The University plans to soon be the best Catholic teaching university in the West.
Eleven reasons why that dream isn’t wild.
Photographs by Jerry Hart
For more than a century the University of Portland has prided itself on its devotion to teaching — as art, craft, opening to epiphany, daily dedication, first among professorial virtues. Here talented teachers were cel-ebrated, students reaped the copious benefits of their wizardry, and professors strove in ever more creative ways to bring their own remarkable scholarly feats into classrooms, labs, and conversations. The greatest among the faculty were those acclaimed the best teachers, by every measurement of that most myster-ious and sometimes holy craft: enrollment, evaluations, reviews, accessibility, anecdote, excitement — even, in the most subtle compliment a student can give
a teacher, the number of students inspired to become teachers themselves.
Seven years ago the University earned the first of four national teaching awards from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching: the Oregon Professor of the Year Award, to biology professor Terry Favero (above right). Then came the deluge: U.S. Professor of the Year, to Spanish professor Kate Regan (left), Oregon Professor of the Year again, to biologist Becky Houck (second from left), and selection as a national Carnegie Scholar (communications studies professor Barb Gayle, second from right). The University’s four Carnegie award-winners became, understandably enough, widely celebrated for their teaching creativity and acumen.
But they are the tip of the iceberg at the University of Portland. Among the University’s 174 professors of every subject imaginable there are many other women and men of startling teaching ability — people who bring classrooms to life daily, who demand the very best of their students’ talents, who leap headlong into the subject at heart. Here, in the pages that follow, are seven of the University's best — and least-known — terrific teachers.
For more information about these eleven ebullient exuberant exciting excited entertaining edifying educators, and myriad other matters of teacherly amazement, call the University's Office of Admissions, 503.943.7147, email@example.com, www.up.edu.
Professor of Mathematics
Fly fisherman for trout and salmon. Was president of Oregon Teachers of Teachers of Mathematics, which is fun to say. Teaches math for elementary teachers and algebra and statistics and complex analysis and integrated calculus and physics, this last with physics professor Tamar More, and he and More got money from the National Science Foundation to build jazzy new classrooms in Science Hall just for their co-class, which is not something that happens every day. “I am always looking for aha! moments in class,” says Hill, “moments when students discover things for themselves. That’s the ideal. Lecturing makes aha! hard so I hardly do it. We have lab experiences and talks in every class and then they seek to discover. Discovery defeats passivity. This is increasingly a sit-and-watch-and-receive culture and we battle that. Activity, creativity, discovery — those are the habits of mind I am trying to teach my students.”
Father Claude Pomerleau, C.S.C.
Professor of History& Political Science
Has been invited to speak to the National Congress of Mexico about American foreign policy which he did with his usual cheerful tart honesty. Fluent in Spanish. Legendary clarinet player. Once ran a college in Chile. Expert in Latin American politics. Teaches foreign policy and international organizations. Just back from Uganda. Often advises his brother-in-law on foreign policy, for which U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy is grateful, or so Leahy says when he visits classes on The Bluff. “In class I want to perform, learn, be excited, synthesize unusual things, create room for my students, challenge them, break them off familiar tracks, bring them to new spaces, let them realize how incredibly insightful they are,” says Claude. “They have no idea how creative they are. The classroom is an experiment and what happens there is like a fine wine — a great course here persists past the class, past graduation, into a life. It’s a precious start for something that may end up really extraordinary.”
Professor of Education
Verrrry interesting dude. Scholar of graffiti and of handwriting. One of those people who knows a startling amount about a startling number of things. Cheerful as a jaybird. Specialist in the history and sociology and philosophy of education. Teaches intro and secondary education courses on The Bluff and has taught University education classes in Guam and Canada and an American history course at neighboring Roosevelt High School and a world history course in the University’s London program. “To me teaching is a curious mix of ego and humility,” he says. “You have to be confident, to love what you’re doing, to work from what in-spires you, but you never quite have it. You’re always improving the craft. You have to find what you believe in, what you stand for, and then find methods to express those things while helping students develop their perspectives. Teaching is a form of personal expression applied to the requirements of the class. And you never quite master it — you can be brilliant in one setting and helpless in the next. You can never be complacent or be lax.”
Professor of Engineering
A quilter of surpassing skill, as you see (one of her quilts, a gift to the University, hangs in Engineering Hall). Teaches computer science and programming (in Java) and data structures (in C++) and software engineering (“or software in the working world”) and human/ computer interface (“or how computer-articulate people can design for the computer-inarticulate”) operating systems and intro to engineering (for freshmen) and seminars in professional practice (for seniors). Cheerful, tireless, straightforward in manner. “Teaching is absolute delight and utter joy,” she says firmly. “I float to class. I can’t wait to see their faces. They go from confusion to comprehension and the transition is tremendously rewarding to watch. I never know what time it is. I don’t want to stop after fifty minutes. It’s like an actor who lives for applause, a teacher lives for that dawning understanding in a student. Which sometimes doesn’t come for years after the course. You get a call from someone who graduated two years ago who’s working for a company and she says now I get it...”
Professor of Nursing
Was a Navy nurse during the Vietnam War, working with amputees mere hours from battle. Became, understandably, a specialist in rehabilitation. Has been the University’s dean of nursing. Co-founded a Hispanic health care program now used by the Providence Health System. Founded the University’s parish nursing program. Has taught everything and then some. Now teaches “the alpha and omega of nursing courses,” intros for brand-new students and leadership for those about to graduate. “I try to teach my students to find what's best in themselves, to focus their passions, to wield the tools of the profession, to see nursing not as job or occupation but profession — maybe even vocation.”
Professor of Business
Teaches famous sales and marketing and entrepreneurship classes in which he presents his students with $100 each and tells them (a) invest it in a creative venture of their own that is (b) neither illegal nor immoral and (c) if they earn profit then (d) they pass. Twenty percent of proceeds to charity, rest to (motivated) student. Total sales in recent years from funky student enterprises hatched this way: $50,000. Total profits: $25,000. Total contributions to charities: $8,000. Boring moments: zero. “Ah, I’m a taskmaster, though,” he says. “I like to see a little sweat on the mat. I want my students to work real hard and walk away with new knowledge or new skills to better themselves, their organizations, and their communities. I want them to be alive. They were razzing me about turning forty recently and I told them hey, age may wrinkle my face but a lack of enthusiasm will wrinkle your soul.”
Professor of Philosophy
Scholar of feminist ethics and the philosophy of psychiatry. Scholar of the ways that psychiatric drugs are used for enhancement rather than healing. Runs the University’s post-graduate scholarship program, through which students have won Marshall, Mitchell, Truman, and Fulbright grants to study free in America and Europe. Teaches ethics and the philosophy of madness and the philosophy of language and environmental ethics and the philosophy of science and the intro courses for freshmen. “Sometimes I have to remind myself to sit down and be quiet in class,” she says. “I have way too much fun. More than anything I want my students to be able to read and think for themselves. I tell them don’t pass your eyes over a text and then look to me for light. Wrestle with it yourself. I won’t always be there to explain. No one will. You’ll be confronted with a lot of knotty and troubling things in the future and you have to think for yourself.”