The Board of Governors of the 16-campus University of North Carolina selected UNC Pembroke Professor Jeffery Geller to receive the ninth annual Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Dr. Geller, who is in his 20th year at UNCP, is incoming chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion and teaches philosophy. He is widely acclaimed for making philosophy a popular course for successive generations of students and by his colleagues for his academic achievements.
A faculty member from each of UNC's 16 campuses will receive a commemorative bronze medallion and a $7,500 cash prize. Dr. Geller is grand marshal for Spring Commencement 2003.
"The Board of Governors Award for Teaching Excellence has special meaning to the faculty of UNCP because we place such high value on effective teaching," said Dr. Roger Brown, UNCP's provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. "The wonderful interaction between students and faculty is the 'magic' ingredient of our success. Dr. Geller is a worthy addition to the list of previous winners who have established our reputation as a university where student learning comes first."
Named chair of his department this spring, Dr. Geller published an edited collection of essays on American philosophy this year, entitled "Conversations with Pragmatism" (Rodolpi Press; New York and Amsterdam). Dr. Geller has published or collaborated on numerous papers on a wide range of topics, including film theory, political economy, biology, psychology, African literature and philosophy.
"Dr. Geller is a truly serious scholar and an instructor who can communicate difficult intellectual concepts to his students," said Dr. Tom Leach, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
"Prof. Jeff Geller sets high standards for his students and endeavors to provide them with the course experience to develop the necessary skills to accomplish his teaching objectives," Dean Leach said. "He works hard to enable students to acquire the mental flexibility to analyze and critique a wide range of intellectual positions in order to deal effectively with the issues and problems facing a citizen of the world in the 21st century."
"His extensive scholarship, world travels, and involvement in numerous summer study programs enrich his own perspective and give his students the chance to learn from a truly cosmopolitan scholar," Dr. Leach said.
Dr. Geller encourages students to review materials critically and to become more independent learners. Students say he teaches to their particular learning style.
"I really liked his class because he made the material easy to remember," said UNCP student Sheri Sides. "Dr. Geller got me interested in philosophy because I could see different ways of thinking."
Dr. Geller said his diverse interests in sports, art, music and theatre keep him occupied and connect him with varied students and colleagues.
The former Fulbright Teaching Fellow said he also enjoys the collegial atmosphere at UNCP.
"I regard the university as a team, and I enjoy working with my colleagues," he said. "Each of us has a job to do, but we are a community, and it's a nice community to be part of."
The enrollment growth of UNC Pembroke has also been stimulating for Dr. Geller, who looks forward to the exciting opportunities that a larger university community will make possible.
"While growth and change will present challenges, the upside possibilities justify the temporary disadvantages of larger classes," Dr. Geller said. "I am confident that we will continue to give the individual attention our students deserve."
Dr. Geller is active in international education on campus, working with international students, serving on the committee for international exchanges and coordinating a German exchange program.
The recipients of the Teaching Excellence Award were nominated by special committees on their campuses and selected by the Board of Governors Committee on Teaching Awards. The awards will be presented by UNC President Molly Corbett Broad and Board of Governors Chairman J. Bradley Wilson of Cary in May.
Established by the Board of Governors in April 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to reward good teaching across the university, the awards are given annually to a tenured faculty member from each UNC campus. Winners must have taught at their present institutions at least seven years. No one may receive the award more than once.