Inspiring Students Across Disciplines

The four honorees for Tanner Award Established in 1952, the Tanner Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching recognize inspirational teaching of undergraduate students, particularly first- and second-year students. Five faculty members are recognized each year on the strength of nominations and student evaluations. Each of the five winners receives a one-time stipend of $7,500 and a framed citation. Meet some of this year’s winners:

Amy Cooke of the environment, ecology and energy program created an innovative project during the pandemic. Teaching a course on sustainability in the textile industry, with a desire to get students up and away from their computers, she asked students to make a yarn from scratch.

“They learned so much more about the inputs and waste products of fiber production than I had ever really anticipated when I came up with the project idea!” said Cooke.

Carla Merino-Rajime in the department of philosophy cites previous professors such as Gideon Rosen and Lara Heimann for demonstrating how to connect with students and take them seriously. “To teach so as to make each student feel seen and valued — with their own ideas, hopes, aims, feelings — is both hard but very important.”

Katherine Turk in the department of history aims to make history hands on for her students. In her course Women in the History of UNC-Chapel Hill, she and her students combed through the archives at Wilson Library to conduct their own research across various themes such as “Historic Firsts” or “The Resistance and Resilience of Women at UNC.”

Sidney Wilkerson-Hill in the department of chemistry focuses on keeping students engaged and creating a welcoming environment.

“Teaching in the modern age is not easy because there are a lot of opinions — and confusion — on the ‘best’ way to do it,” said Wilkerson-Hill. “I believe one way to be a good instructor that is consistent across disciplines is to encourage and empower students to be the best possible version of themselves. In my head, teachers are like navigation apps. We can show you the path, but we can’t drive the car.”

Read more about the 2023 Tanner Award winners…

Related Stories

Restore a Watershed, Protect an Ecosystem

Ask a Professor: Rada Petric

UNC Coach’s Legacy Cemented Forever