Academics honoured with excellence awards

Recipients of University of Otago teaching awards, at the university, are (from left) marketing...
Recipients of University of Otago teaching awards, at the university, are (from left) marketing senior lecturer Dr Rob Aitken, chemistry Associate Prof Allan Blackman and law senior lecturer Selene Mize. Photo by Jane Dawber.
Legal scholar Selene Mize, chemistry Associate Prof Allan Blackman and marketing specialist Dr Rob Aitken have gained the latest University of Otago teaching excellence awards.

All three say teaching is vitally important.

"Research is important, but in many ways we have the greatest effect on people's lives through teaching," Ms Mize says.

"One of the most important things is to be passionate about your teaching."

She felt "humbled and honoured" to gain one of the annual awards.

Ms Mize has been one of the earliest adapters of new technology, including creating internet websites for her students long before the university introduced the Blackboard online course management system.

Prof Blackman, who writes a column titled "Chemistry Matters" in the Otago Daily Times, said the award was a "fantastic acknowledgement" of the teaching work he had done over the years.

He had not been a top undergraduate student himself and could empathise with the problems students had.

"The fact that things didn't necessarily come easily to me when I was an undergrad makes me better able to see where students might be having trouble."

Dr Aitken tries to keep an open mind, to continue his own learning, and, above all, strives to make students think.

"I encourage them to realise how interesting thinking is.

"We should be trying to encourage a critical and reflective approach right from the start, so students are thinking about learning and learning how to think."

The trio receive $10,000 each to support further teacher advancement efforts and will compete for national honours at the 2009 tertiary teaching excellence awards in Wellington in July.

At an award function on Tuesday, Otago University vice-chancellor Prof David Skegg said the university regarded research and teaching as equally important.

Since national tertiary teaching awards had been introduced, Otago University had gained more than any other university, he said.


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