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Three CAS profs recognized for outstanding academic advising

Fred Wasserman (from left), Cathie Jo Martin, and Christopher Martin. Photo by Albert L'Etoile

Moments after hearing Fred Wasserman speak at the College of Arts and Sciences Spring Open House last year, one prospective student’s mother gathered her things and rushed from the Tsai Performance Center, where the event was held, to the CAS Advising Office; she wanted to make sure that Wasserman would be her daughter’s advisor.

Considering the stack of glowing nomination letters by students using superlatives to describe the CAS associate biology professor, it’s no surprise that Wasserman, along with Cathie Jo Martin, a political science professor, and Christopher Martin, an associate professor and a distinguished teaching professor of English, was named a 2005 recipient of the CAS Faculty Award for Excellence in Academic Advising.

Each year, CAS honors two or three faculty members for outstanding academic advising. Every undergraduate is invited to submit a nomination letter. After the letters are reviewed by a committee of associate deans, recommendations go to the dean of Arts and Sciences, who selects the winners. The $250 cash awards were presented last May during Class Day.

Known to stay long after office hours, to advise students over the summer, and to take walk-in appointments despite his hectic schedule, Wasserman fills in for other faculty and consistently demonstrates concern, warmth, and good humor, according to his student letters. His academic interests include understanding biological phenomena from an evolutionary perspective; his area of concentration is animal behavior and its interface with ecology. Wasserman received the 2001 Metcalf Cup and Prize for Excellence in Teaching, the University’s highest teaching award.

Christopher Martin, similarly, is known for calmly helping students with administrative frustrations. “Their inability to deal with basic problems makes them feel irresponsible,” he says, and they want to be able to function in the real world. “I like to assure them it doesn’t get any realer than at the University.” He says that “it’s nice that a university pays more than lip service to this kind of activity.” Martin is director of undergraduate studies in English and is the Core Curriculum humanities coordinator. He is currently working on a book provisionally titled Depictions of Old Age.

Cathie Jo Martin’s students respect her frank approach during advising sessions. They consistently describe her ability to help them believe in themselves.

One student writes that she enjoyed Martin’s “candid pep talks,” during office hours, adding that she is “on target, but never harsh. I came to see her as a great role model — a remarkably intelligent woman with a punchy sense of humor and a refreshing affinity for unpretentious irony.” Martin teaches courses on American politics, political economy, and comparative public policy.