Top teachers make lectures come alive

by Gavin Wilson
Staff writer

When Christopher Friedrichs speaks, people listen.

The history professor -- one of 23 faculty members receiving University Killam Teaching Prizes during Spring Congregation -- is well known as a passionate, insightful lecturer.

"He could read the telephone book and make it interesting," said one of his students in an evaluation.

"I try to make the connection between the personal experience of individuals and the big social currents of the day. Students seem to respond to that," says Friedrichs, who teaches early modern European history and 20th-century world history.

Recipients of the Killam teaching prizes, which recognize the fundamental importance of teaching at the university, are selected by their faculties on the basis of recommendations from colleagues and from past and present students. Each award winner receives $5,000 from endowment sources.

The winners come from diverse disciplines and use many different teaching methods, but all share a gift for communication, a dedication to learning and a passion for making their subject matter come alive in the classroom.

While Friedrichs has seen many changes in techniques and technologies during his 23 years of teaching, he remains committed to the tried and true.

"I am still a believer in the old-time lecture -- if it's done right. You have to speak loudly, slowly and clearly, pause for emphasis, and organize your material. These are very simple techniques, but they seem to make a difference."

A lecturer must also be fascinated with the subject and communicate that excitement to students, he adds. For Friedrichs, this can include bringing the lecture to life with examples from his own research into German cities of the 16th to 18th centuries.

"If you're not interested in the subject, why should anyone want to listen to you talk about it for 50 minutes?"

Friedrichs is not only dedicated to his classroom teaching. He strongly believes that the university should serve the public. Through the Speakers Bureau, Continuing Studies, and his work with the Vancouver Holocaust Centre, he has built a solid reputation as one of the city's most popular lecturers.

The other recipients for 1997 are:

Faculty of Agricultural Sciences: Robert Copeman, Plant Science. Faculty of Applied Science: Elaine Carty, School of Nursing; Peter Lawrence, Electrical and Computer Engineering. Faculty of Arts: Margaret Blom, English; Bogdan Czaykowski, Russian and Slavonic Studies Program; Ann Dusing, Classical, Near Eastern and Religious Studies; Kenneth Stoddart, Anthropology and Sociology. Faculty of Commerce and Business Administration: Brian Graham. Faculty of Dentistry: Dorin Ruse, Oral Health Sciences. Faculty of Education: Karen Meyer, Curriculum Studies; Tom Sork, Educational Studies. Faculty of Forestry: Simon Ellis,Wood Science. Faculty of Graduate Studies: Tim Murphy and Dr. Lynn Raymond, Graduate Program in Neuroscience. Faculty of Law: Christine Boyle. Faculty of Medicine: Dr. Barbara McGillivray, Medical Genetics; Christopher McIntosh, Physiology; William Ovalle, Anatomy. Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences: Simon Albon. Faculty of Science: Craig Boutilier, Computer Science; Brian Cliff, Chemistry; Paul LeBlond, Earth and Ocean Sciences.