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Learning to share

Metcalf winner Peter Hawkins on teaching as giving

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Peter Hawkins believes in the power of seeing. “I need to see every student,” says Hawkins, a professor of religion in the College of Arts and Sciences and winner of a 2006 Metcalf Award. “I get something from their eyes, from their faces.”

Hawkins was nominated for the University’s highest teaching award last fall by students who admired his “eloquence, patience, and palpable love” of teaching, according to one recommendation, and who enjoyed many hours of his company discussing Dante over cappuccinos in a local coffee shop. This year, with a nomination deadline of October 17, students and faculty have already submitted many candidates for the 2007 awards.

The Metcalf Cup and Prize for Excellence in Teaching, the University’s highest teaching honor, and the Metcalf Awards were established in 1973 by a gift from the late Arthur G. B. Metcalf (SED’35, Hon.’74), a longtime trustee and board chairman emeritus, to create “a systematic procedure for the review of the quality of teaching at Boston University and the identification and advancement of those members of the faculty who excel as teachers.”

What does that mean? Excellence in teaching, as defined by the Metcalf Committee, requires mastery of the subject matter, engaging classroom presentations, and thorough, thoughtful evaluation of student work. The selection committee is made up of several past winners of the Metcalf Prize and Awards, two undergraduate students, and a University administrator. 

Over the course of the school year, the committee will take several steps to vet the 2007 candidates. It will solicit statements from candidates for the award, asking them to describe their approach to teaching. It will review student evaluations and grading patterns, examine course syllabi and graded assignments, and solicit additional letters of recommendation from current and former students. Members of the committee will visit the classes of the finalists, and in the spring they will present their recommendations to the University’s president.

To learn more about the workings of the Metcalf Committee, click here
To learn how to submit a letter of recommendation, click here.