Professors of the College of Liberal Arts honored for their teaching excellence


University of Mississippi Staff Reports Account

The College of Liberal Arts at the University of Mississippi recognized three professors for higher education at the end of the 2021 spring semester.

Jason Solinger, Associate Professor of English, is the Howell Family Teacher of the Year. Named in honor of former donors Dr Norris Howell (BS 75) and Lynne Thomas Howell (BA 74, MBA 76) of Ripley, the endowment provides funds to recognize the outstanding teacher within the College of the Liberal Arts.

Mervin Matthew, Associate Educational Professor of Psychology, is the Outstanding Instructor of the Year, and Neil Manson, Professor of Philosophy, received the Cora Lee Graham Award for Outstanding First Year Teaching.

“Dr. Solinger, Matthew and Manson represent all that is good in teaching at university,” said Donald L. Dyer, Associate Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs and Distinguished Professor of Modern Languages .

“The excellence of their classroom instruction, the intellectual stimulation of the students and their concern for the well-being of the students are evident in the classroom and in the letters of support from students and colleagues for the award.

“We are delighted to add these exceptional educators to our long list of distinguished and influential teachers at the College of the Liberal Arts. They are true gems of the university community and we are extremely proud of them.

Solinger’s goal in teaching literary studies is “to instill in my students a love of books and an intellectual curiosity that will inspire them to read.”

“I try to make learning fun and I care about the whole person,” Solinger said. “On my best days, I teach with humor and perhaps with ridiculously over-the-top enthusiasm. I always want my students – really, all of them – to do really well. So I design my classes in such a way that students with different learning styles and skills can master the material in one way or another.

“What happens outside the amphitheater or the seminar room is just as important. My office is always open to students, and I encourage them to come see me if they are having difficulty with class, with college, with life. I want them to know that I am someone who is ready to help them identify academic resources and staff who can help them get to where they need to go.

He succeeds in his attempts. “The most enthusiastic English teacher I have ever had” illustrates Solinger’s criticisms.

Having already mastered online teaching – he won the 2019 Paragon Award for Distance Education – Solinger “sought to inspire students by” improving his game “with creativity and ingenuity during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said a colleague.

One student noted Solinger’s work to find texts “relevant to our contemporary times to help look at current events with critical thinking and understanding.”

His “organic perspective on all of the literature he teaches involves actively thinking about how students will take their academic work beyond the classroom,” said a colleague. “On behalf of our English majors, Jason has organized and led various career-focused events and reached out to our alumni to cultivate networking opportunities for our graduates.”

To learn more about Solinger, read his Q&A on the college’s website.

Matthew uses a conversation he had with a former statistics student to describe his experience as a professor of psychology.

When she commented never mastering our subject, here is my response: ‘No one who has never lived has mastered it. We are all at different stages of learning. This quote sums up my way of seeing education well, and I think it fits the spirit of this award well.

Matthew is the “heart of our program,” said a colleague. It provides the essential foundation for understanding all major psychology as a science and the basis for their success in graduate division courses.

“Dr. Matthew is essential in enabling the department to deliver our core curriculum, and he does so in a way that challenges and supports students early in their undergraduate careers,” his colleague said.

“Students flock to his classes. Dr. Matthew attracts students to the major with his commitment to teaching excellence and their well-being.

Reviews reflect his enthusiasm for the subject and his ability to draw students into the material. One student who became a psychology student because of Matthew’s class called it a “gateway drug to psychology”.

To learn more about Matthew, read about him on the Psychology website.

Manson’s teaching philosophy during the pandemic exemplifies what a colleague calls an “incredibly impressive, student-centered” approach – developing an outdoor teaching plan, designing an impromptu classroom in the circle (including including carrying a flipchart to write on) and making creative use of technology to ensure students can hear and have discussions.

“The transition to distance online education that was suddenly forced on us by COVID-19 in March 2020 has been very difficult for students,” Manson said. “Through no fault of their own, they did not have the full educational experience they deserved. I wanted to make up for it at the start of the 2020-21 school year.

“My goal was to maximize in-person instruction, even for the one hybrid course I taught in the fall. We started the fall by having all classes outside and continued until quarantine set in, after which we moved indoors.

“Students who couldn’t come in person were able to listen to everything on Discord, and I was able to share with them all the lesson plans I wrote on my flipchart.

“The end result was a classroom experience that was largely normal. That’s all I was aiming for – a normal learning experience for the students. They’ve been great about it, and I’m grateful to them.

Known for consistently inspiring students while maintaining high standards in introductory, graduate and postgraduate courses, Manson receives rave reviews for explaining “the concepts in accessible terms” and making the logic “fun”.

His manual “This Is Philosophy of Religion: An Introduction,Published this year by Wiley Blackwell, builds on years of successful teaching.

To learn more about Manson, check out his Q&A on the college’s website.

The three teaching awards feature prizes of $ 1,000, and the names of the recipients are added on commemorative plaques in the dean’s office. Visit the College of the Liberal Arts Teaching Awards webpage to learn more about past awards and recipients.

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