BU Scholars Honored with University Teaching Awards
Kathleen Vandenberg, CGS, wins Gitner Family Award, Pnina Feldman, Questrom, receives Provost’s Scholar-Teacher Award
“While I’m excited about operations management education, most students are not,” Pnina Feldman acknowledges.
In a written statement of her teaching philosophy, the Questrom School of Business associate professor says students think her field—operations and technology management, which studies how firms provide products and services to customers efficiently—traffics in “old-fashioned factories, nuts, bolts, and inventories. None of it sounds relevant to modern business at first glance. Unfortunately, the majority of published case studies in operations do not help disprove this notion.”
So she disproves it herself, overcoming lack of interest with real-time case studies and hot-off-the-presses news items. Examples range from Amazon and Uber, which revolutionized the retail and transit businesses, she says, to studying current supply-chain bottlenecks from COVID-19.
Feldman’s success—student evaluations call her classes “passionate,” “imaginative,” and yes, “fun”—helped her win this year’s Provost’s Scholar-Teacher of the Year Award, which annually recognizes “outstanding scholars who excel as teachers inside and outside the classroom.” The award comes with a stipend of $5,000.
The simultaneously awarded Gerald and Deanne Gitner Family Award for Innovation in Teaching with Technology also recognizes a tireless instruction innovator. Kathleen Vandenberg, a College of General Studies master lecturer in rhetoric, teaches students effective communication that marries writing, short opinion documentaries, tap essays (read on a screen that’s tapped to proceed through the text), and podcasts, the latter in a studio she helped create for her classes and for students across BU. The Gitner Family Award confers $10,000 annually to the faculty member who best exemplifies innovation in teaching by using technology.
Both awards will be presented at a ceremony on Wednesday, April 20, in Agganis Arena’s Burke Room.
Feldman, who earned a PhD from the Wharton School, “believes deeply in developing curricula that don’t merely recycle, but create new knowledge in engaging, relevant, and enjoyable ways for students,” her award citation reads. It also notes that she was integral in developing Questrom’s Online MBA program, which has drawn raves for accessibility and affordability, and in redesigning Questrom’s doctoral and honors programs.
The latter has been bolstered with “hands-on research opportunities for undergraduate students to see their scholarship in action,” the citation continues. “The honors students,” Feldman adds, “get a chance to engage and learn about the research done at Questrom and participate in the creation of new knowledge with faculty and BU/Questrom research institutes.” She also created alumni days, where Questrom graduates return to network with, and mentor, honors students, bringing job and internship opportunities as well.
Feldman has previously won both Questrom’s Broderick Award for Excellence in Teaching and Slatkin Award for Excellence in Research, as well as being a national finalist in the INFORMS Service Science Cluster Best Paper Award Competition. She holds editorial positions at two industry journals.
Vandenberg infuses her classes with Adobe’s InDesign, Premiere, Spark, and other tools as part of what one colleague calls her “fearless experimentation with advanced soft- and hardware,” the Gitner citation notes, calling her “an innovator in the art of storytelling who understands the sharp divide between consuming media and producing it.”
Tech can master its consumers, as “those who create the technology are financially invested in keeping you moving, clicking, and skimming,” Vandenberg says. “That can impact your reading habits and can make you expect that all information should be bite-sized, entertaining, quick, and to the point. That can make it really challenging to dive into something like The Odyssey.”
But producing media can put a student in control, she says: “You are forced to consider how exactly these tools are used to make something engaging, effective, persuasive, beautiful, informed, or appropriate.”
Vandenberg also creates instructional videos to help students navigate technology. She leads workshops where she teaches other faculty how to teach digital multimedia assignments, has chaired or served on CGS technology committees, and helped create the BU Center for Teaching & Learning’s Adobe mentor program.
At the same time, says this tech-savvy innovator, even text-only communication still requires technology (“pencil, pen, typewriter, computer, iPhone, etc.”) and has its place: “I do think ‘traditional writing’ can stand alone—there is much to be gained from the writing and reading of purely textual pieces—though Plato was suspicious of such writing.” (The great Greek exiled wordsmiths from the idealized state described in his Republic.)
Vandenberg holds a PhD from the Catholic University of America.