2017-2018 Excellence in Teaching Award Winners
Six faculty members from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Conservatory of Music received Excellence in Teaching Awards for the 2017-2018 academic year. The recipients are Ron Cheung, professor of economics; Fredara Hadley, visiting assistant professor of ethnomusicology; Laurie McMillin, professor of rhetoric and composition; Gregory Ristow ’01, associate professor of conducting; Daniel Stinebring, Francis D. Federighi Professor of Physics; and Peter V. Swendsen ’99, associate professor of computer music and digital arts. The faculty members shared what this recognition means to them.
Ron Cheung, Professor of Economics
Ron Cheung conducts research in local public finance and urban economics. He is particularly interested in how the growing trend of homeowners associations has affected municipal budgets, local governance, and property values. In other research, he has explored property tax limitations, local elections, land use regulation and housing markets. He has published in the Journal of Urban Economics, Regional Science & Urban Economics, and the National Tax Journal. He teaches classes in public economics and urban economics, principles of economics and intermediate microeconomics, and a seminar on housing.
“Teaching at Oberlin is a particularly rewarding experience because I feel students are as invested in learning as I am in teaching. This means that I constantly have to think about how to make my lectures more relevant, applied, and engaging. It’s a challenge to myself that I look forward to with every class that I teach.”
Fredara Hadley, Visiting Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology
Fredara M. Hadley is an alumna of Florida A&M University and Clark-Atlanta University and holds advanced degrees in African American studies and ethnomusicology. Her research centers on understanding the functionality of black popular music in everyday life and surveying the diverse musical practices that coexist in African American communities. Hadley has presented at numerous scholarly conferences throughout the United States and in Brazil, Canada, and Ghana. She has appeared in several television documentaries and NPR programs. At Oberlin, Hadley teaches Introduction to African American Music; Black Music in the Hour of Chaos; the Anthropology of Entrepreneurship; and Pop Music and U.S. Urban Identities. In fall 2019, she will coteach a StudiOC cluster centered on Oberlin alumna Shirley Graham DuBois ’34.
“This award is a wonderful and humbling surprise! It's a joy to teach at Oberlin, and I often say that it’s the toughest teaching job because Oberlin students are so curious that they will push the conversation deeper. And to me, that’s a good thing. I love that my students are willing to go with me on these journeys of discovery, and I’m delighted that Oberlin honored my commitment to teaching in such a way.”
Laurie McMillin, Professor of Rhetoric and Composition
Laurie Hovell McMillin is a professor of rhetoric and composition and director of the Writing Program. Because her own writing and research cuts across genres and disciplines, McMillin enjoys helping students to negotiate the demands of a liberal arts curriculum. Her teaching interests include writing pedagogy, language diversity, and travel writing, and her research focuses on travel writing, nonfiction prose, South Asian culture and religion, and Tibetan studies. Her publications include English in Tibet, Tibet in English: Self-Presentation in the Tibetan Diaspora (Palgrave Press), Buried Indians: Digging Up the Past in a Midwestern Town (University of Wisconsin), and the forthcoming volume, Spaces and Places in Western India: Formations and Delineations (Routledge), edited with Bina Sengar. She also edits the online journal AWAY: Experiments in Travel and Telling.
“I'm really honored to receive this award. At Oberlin, I focus on the teaching of writing: I work with students at all levels, teach Writing Associates who work with other students, and also support faculty in the teaching of writing. I find connecting with people over writing really meaningful, whether the writer is a middle schooler in a summer workshop or a senior professor developing a new syllabus. The teaching of writing is my passion, so I'm pleased to have this work recognized by others.”
