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Faculty Members Inspire Students, Win Awards

It didn’t take long for Darcy Buerkle, assistant professor of history, to gain the appreciation of her students.

Buerkle, who joined the Smith faculty only last fall, was a recipient of the Faculty Teaching Award, which is given annually by students to one junior and one senior faculty member to honor their dedication to teaching.

On the other hand, Dana Leibsohn, associate professor of art, made no less an impression on her students in her nine years teaching at Smith. Leibsohn was named this year’s senior Faculty Teaching Award winner.

The awards, which were presented at Rally Day on February 19, included an engraved plaque, a pen set engraved with the winners’ names, and a check for $1,000 for each winner from the Board of Trustees.

“Every year, the Faculty Teaching Awards give Smithies the opportunity to nominate the professors that have truly demonstrated excellence in teaching,” said Erin Donohue ’04, chair of the student Curriculum Committee, which coordinates the awards. Donohue presented Leibsohn’s award at the Rally Day convocation.

Leibsohn had no idea she was nominated to receive the award, she said. “This was a surprise,” she says. “The news came on a snowy morning, and it definitely brightened up my day.”

Buerkle, who teaches the courses “Women in Contemporary Europe” and “20th-Century European Thought,” was nominated by her students for her commitment to women’s education and teaching of women’s history.

“She expects rigor and focus and thorough scholarship from all of her students,” said Buerkle’s nomination, submitted collectively from students in her classes, “and is committed to educating women to be responsible, serious and talented scholars, and because of this expectation her students are inspired to reach new formerly unimaginable heights of intellectual and academic achievement.”

In presenting Buerkle’s award at the Rally Day convocation, Hae-Won Hwang ’04, said, “She believes that women must rise to the occasion of truly finding one’s self. And doing so is not merely academic but instead represents a commitment to being in the world, and being a lightening rod of energy and passion and insight.”

"I came to Smith on purpose," says Buerkle, who moved to the Pioneer Valley last summer from Los Angeles, passing up offers from other institutions. "I moved here with a lot of conviction. This is really where I wanted to be. Perhaps the students could see that."

Leibsohn, who teaches “Pre-Columbian Art” and “Studies in the Arts of Africa,” was also nominated by her students. “Professor Leibsohn lovingly shares her knowledge with all her students,” they wrote in the nomination. “She helped us see the world with new eyes and challenged us to apply our newfound perspectives to subjects beyond art.”

Leibsohn enjoyed accepting her award at Rally Day, she says. “The students’ energy was pretty exciting. All that cheering. It was very fun.”

The Faculty Teaching Awards have been presented since 1985. Last year’s winners were Virginia Hayssen, professor of biological sciences, and Floyd Cheung, assistant professor of English.

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