2014-2015 Excellence in Teaching Awards Winners
Six faculty members from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Conservatory of Music received the Excellence in Teaching Award for the 2014-2015 academic year. The recipients were Associate Professor of Mathematics Jack Calcut; Professor of Hispanic Studies Sebastiaan Faber; Professor of Piano James Howsmon; Director of the Division of Conducting and Ensembles, Associate Professor of Conducting, and Director of the Oberlin Orchestra Raphael Jiménez; Professor of Comparative American Studies Gina Pérez; and Associate Professor of Jazz Studies Daniel Wall. The Source asked the faculty members to share what this recognition means to them.
Jack Calcut earned a BS from Michigan State University and PhD from the University of Maryland. He held postdoctoral positions at the University of Texas at Austin and at Michigan State University. He specializes in low-dimensional topology but enjoys teaching mathematics courses at all levels of the curriculum.
"I am deeply honored to receive this award here at Oberlin College, home to so many talented educators. I thank my Oberlin students, from calculus to discrete mathematics to my honors students, for their passion in our interactions. I thrive on these exchanges of energy. I also thank the many educators that shaped my philosophy of mathematics education, including Lee Sonneborn, Karen McLaren, and my wife, Margot. Too often mathematics gets a bad rap on the street. I will continue to reveal the beauty and depth of mathematics to my Oberlin students, utilizing leprechauns, hamsters on waterslides, and soap bubbles whenever possible."
Sebastiaan Faber studied Spanish at the University of Amsterdam and received a PhD from the University of California at Davis. At Oberlin, he teaches about Spanish and Latin American literature, film, politics, and history. His research deals with the global aftermath of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) among other topics. As the inaugural director of the Oberlin Center for Languages and Cultures, Sebastiaan helped set up ObieMAPS and the Languages across the Curriculum program. He regularly writes for the U.S. and Spanish media.
“It’s a genuine honor to be in the company of these gifted and dedicated colleagues. I’ve always felt enormously lucky to work at a place that values teaching and learning as much as Oberlin does. To work with students who are not just smart and creative but also willing to take risks, and to do so among a community of stellar scholar-teachers, is a privilege that’s hard to overestimate. Whenever I’ve had a chance to see my peers in action—for example when we get to team-teach—I’ve been both proud and bit intimidated. In fact, one of the few disadvantages of teaching at Oberlin may be that you can’t also be a student: there are so many great classes to take!”
James Howsmon has collaborated in more than 1,000 recitals in North America, Europe, and Japan. He has performed with principal players of every major American orchestra. In recent seasons, he has played in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. (at the Kennedy Center), Philadelphia, Dallas, Montreal, and Minneapolis. He is a frequent performer on Oberlin College’s stages, having recently played the Poulenc Aubade with the Oberlin Wind Ensemble and Olivier Messiaen’s Couleurs de la Cité Celeste with the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble. He has given guest master classes in accompanying and chamber music at, among others, the Juilliard School, the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Interlochen Arts Academy, Arizona State University, the University of Colorado, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Alabama.
“Receiving an Excellence in Teaching Award from the college is a great honor, especially as I believe that our faculty here is unparalleled in teaching prowess and achievement. My field is not a glamorous one, so this recognition is doubly meaningful.”
Raphael Jiménez is celebrated for his work with orchestras around the world. Though versatile in the standard literatures of symphonic, ballet, and operatic repertoire, Jiménez is also a strong supporter of new music and a champion for works by Latin American composers. Equally comfortable on the podiums of both professional and pre-professional ensembles, he is recognized for his deep commitment to education. His devotion to teaching began in Venezuela when he was a member, and later a conductor, with the National System of Youth and Children's Orchestras (El Sistema): the famed international model for providing exceptional music instruction to children of all socioeconomic backgrounds. For his work as music director of the San Agustin Youth Orchestra in Caracas, Jiménez received the Jose Felix Ribas Medal, bestowed on him by the Venezuelan government in 1988. Since his arrival at Oberlin, he has been credited with re-energizing the orchestra program through his enthusiastic teaching and passionate music making.
“I am extremely grateful and humbled that my colleagues would consider me as a recipient of an Excellence in Teaching Award. I feel lucky that I get to spend every day with the most extraordinary and supportive colleagues and am truly fortunate that I get to make music with extremely talented and fascinating individuals. I couldn’t ask for a more challenging and motivating environment, and I continue to be inspired by the talent, intelligence, social sensitivity, and work ethic of the Oberlin College community.”
Gina Pérez is a cultural anthropologist who teaches in the Comparative American Studies program. Her research and teaching interests include Latina/o studies, urban ethnography, Latina/o youth, gender, migration and militarism. She earned a BA at the University of Notre Dame (1990) and an MA and PhD from Northwestern University. She is the author of two monographs. First, The Near Northwest Side Story: Migration, Displacement and Puerto Rican Families (University of California Press, 2004), which was awarded the Delmos Jones and Jagna Scharff Memorial Prize for the Critical Study of North America by the Society for the Anthropology of North America in 2006. Second, Citizen, Student, Soldier: Latina/o Youth, JROTC and the American Dream (New York University Press, 2015). Pérez is the coeditor of the book Beyond el Barrio: Everyday Life in Latina/o America.
“One of the most gratifying experiences I have had at Oberlin is to be surrounded by so many generous colleagues who are excellent teachers and who have taught me so much over the years. I am also incredibly grateful to have the kind of students who not only challenge me to think carefully about important issues and questions but also inspire me to be creative, engaged, accountable, and attentive to the ways what we do in the classroom matters beyond. As a great books major at the University of Notre Dame (program of liberal studies), I was fortunate to have excellent teachers who taught in small seminars and who modeled for me how to read, discuss, debate, and talk about important issues. And, along with my departed father, Félix Antonio Pérez, they instilled in me a love of books, learning, and ideas. Teaching at Oberlin has allowed me the opportunity to share these gifts with others and to be part of a community of committed scholars and teachers who have graced me with their knowledge and wisdom in countless ways. I have grown so much over my first 13 years at Oberlin, and I am curious to see what the next 13 or so years may bring.”
Dan Wall won a Hall of Fame Scholarship from DownBeat magazine at 17, launching his career as a jazz pianist and organist. He has played on two Grammy-nominated recordings, and his extensive list of recording collaborations has landed him in concert halls throughout Europe, North and South America, Japan, Korea, and the Middle East. Wall’s work has earned praise from numerous publications throughout his career. He’s made DownBeat’s International Critics’ Poll 18 times since 1993, its Readers' Poll numerous times, (most recently 2015), and has been featured by Billboard, Jazz Times, Jazziz, and more. You can also find Wall in the prestigious New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd Edition. Since 1991, Wall has played Hammond organ for the John Abercrombie Trio, which received critical acclaim for its first two recordings, While We're Young and Speak of the Devil. The John Abercrombie Trio is one of several artists that have recorded and performed Wall's compositions. Wall's album credits as a bandleader include Song for the Night, The Trio, Off the Wall, and On the Inside Looking Out.
"Oberlin continues to provide an inspiring and rewarding teaching environment for my teaching. Highly talented students, world class faculty, and wonderful administration and staff make it a pleasure to teach at Oberlin. I'm honored to have been chosen to receive this award.”