Department of Language, Literatures and Cultures
Each spring, the College of Arts and Sciences recognizes its undergraduate instructors who have exceeded the University of South Carolina’s standards for excellence in teaching.
This year, four outstanding faculty members — Erin Carlson, Mana Hewitt, Leslie Lovelace and James Risk — were named non-tenure track Undergraduate Teaching Award winners. The award comes with a $2,000 prize.
“This award honors professional faculty members who provide exceptional learning experiences to our undergraduate students, both within and outside the classroom,” says interim Dean Joel Samuels. “It is evident from not only the letters we received but also the entire nomination packet that [they] make a difference in the lives of [their] students.”
Department of Language, Literatures and Cultures
Erin Carlson has received consistently stellar student evaluations and peer assessments as an instructor. She has developed innovative strategies for authentic language practice and cultural interactions in her curriculum. And, perhaps most importantly, she has helped students find value in and connect with the Spanish language.
Carlson pushes her students to engage with the Spanish-speaking community through social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram and by assigning virtual conversations with native Spanish speakers. These interactions connect Carlson’s classroom instruction to the real world.
Carlson has also published research in peer-reviewed academic journals and presented her work at state and national conferences. She is completing her doctoral dissertation on engaging language learners with global cultural competencies and shared responsibilities — research that she puts into practice in her courses.
“Professor Carlson possesses both a unique dedication to her students and an excellence in teaching that come out of her long experience in education and her groundbreaking research in pedagogy,” says Rebecca Janzen, assistant professor of Spanish and comparative literature. “I am privileged to count her as a colleague.”
School of Visual Art and Design
Mana Hewitt teaches students how to stretch themselves across media and material and apply their skills to solve problems. To her, art develops critical thinking skills. She incorporates art history, analysis and criticism into her curriculum.
“As an instructor of art, I believe it is my duty to educate and equip my students with the knowledge, vocabulary and inquisitiveness of a serious art student,” Hewitt says.
Along with her 15 years as director of the McMaster Gallery, Hewitt has designed and developed several courses that reach across curriculums to attract students from outside of the visual arts program. ARTE 101, for instance, draws hundreds of students each semester. Hewitt has also redesigned and resurrected three jewelry-making courses, which appeal to students in fields such as biology and engineering looking to improve their motor skills.
“Professor Hewitt is one of the best professors I have ever had,” a former student says. “It was such a privilege to be able to have her as a teacher at UofSC. She loves what she does, and it was obvious through her enthusiasm and willingness to get students engaged in the material.”
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Leslie Lovelace has as much impact outside the classroom as inside of it. As the department’s director of undergraduate studies and a full-time instructor, Lovelace is an excellent resource for her department. Her engaging, personable and approachable teaching style shows in her appreciation for her students.
“She embodies the dedication, advocacy, work ethic and caring of an instructor and educator who makes the largest impact on our undergraduate program,” organic chemistry professor and recent department chair Ken Shimizu says. “She cannot turn away any student asking for help to try to fix an inequity or tackle systemic problems with our curriculum.”
Outside the classroom, Lovelace has a powerful sense of empathy and feels a responsibility to prepare her students not only for their next set of courses but their future beyond graduation. She was the driving force behind redesigning the undergraduate laboratories to provide safe face-to-face experiences during social distancing restrictions.
“What sets her apart is her singular focus on improving the educational experience for all undergraduate students taking chemistry and biochemistry courses and her effectiveness in convincing and organizing faculty and students to implement these improvements,” Shimizu says.
Department of History
James Risk sums up his teaching philosophy by quoting the poet Robert Frost: “I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” Risk seeks first to awaken his students’ natural curiosity. He guides students away from memorizing names, dates and places and steers them toward critical analysis of the past.
Students learn how history is relevant to life in modern society and how they are actively part of history. The impacts of Risk’s lessons can linger for years. One student wrote several years after taking one of Risk’s history classes: “Just know that your lectures still linger in my brain and fuel my search for answers in and to the greater picture. You’ve inspired me more than you know.”
“As a non-tenure track faculty member, it can be difficult to know your role within the academic unit,” Risk says. “Being nominated for this award shows that my contributions are not only valued, but they are recognized by others. Receiving the award showed me that I had achieved what I had set out to do as a teacher and that I was part of something much greater than any one individual.”