Gregory Ristow ’01, Associate Professor of Conducting
Gregory Ristow directs the Oberlin College Choir and Musical Union and teaches courses in vocal chamber music and conducting. He has conducted with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, Houston’s Foundation for Modern Music, the Voices chamber choir in Rochester, N.Y., as artistic director of Encore Vocal Arts in Indianapolis, and as assistant conductor of the Gregory Kunde Chorale in Rochester. He has sung with the Houston Chamber Choir and Houston’s Mercury Baroque. Ristow earned a Doctor of Musical Arts in Conducting at the Eastman School of Music, where he taught undergraduate and graduate conducting and was assistant conductor of the Eastman Chorale and the Eastman-Rochester Chorus. He earned a bachelor’s degree in music education at Oberlin’s Conservatory of Music, master’s degrees in conducting and music theory pedagogy at the Eastman School of Music, a Dalcroze certificate at the Juilliard School, and a Dalcroze license at the Longy School of Music.
“Of all the places I’ve taught in my career, Oberlin has by far the most challenging and engaging students. They make me constantly re-examine how and what I’m doing in classes and rehearsals. They rise to a challenge, be it intellectual or artistic, and remind me that the limits of what we teach need not be predefined. It’s an honor to teach here, to be recognized in this way, and to have the chance to dream about what future I will have learned from these wonderful students about teaching.”
Daniel Stinebring, Francis D. Federighi Professor of Physics
Dan Stinebring earned a bachelor’s at Williams College and a PhD at Cornell University. He has been a faculty member at Oberlin for almost 30 years. Funded by grants from the National Science Foundation since 1993, he has involved Oberlin students in his research, which has focused on using pulsars to explore interstellar space and detect gravitational waves. As part of this research, he and students have traveled to the Netherlands, South Africa, India, China, Australia, and many places in North America. Prior to coming to Oberlin, Stinebring taught for five years in the physics department at Princeton University.
“Of all the satisfying teaching I’ve done in the last 29 years at Oberlin, my favorite memory is standing out under the stars with Intro Astronomy students as we, together, marveled at the beauty and immensity of the cosmos. I also had the privilege of sharing with both the intro and advanced students how astronomers and physicists have decoded some of the universe’s puzzles through light of all wavelengths and, now, gravitational waves!”
Peter V. Swendsen ’99 Associate Professor of Computer Music and Digital Arts
Peter Swendsen is interested in creating a sense of place for performers and listeners, often by using field recordings and real-world processes in music that combine acoustic instruments with electronics. His recent CD, Allusions to Seasons and Weather, features several such pieces, many of which were developed with Oberlin students and alumni. In 2016, he premiered What Noises Remain, an evening-length work cocreated with percussionist Jennifer Torrence ’09 based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. In 2017, he and Jay Ashby composed the score for The Foreigner’s Home, a documentary about novelist Toni Morrison by Oberlin colleagues Rian Brown-Orso and Geoff Pingree. He has created more than 40 scores for dance, including recent collaborations with David Shimotakahara at GroundWorks Dance Theater in Cleveland and Amy Miller at Gibney Dance in New York City.
“The award gives me yet another reason to think of and thank the amazing teachers I’ve had in my own life—starting with my parents, going way back to my first music teachers, Jim Willow and Joyce Schwinn, the excellent teachers I had at Oberlin, such as the long-time TIMARA professor Gary Lee Nelson, and my many graduate school mentors, including Maggi Payne and Judith Shatin. Whatever kind of teacher I am today is thanks to them and thanks to my students and colleagues at Oberlin, especially those in the TIMARA department, who inspire me daily, even hourly. I honestly still feel much more like a student than a teacher, but I’m humbled and grateful to receive this award alongside five incredible peers.”
The Excellence in Teaching Award recognizes faculty in the college and conservatory who have demonstrated sustained and distinctive excellence in their teaching at Oberlin. An award is given in each division of the college (arts and humanities, social and behavioral sciences, and natural sciences and mathematics). The College Faculty Council solicits nominations, which are then reviewed by a faculty committee. The conservatory dean recommends six to seven conservatory faculty to the Conservatory Faculty Council, and together they review and narrow the list of recommendations to three recipients.