More than a ‘thankless job’

By By Rochelle McConkie

By Rochelle McConkie

U history professor Nadja Durbach inspired Matthew Smith.

Smith, a senior in history, nominated Durbach for the ASUU Student Choice Teaching Awards.

“She was one of the better teachers I have had,” Smith said. “This is some way I could give back to her.”

Smith said Durbach motivated her students to take the initiative to learn more on their own.

Durbach and 14 other U professors were honored for outstanding teaching last week at an awards ceremony at the Alumni House.

In accordance with a desire expressed by both University of Utah President Michael K. Young and Associated Students of the University of Utah President Jake Kirkham, the event and the number of awards were expanded from previous years.

Thirty students nominated teachers for the award and 15 awards were given out at the banquet. At last year’s banquet, six awards were distributed and about 30 people attended the event. This year, almost 80 people were in attendance.

Calling the award the “only completely student-driven award at the university,” Young applauded students for nominating the teachers who impact their lives.

“In my own life, I realize that there is a straight line that I can draw from where I was a sophomore (in college) and where I am now,” Young said.

He said the award was a way for students to recognize that someone else has done something important in their lives and for teachers to feel that they don’t have a “thankless job.”

To be considered for the award, students were required to submit a short essay describing what makes their teacher remarkable.

Winners were chosen based on how knowledgeable the professors were, how available they were after class hours, how lectures were set up, how the professors affected students on an individual basis versus how they affected the class on a general basis and research the professors have done in their fields.

A committee of six people from ASUU, composed of four students and two staff members, decided which nominees would receive awards.

“There were so many students who threatened to sabotage my life if their professor was not chosen,” joked Lauren Mecham, ASUU director of Academic Affairs. “But it really impressed me the impact U professors have made.”

Mecham said the award is a way for students to reach out to teachers that have made differences in their lives.

Kirkham said he wanted to expand the teaching awards because they are a way for students to give back to teachers when they are not usually able to.

“Last year it was a great event, but we realized that it had so much potential,” Kirkham said. “I hope it will continue to grow in the next administration.”

The Student Choice Awards began at the U in 1993.