graduating senior who is considered the top scholar among the graduating class.” The student who receives this award has been considered to make the most positive impact on the university during their time at the Hurst, and has lived by the university’s motto, Carpe Diem.

The Sister Carolyn Herrmann Service award is “given to a traditional graduating senior who has given unselfishly of loyalty and talent in the spirit of Sister Carolyn Herrmann, who served as the University’s president from 1962-1970.”

The Frank Barry Leadership Award is “given to a traditional graduating senior who has exemplified superior student leadership and campus involvement during their time at Mercyhurst.” The award is named after Frank Barry, who graduated from Mercyhurst in 1975, and was one of the first male student government presidents.

The Mother Borgia Egan Honors Award “recognizes the model honors student who fully embodies the spirit of a liberal arts education.” The winner must complete all Honors program requirements and demonstrate an appreciation to the cultural environment, in addition to academic excellence and a commitment to community service.

The Catherine McAuley Student Adult Award is presented to a non-traditional senior, an adult student, who has shown professional and personal achievement and superior work, both notable for recognition. GPA, as well as professional achievements and family responsibilities, determine who will win this award.

The President’s Award for Excellence in the Academic Colleges will be awarded to one senior from each of the four colleges at the university, who is considered to be the “top scholar at the baccalaureate level.” At the associate degree level, the McAuley Award for Excellence in the Academics will be granted to the top scholar at the associate degree level in each respective college. The Sister Eustace Taylor Graduate Student Award is given to the top student at the graduate level for each college.

With the school year coming to a close faster than we think, it is a great time to reflect on academic excellence at multiple levels – whether it be professors who display teaching excellence, or ourselves and our peers and the academic excellence and the ways that we carry the mission of Mercy. It is a great time to start pushing ourselves to achieve greatness and strive to win these honorable awards.