Monday, February 14, 2005

What Makes a Professor's Day

Would you like to know what really turns university faculty member on. What makes her or him feel that their life is worth while. In my capacity as Director of the Center for Teaching excellence I have spoken with many faculty - young and old - about this and the answer, from 90 per-cent or more of those with whom I speak is unequivocal. What is most gratifying to a professor, what really turns her or him on, is when a student takes an interest in a subject and does great work!

This evening, that the end of a day, I had that experience with an entire class. Because of my management responsibilities, the only course I am now teaching is called "Systems Analysis for Management, Development and the Environment" In the course, students learn a new body of rigorous theory, a new computer modeling methodology and a new world view. They apply what they have learned to an original research project of their own choosing. The course is quite demanding. It is not unusual for students to submit more (sometimes much more) than 100 pages of rigorously argued work in a semster. And the writing up of three extensive reports, to a high professional standard, is the easiet part of the course. Developing what goes into the reports is what is challenging.

Tonight I graded the first of these. The eight students in the class - it is not large this semester - completed this first modeling/ pollicy analysis assignment last thursday. All turned it in on time or early. Five weeks ago they knew little or nothing about systems analysis or modeling, or this particular programming, graphical user interface technology. They put in hours of hard work and successfully completed a demanding policy analysis exericse on an exemplar model they had programed. came up with creative policy recommendations, professionally presented, grounded in solid modeling work. It may be the best rendering of this assignment I have received in twenty years of teaching the course.

It is the end of the day but I hardly feel like sleeping. Working with smart, dedicated students of this caliber is, as I said A real turn on.


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