WMU News

Dickinson, Enyedi honored for teaching excellence

Jan. 4, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- Two Western Michigan University faculty members will be recognized Thursday, Feb. 1, for their superior classroom skills when they receive Alumni Teaching Excellence Awards for 2000.

Annually presented by the WMU Alumni Association, the 2000 awards will go to Dr. Alyce M. Dickinson, professor of psychology, and Dr. Alexander J. Enyedi, associate professor of biological sciences. They will be bestowed at the University's Academic Convocation at 5 p.m. in the Fetzer Center's Kirsch Auditorium. In addition to a plaque, the winners will each receive a $2,000 cash prize.

The Alumni Association established the awards program in 1966 as a way for alumni, students, and faculty and staff to recognize exceptional teachers at WMU. Dickinson and Enyedi join a select group of 125 University scholars who have received Alumni Teaching Excellence Awards during the past 34 years. An Alumni Association committee chooses recipients from nominations by alumni, students and departmental colleagues.

Dickinson, who came to WMU in 1984, is an expert in industrial/organizational psychology. An active researcher, she has co-edited two books, written more than 30 journal articles, and served as a reviewer for professional psychology and behavior analysis journals. She also has been a presenter and discussant at scores of workshops, conferences and meetings and is involved in a variety of professional associations and University committees.

Nearly all of the former and current students who nominated Dickinson emphasized that her classes are remarkably well organized and structured. In addition to praising her for the phenomenal effort she puts into preparing for her undergraduate and graduate classes, many called her a model teacher and wrote that she has played a significant role in their career development.

"Dr. Dickinson has consistently been one of the most organized and effective professors that I have encountered during my years at WMU. I have found every course, research project and applied project to be interesting and significant in relation to my educational goals," one former student remarked.

"Alyce has been instrumental in shaping my education and career," another former student wrote. "I acquired my love of teaching from her and have adopted many of her effective instructional and motivation techniques in my teaching."

In addition, Dickinson's students repeatedly commented on how resourceful and flexible she is in bringing "the real world" into the classroom.

They often mentioned that she regularly incorporates information from her nonacademic work experiences, the professional events she attends and the research projects her students conduct.

"The currency of her knowledge also enabled her to be an effective researcher," one alumnus wrote. "She was able to obtain funding for, and involve students in, research that had wide applicable value for a variety of businesses and industries."

He added that Dickinson did an excellent job of tempering the formality of her highly structured classes with informal interactions that extended learning.

"I'm convinced that I learned as much interacting with Dr. Dickinson over doughnuts and coffee in the Performance Management Lab during a 'research meeting'...than I did in classes taught by other instructors," the alumnus wrote.

He and other former students also complimented Dickinson on her enthusiasm for teaching and concern for students. Her enthusiasm is contagious and as a result, most of her students become just as interested in the subject matter as she is, one graduate reported, while another noted that she always fostered an open, casual, cooperative environment in her classes.

"She taught students how to search for answers on their own--a more important skill for the real world," the latter alumna wrote. "It was obvious that Alyce cared greatly about her students and loved to see them succeed. Consequently, she always made time for students and did whatever was in her power to help them achieve their goals."

Prior to coming to WMU, Dickinson was a personnel selection specialist for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey from 1977 to 1979 and a personnel analyst for the New York State Office of Court Administration from 1979 to 1980. She received a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Lycoming College in 1974, a master of arts degree in industrial/organizational psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1978 and a doctor of philosophy degree in applied behavior analysis from WMU in 1985.

Enyedi, who came to WMU in 1993, is a plant physiologist. He teaches at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and helps mentor teaching assistants through his seminars on effective teaching and other activities.

A member of several professional societies in his field, Enyedi is an active researcher. He has received numerous grants for his research and has more than 30 published abstracts and journal articles to his credit. He also has a patent pending with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office related to enhancing disease resistance in plants.

Most of the former students who nominated Enyedi noted that he is well organized, creative and enthusiastic.

"It took no time at all to realize the high caliber of his teaching skills," one alumnus wrote. "Not only does he have superior knowledge of plant physiology, but he can relay the information to students in an easily comprehensible fashion with effective use of support materials."

Another former student said she feels Enyedi approaches teaching in a way that encourages critical thinking, effectively facilitates discussion and employs different techniques to reach students with various learning styles.

One of the most often mentioned aspects of Enyedi's teaching is the creative way he helps students grasp difficult topics.

"Dr. Enyedi's ability to make very rigorous classes enjoyable and interesting is a great gift," a former student wrote. "His use of analogy is phenomenal. Who else would think of comparing electron flow through the cytochrome complex in plants to dancing at a disco, much less act it out?"

That creativity also is recognized by Enyedi's colleagues. "Time and again, Alex shows extraordinary creativity for the conveyance of complex ideas in biology," a fellow professor in the Department of Biological Sciences wrote. "I've seen him on his way to class carrying golf clubs and bizarre and wonderful models he has made to illustrate the dynamism of biological systems. Students at all levels find him compelling, highly relevant and inspirational."

Several other students cited Enyedi for going the extra mile when it comes to his students.

"Alex stayed for hours to help students and provided up-to-date experiments that applied directly to the evolving field of plant physiology," an alumnus said. "Additionally, Alex accepted a number of graduate students, myself included, early in his own career and gave the attention and support necessary for success and job placement."

Such concern and encouragement are a hallmark of Enyedi's interaction with students, according to many who nominated him.

"He has a genuine concern that his students are fully understanding the topics he presents, a former student wrote. "He is constantly encouraging and fostering student learning, both in lecture and lab. Dr. Enyedi is infinitely approachable for questions, both about the classes he teaches and other areas of science as well. He is always willing to foster a student's interest in science."

Enyedi's background includes work as a research scientist in the Phytotoxicology Section of the Ontario, Canada, Ministry of the Environment from 1983 to 1986 and as a post-doctoral research associate in the Center for Agricultural Molecular Biology at Rutgers University from 1991 to 1993. He received a bachelor of science degree in agriculture from the University of Guelph's Ontario Agriculture College in 1981, a master of science degree in environmental plant physiology from the University of Guelph in 1985 and a doctor of philosophy degree in plant pathology and biochemistry from Pennsylvania State University in 1991.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 616 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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