This past Wednesday, the opinion feature, “The Canon,” posed the question, “Should Columbia give higher priority to teaching or research?”
The answer is complicated. We acknowledge that a person can both teach well and do excellent research, but it is hard to find faculty who do both. A good teacher will make the material fascinating, but may not receive a Nobel Prize. And while a Nobel laureate’s star power may inspire a student for the first few classes, it eventually wears off, and both the class and the material may lose their luster.
We recognize how difficult it is for an academic to make an impact on students, but as undergraduates, we appreciate those who move us, who lead us to engage with the material, who make themselves accessible outside of class, who zealously prepare lectures, who challenge us, and who encourage our participation. We appreciate those who do it all—those whose passion leads them to success in their field and who know how to impart that same passion to the student.
We thank those who’ve inspired us: Marcellus Andrews, Alan Brinkley, Alessandra Casella, Susan Elmes, Erik Gray, Liza Knapp, Edward Mendelson, Carlos Montes-Galdon, and Alla Smyslova. We also thank the Society of Senior Scholars for its commitment to undergraduate education after the members’ retirement.
We encourage you to say thank you too: Nominate your professors for the Presidential Awards in Outstanding Teaching, and let their contribution be recognized.