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Leading the way: Dal’s 2024 university wide teaching award winners exemplify excellence in higher ed

Posted by Staff on June 25, 2024 in News
People gather in a classroom in the Schulich School of Law. (Danny Abriel)
People gather in a classroom in the Schulich School of Law. (Danny Abriel)

Dalhousie’s instructors play a pivotal role in creating an exceptional experience for students, one of the pillars of the university’s strategic plan.

Their commitment to providing a quality education has shaped Dal’s reputation as a leader in higher ed and as one of the most student-centred research-intensive universities in Canada.

Every year, Dal's Centre for Learning and Teaching recognizes some these leading lights in the classroom with its University-Wide Teaching Awards. 

Ten teachers are being celebrated with awards this year in a range of categories from academic innovation and graduate supervision to undergraduate student teaching and Dal’s top award, the Alumni Association Faculty Award of Excellence for Teaching.

Find out more about the winners of the 2024 University-Wide Teaching Awards below:

Dalhousie Alumni Association Faculty Award of Excellence for Teaching

Dr. Marion Brown, School of Social Work

Faculty of Health

Dr. Marion Brown is a social worker and educator with more than two decades of experience in facilitating meaningful conversations in community and university settings. She began teaching at the School of Social Work in 2002 and in 2020 was appointed associate dean academic in the Faculty of Health, where she is responsible for strategic leadership in program and curriculum development, implementation, evaluation, and continuous improvement for academic and scholarly innovation. Dr. Brown is being recognized for her outstanding teaching and educational leadership, which is demonstrated through her consistently exceptional student learning experience questionnaires that highlighted her energy, enthusiasm and passion for both undergraduate and graduate student learning processes as well as the invaluable leadership role she plays in her Faculty. Dr. Brown has excelled at providing collegial support, enhancing the student experience, fostering teaching excellence and developing partnerships with community field education agencies. Dr. Brown’s ground-breaking achievements? The Queer Centred Social Work Practice course and the Africentric Bachelor of Social Work Cohort. Both stand as testament to her unwavering commitment to EDIA (equity, diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility) and equitable access to post-secondary education.

Award for Excellence in Online/Blended Course Development, Design, and Delivery

Gabriella Mosquera

Faculty of Computer Science

Professor Gabriella Mosquera's teaching focuses on applied web and application development courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level for the Faculty of Computer Science, as well as undergraduate electives for non-Computer Science majors with a focus on application development and content creation. Professor Mosquera's teaching methodology focuses on creating an experiential learning environment in which students develop their skills portfolios in order to address industry demands. Through a combination of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and a Hybrid-Flexible (HyFlex) course design, her classes encourage a flexible, inclusive, and accessible learning environment that fosters creativity and supports all types of learners, while enhancing students’ learning experiences and increasing course engagement. Professor Mosquera is currently researching the impact of course design on student learning experiences and exploring applications that address accessibility needs.

Academic Innovation Award

Dr. Ted Hubbard, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Faculty of Engineering

Dr. Ted Hubbard joined the Department Mechanical Engineering at Dalhousie in 1995. Dr. Hubbard's award is in recognition of the hands-on learning experience he offers students in the machine design and design/prototyping courses and his work in introducing students to the world of simulations. He incorporates the arts into his teaching and shows creativity in providing the resources and flexibility to allow students to plan and complete their projects on their own time, helping them build tangible skills they can take with them into their careers.

Award for Excellence in Graduate Supervision

Dr. Nikhil Thomas, Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Faculty of Medicine

Dr. Nikhil Thomas, professor in the the Faculty of Medicine's Department of Microbiology and Immunology, centres his research on molecular and cellular microbiology with a focus on significant food and water-borne human pathogens and ocean microorganisms. His research program and philosophy of mentoring have contributed to the fields of microbiology and human pathogens and have held Dr. Thomas’s laboratory to a high standard at Dalhousie. Many of Dr. Thomas’s lab graduates have progressed to become faculty members at other highly regarded institutions and can be found in the public and private sectors, making significant contributions in science, medicine, biotechnology, and governance. 

Dr. Thomas's ability to promote the aspects of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in his team and the Dalhousie academic community and his initiatives and active participation in the Dalhousie Graduate student BIPOC mentoring academy illustrate his commitment to inclusivity and support for underrepresented groups. These contributions, among others, underscore his merit for the 2024 Award for Excellence in Graduate Supervision.

Contract and Limited Term Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching

Laurel Schut

College of Sustainability

Laurel Schut is an instructor at Dalhousie University’s College of Sustainability. She is being recognized for her exceptional commitment to teaching, innovative instructional methods, and a profound impact on students’ academic and personal development. Her efforts to connect with students and foster a supportive and inclusive atmosphere that encourages active participation and critical thinking is highly commendable. She has (co)designed and currently teaches several courses at Dalhousie. Laurel has a deep interest in effective, creative, and care-based teaching and is engaged in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), with current projects including curriculum mapping of the Environment, Sustainability and Society (ESS) program; first-year literacy assessments; improving students’ conflict communication competencies and comfort levels; developing strategies to counter eco-anxiety and build resilience in students; and the trust relationship between teachers and students in higher education. As an advocate for “rest as resistance," Laurel is also a Faculty Associate with the Centre for Learning and Teaching where she explores the connections (and tensions) between faculty well-being, community care, and teaching effectiveness.

