Teaching, Scholarship and Support Honored at Faculty Awards

Seventh annual Faculty Honors Ceremony celebrates faculty accomplishments.

Image of David Braun
David Braun, right, director of the Koobi Fora Field School, accepts the Trachtenberg Prize for teaching excellence from GW President Steven Knapp and Provost Forrest Maltzman. (Logan Werlinger/GW Today)
May 01, 2017

By Ruth Steinhardt

The George Washington University held its seventh annual Faculty Honors Ceremony Tuesday at the Jack Morton Auditorium, celebrating faculty members for their work in teaching, research and service to the university.

George Washington President Steven Knapp, who presented awards at the ceremony alongside Provost Forrest Maltzman and Gaetano Lotrecchiano, chair of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers, expressed “gratitude and appreciation for our distinguished faculty.”

Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Faculty Prizes, the top faculty awards granted by GW, went to Diana Lipscomb, professor of biology, for university service; Graciela Laura Kaminsky, professor of economics and international affairs, for scholarship; and David Braun, associate professor of anthropology and director of the Koobi Fora Field School, for teaching excellence.

The ceremony also acknowledged faculty members who have received external awards.

Several of this year’s honorees work and teach in non-traditional fields. Natalie Milman, associate professor of educational technology and director of the Educational Technology Leadership Program in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, won a Morton A. Bender Teaching Award for her “classroom” work—which is conducted almost exclusively online.

That “is and isn’t” more challenging than teaching in a physical classroom, said Dr. Milman, whose research focuses on educational uses of technology: how, for instance, to design an online seminar on a subject without necessarily being an expert in that subject.

Image of Natalie Milman

George Washington President Steven Knapp presents the Bender Teaching Award to Natalie Milman as Provost Forrest Maltzman looks on. (Logan Werlinger/GW Today)


Dr. Milman said adaptation and empathy are key.

“The field of instructional design and technology involves continuous learning and questioning,” she said. “There are so many things to be taught, and our students have such varied backgrounds. I try to make sure I don’t lose sight of what it was to learn something for the first time or to be an online learner for the first time.”

David Braun, associate professor of anthropology and director of the Koobi Fora Field School, won the Trachtenberg Prize for teaching excellence. But the knack for teaching didn’t come instantly to him, Dr. Braun said.

“Most of us get detailed training in our actual field of research in graduate school, but very little training in actual pedagogy,” Dr. Braun said. “My mom was a kindergarten teacher for 35 years, and I thought ‘This can’t be that hard.’ But in the first five minutes of being in a lecture hall I knew it was a lot harder than I’d thought.”

After attending a Course Design Institute, Dr. Braun said, he began to rethink totally his approach to teaching and learning. When he learned how low retention rates were for traditional lectures, he said, “We threw out all our lectures, full stop, and turned everything into an active learning exercise.”

“It was as if you were playing a game really hard, and somebody finally told you the rules,” Dr. Braun said.

Rather than listening to an hours-long lecture on the history of stone artifacts, for instance, his students now make their own artifacts out of rocks and attempt, in small groups, to classify each by its key features. Then they relay that information to other small groups.

“The whole thing takes about the same amount of time [as a lecture], but instead of just one person yammering on, students have to interact with each other and with the actual materials,” Dr. Braun said. “I don’t know if we cover the same volume of information now, but I know for sure that retention is way higher.”

A full program from the event, including the list of honorees, is here.

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