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UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 5 | May 8, 2003

Killam Teaching Prize Winner on Most Popular Professor List

By Erica Smishek

Prof. Shirley Sullivan believes learning can take place anywhere -- in offices, hallways, lounges and even on public transportation.

“I have an irresistible urge to teach no matter where I am -- even on the bus!” says Sullivan, a professor of Classical, Near Eastern and Religious Studies.

Her love of learning, of what it means to be human and of classical languages and literature has inspired countless students since Sullivan came to UBC in 1972. It has also earned her one of 22 University Killam Teaching Prizes to be awarded to faculty members at Spring Congregation.

“University does two things,” she says. “First, it imparts knowledge -- students gain information that they never had before. Secondly it teaches students how to think. We know they won’t remember the specific information, especially about something like the early Greeks, which are rather obscure. But they will learn how to analyze and understand.”

A distinguished scholar whose research focuses on the nature of personality in early Greeks, Sullivan is known to exemplify in her lectures what she demands of her students -- rigour, passion and absolute commitment.

“I tell my students that first they must appreciate fully what the philosopher is saying. If they want to criticize after that, that’s fine. But they have to understand how the ancient mind works, then begin to use their own minds.”

Sullivan, who has been included on the “most popular professors in Canada” list in Maclean’s university rankings, believes effective teaching can give young students hope in a complicated world and prepare them to be good citizens.
It helps if students are fascinated by the subject matter.

“I agree with Plato’s conviction that people can be happy only if they are being creative,” Sullivan says. “If their creative powers are being crushed or the student is in a subject where their heart isn’t, their special talents aren’t being allowed to flower and flourish.

“If a student is not doing well in a course it may not be that the subject is too difficult but that the subject does not allow them to be creative.”

Killam Teaching Prize winners are selected by their faculties based on recommendations from students and colleagues. Each winner receives $5,000 from university endowment sources. Recipients are distinguished by their creativity, commitment and dynamic approach to learning.

Other Killam Teaching Prize recipients for 2003 are:

  • Faculty of Agricultural Sciences: Assoc. Prof. Gwen Chapman, Food, Nutrition and Health;
  • Faculty of Applied Science: Asst. Prof Antony Hodgson, Mechanical Engineering; Assoc. Prof. Steven Wilton, Electrical and Computer Engineering;
  • Faculty of Arts: Assoc. Prof. Geoffrey Hall, Psychology; Assoc. Prof. Judith Saltman, Library, Archival and Information Studies; Sr. Lect. Allen Sens, Political Science; Faculty of Commerce: Lect. Deborah Meredith;
  • Faculty of Dentistry: Clin. Assoc. Prof. Ian Matthew, Oral Biological and Medical Sciences;
  • Faculty of Education: Prof. Graeme Chalmers, Curriculum Studies; Assoc. Prof. Bonny Norton, Language and Literacy Education;
  • Faculty of Forestry: Asst. Prof. Paul Wood, Forest Resources Management;
  • Faculty of Graduate Studies: Prof. Wesley Pue, Law; Prof. Michael Chandler, Psychology;
  • Faculty of Law: Prof. Anthony Sheppard;
  • Faculty of Medicine: Assoc. Prof. Sylvie Langlois, Medical Genetics; Prof. Andrew Macnab, Pediatrics; Director, Asst. Prof. Lesley Bainbridge, Rehabilitation Sciences;
  • Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences: Prof. John McNeill;
  • Faculty of Science: Asst. Prof. Andre Marziali, Physics and Astronomy; Prof. James Berger, Zoology; Assoc. Prof. Michael Feeley, Computer Science.
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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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