Early Career Faculty Award of Excellence for Teaching

Dr. Jennifer Frail-Gauthier, Department of Biology

Faculty of Science

Dr. Jennifer Frail-Gauthier is an instructor in the Department of Biology, having previously taught courses in zoology, taxonomy, and phylogeny for 13 years on PTA/LTA contracts before becoming the laboratory instructor for BIOL 2040 (Evolution) in 2021. Jen is also the director of the SEASIDE summer field courses and teaches in the sun, sand, water, and mud for Coastal Ecology. She also serves as the co-op advisor for Marine Biology. Dr. Frail-Gauthier adapts her teaching style based on student feedback to tailor the learning experience to individual needs. Whether in the lab, the classroom, or the field, Dr. Frail-Gauthier focuses on enthusiasm and fun, all while humanizing the learning space and making sure students always feel like they belong. 

President’s Graduate/Undergraduate Student Teaching Award

Lara Millman, Department of Philosophy

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Lara Millman is a Philosophy PhD student in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. She was recognized for the embedding of EDI throughout her course design and content by including diverse voices, creating an environment that is accessible and serves as a safe space for students to hear and discuss sensitive topics. Lara’s research focuses on the ways social networks influence the acquisition and persistence of problematic beliefs. Being passionate about teaching and public education, she has invested considerable time and effort into pedagogical development and sharing research beyond academic institutions. Lara was a member of Dalhousie's 2022 OpenThink cohort where she focused on developing skills for public education, which feature in her instruction. Lara is a current participant in the Centre for Learning and Teaching's Certificate in University Teaching and Learning. Besides this, Lara has a host of teaching experience: she has worked as a teaching assistant, philosophy tutor, and academic writing tutor at multiple institutions. She as taught philosophy courses at both Dalhousie and Saint Mary's University. She looks forward to teaching another course in the philosophy department in the fall of next year, as she works on completing her dissertation.

Leila Mohammadi, Department of Mathematics and Statistics

Faculty of Science

Leila Mohammadi is a Ph.D. Candidate in Mathematics in the Faculty of Science. Her research focuses on studying mathematical models for self-emergent biological phenomena. Leila’s dedication to teaching tough topics, pushing outside of her comfort zone and fostering inclusivity demonstrates her commitment to student success. The mentorship and guidance of her students using innovative technology and embedding respect and openness throughout your teaching has proven inspiring for many. As an educator, Leila has taught various mathematics courses at multiple levels, both in-person and online. In 2020 and 2021, Leila played a significant role in assisting faculty with transitioning to online teaching formats and developing online lecture videos. Her teaching experiences extend beyond the classroom, actively seeking diverse teaching experiences. She has been involved in Math Circles, provided support at the Mathematics and Statistics Learning Centre, and assisted students in the BIPOC community through the Inclusive Pathways to Medical Professions program and at the Indigenous Student Centre.

Clarisse Paron, Department of Philosophy

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Clarisse Paron is a PhD student in the Department of Philosophy in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Her research considers how science, medical practice, and social policy intersect to perpetuate unjust treatment of equity-deserving populations in the health-care system. Clarisse is being recognized for her dedication to embedding EDI (equity, diversity, and inclusion) in her teaching practice, teaching philosophy and education. Clarisse attributes her success in her graduate programs to professors that helped her discover her passion for philosophy and develop self-confidence, which she hopes to pay forward in her own teaching. She has taught in many capacities — for example, as a coach, fitness instructor, teaching assistant, and part-time instructor. Her interest in pedagogy led her to undertake the Certificate in University Teaching and Learning, co-author an open educational resource (OER) on applied ethics, develop courses for the Department of Philosophy at Dalhousie and Faculty of Health Sciences at Athabasca University, evaluate EDI improvements made to Dal’s UGME case-based tutorials, and aid the Bioethics department's creation of an online tool for health-care professionals and students to develop their ethical consultation skills. Moreover, she loves sharing her research publicly and has given various public talks and webinars on her research.

Sessional and Part-time Instructor Award for Excellence in Teaching

Joseph Weatherby, Department of Chemistry

Faculty of Science 

Joeseph Weatherby, an instructor in the Department of Chemistry, brings an innovative approach to teaching the subject. He has demonstrated educational leadership well beyond the requirements of teaching the foundational concepts of chemistry. He’s encouraged the personal development of students and built community and connections within a large first-year class. He’s also played a considerable role in empowering undergraduate students to teach in a peer-to-peer setting and to act as research partners. Joe is more than a chemistry expert; he's interested in making chemistry and science accessible to everyone. He's deeply passionate about breaking down complex concepts for students at all levels. Joe loves using technology to enhance learning and ensure his teaching is both inclusive and forward-thinking. He's not just imparting knowledge — Joe emphasizes developing vital life skills in his students, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, emotional awareness, and independence. Beyond the classroom, he's interested in green chemistry, combining chemistry principles with environmental responsibility. He commits to being a positive influence in student's lives and will never shy away from student questions.