Masthead Current issue Past issues send news Address changes Advertise alumni home

Issue Date

Class Notes
Departments Alumni news Alumni profiles Book reviews Campus Currents Guest essay History page Letters to the editor Obits President's column Short features UNH research Department archives Table of contents

Search UNH Magazine:

President's Column

Thompson Hall

Lasting Impressions

By President Joan R. Leitzel

During Alumni Reunion Weekend in June, I talked to many graduates who had been students at UNH during the '30s and '40s. All of them had stories to tell about favorite faculty members-teachers who had challenged their preconceptions, extended their horizons, stretched their capabilities. They told me about teachers who not only taught them well, but influenced the directions of their lives. Many graduates credit their career decisions to a faculty member. I know that one reason I am a mathematician is because years ago at Hanover College, professor John Yarnelle made mathematics such an engaging area of study for me and gave me no choice except to go to graduate school.

Each of us remembers our alma mater in terms of its faculty. The faculty is the university. Faculty members do much more on behalf of students than simply meet their scheduled classes. They provide one-on-one research supervision and collaborate in the teaching of interdisciplinary courses. They structure and direct group projects. They adapt their instruction to use the latest tools of technology. They advise students, not only about career options, but about the range of issues that challenge undergraduates. UNH is very fortunate to have an unusually committed and qualified faculty. The university chooses its faculty carefully in the hiring process. A UNH faculty member must combine his or her scholarly interests with a commitment to undergraduate instruction. Not every respected scholar belongs at UNH. Our faculty are special people.

UNH demonstrates that high-quality
research and high-quality teaching
are mutually supportive.

This past year I was the university's mentor for five freshman students. The responsibilities of a mentor are different from those of a student's academic advisor. University mentors volunteer to touch base with a small number of freshmen periodically to make sure that they are successfully addressing all of the challenges of the first year. I noticed when I talked to one of my advisees that the conversation always came around to his freshman composition course. He was enrolled in an honors writing course taught by a faculty member in the English department. This student found his writing course so exciting that he shared the content of the class with me each time we were together. I asked him once if he would like to major in freshman comp. He admitted that if the same faculty member could teach him for four years, he would consider doing that.

The University of New Hampshire encourages and supports exceptional teaching in a number of ways. For example:

  • The Teaching Excellence Program offers courses, workshops and publications, as well as individual consultation services for faculty members.
  • Studio 521 in Dimond Library assists faculty in the uses of instructional technology.
  • Each spring, UNH announces Faculty Excellence Awards in the areas of teaching, research and public service. (The monetary part of these prizes is provided through a gift from Arnie '48 and Della Hanson. Arnie is a UNH graduate who retains a special appreciation for his own undergraduate faculty advisor, who, among other things, recommended that Arnie get out of engineering. Arnie followed that advice and went on to have a satisfying and successful career as an attorney.)

In the last few years, there has been considerable concern nationally about the quality of undergraduate education at our nation's research universities. In 1997, the Carnegie Foundation released a study that called for "a new model of undergraduate education at research universities that makes the baccalaureate experience an inseparable part of an integrated whole."

In fact, UNH offers such a model. UNH is a major research university, but with a primary commitment to undergraduate education. Teaching and research activities are well integrated, and undergraduates participate in the research work of faculty and graduate students. UNH's success in using research as a way to strengthen undergraduate education has attracted substantial attention. We are one of the universities identified to lead a national program to prepare doctoral students for their teaching roles. An Undergraduate Research Conference at UNH last spring directly showcased the accomplishments of our undergraduates and exhibited the deep learning that takes place through research.

UNH demonstrates that high-quality research and high-quality teaching are mutually supportive. We are proud of that. ~

We'd like your opinion!
Tell us what you think of this column.

Visit President Leitzel's home page.

Archives of President Leitzel's columns.

blog comments powered by Disqus

University of New Hampshire Alumni Association
9 Edgewood Road  Durham NH 03824  (603) 862-2040