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2020 Faculty Awards Recipients Share Reflections

Receiving a University-wide award for teaching, service, or scholarship doesn’t exempt faculty from adjusting to the realities of 2020. This year’s recipients of the Alumni Awards in Scholarship and in Teaching, Shuang-Ye Wu and Patrick Reynolds, and the University Award for Faculty Service, Kevin Hallinan, were selected just before the impact of COVID-19 hit UD. Here they reflect on how their work has changed since spring and what they have learned from students.

Wu, who is chair of the Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, found her opportunities to collaborate with international research colleagues cut short.

“I couldn’t do any field work, and a lot of my collaborations are with colleagues in China at a top research university,” Wu said. “Collaborating is the biggest part of my research.” And although Wu was recognized for her research, she has other responsibilities as chair and realizes the importance of supporting her colleagues.

“You have to find ways to help faculty continue their research,” she said. “Geology research is very field-based. I am working with pre-tenure faculty and those on sabbatical. The challenge is how to support faculty to continue research and scholarship and how to manage classes,” Wu explained. “I’m more in a role of being supportive as much as I can and anticipating equipment needs, technology for teaching, safety equipment, and helping everything run smoothly.”

Wu takes a personal approach in her leadership. “I have a list of different resources that can help (faculty) manage expectations and calm...nerves a little. I tell everybody that everything’s going to be OK. Faculty are concerned about exposure, concerned for students. I talk with them and help to find a modality they’re most comfortable with and then communicate with students to bring them on board regarding safety, pedagogy, and to tell them why,” she said.

Reynolds, the Teaching Award recipient, has also seen his primary way of working impacted by COVID-19. He is currently on sabbatical and continues his involvement with the Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. “For almost 25 years, I conducted children’s concerts for the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and was working on a project to revise these programs to be meaningful to the community, and then all education concerts were canceled (because of COVID-19),” he said.

While working with the youth orchestra, Reynolds has seen an increase in appreciation of the act of making music together more than ever. “When the threat to take away something comes, we appreciate it so much more. If we thought we were passionate before, we find out the depths of our passion,” he explained. He and other organizers have come up with ways to rehearse safely while following the logistics guidelines of multiple agencies.

Reynolds is also continuing research with a college orchestra association working together to develop diversity lists of composers for smaller colleges. “Creating a repertoire from diverse composers can be very difficult for non-professional orchestras. We are working on a website with a weekly blog featuring underrepresented composers, their stories, and their music,” he said.

Although Reynolds is not teaching at UD this semester, he still refers to a 25-year-old list of teaching suggestions he gathered from students early in his teaching career. The list is full of helpful suggestions including “Show us every day that you love your job” and “Enjoy the time you spend with us.” His interaction with students has had a great impact on his teaching philosophy. “Everything important I’ve learned, my students taught me,” he said.

Like Wu and Reynolds, Hallinan has experienced reduced opportunities for his work during the pandemic. “It has diminished my service, and I’m just trying to keep up,” he said. “All my teaching is project-based, and I have 120 students this semester. One class has 17 teams, and all class  projects are linked to societal needs. I want to make sure students are getting engineering experience with application to needs in our community and more broadly across the country, the Service Award recipient said.

Hallinan has sought ways to adapt to a reality that prohibits in-person service. “My students and I are collecting data to look at gaps in access to food, health, wealth, and everything. My students are doing engineering that can be useful for the world and our country,” he explained. “I’ve been part of the Dayton Food Coalition for the last two years. The team I’m co-leading with two friends is looking at equity and develop resources for farmers to upload data on what they’re growing and to be able to benchmark what they’re doing relative to others. 

They can better share best practices, what’s working, and how they’re getting it to work.”

Despite the challenges of being a faculty member in trying circumstances, all three recipients point to UD students as an inspiration. 

“They genuinely care and want to do things that benefit society,” Wu said. “Growing up, my experiences were in different places, and I attended big public schools where students focus on academics and tend to think of other things as frivolous. Here, students genuinely care about society, injustice, and the common good. It’s heartwarming to see their enthusiasm.”

Similarly, Hallinan recognizes what he has gained from his students. “From the day I set foot on campus, I felt the students more than any other groups helped teach the value of having people around who cared about and were interested in you,” he related. “(During) my first semester, I was invited by my students to join their intramural (teams), which forever changed me.”

Reynolds added, “If you take the time to get to know your students, you never get bored. I see close to 200 students a week that I’m not just teaching, but making music with...I love making music with students but also love hearing their stories,” he said.

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