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Professors in the College of Arts & Sciences are expected to excel in both research and teaching. Psychologist Abigail Panter and sociologist Ted Mouw have been named Bowman and Gordon Gray Distinguished Term Professors in recognition of their outstanding undergraduate teaching.
In Mouw’s classes, every student is expected to actively participate. In exchange, he vows they will never be made to feel they’ve offered a dumb answer.
In his First Year Seminar on “Globalization, Work and Inequality,” he leads discussions that are alternately thought-provoking and humorous, veering seamlessly from the theories of Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz to sweatshops, tariffs, pizza pies, free-trade protests, catfish from Vietnam and manhole covers made in India.
Every student is called on to answer a question or express an opinion whether their hand is raised or not. Mouw’s creed: “The learning process should be stimulating and challenging, but never humiliating.”
Mouw believes most students crave engagement in the classroom. His students seem to agree. In searching for words to describe her experience in Sociology 58, Carolyn Treasure, who’s majoring in biology and economics, said Mouw’s active learning style “really changed my perspective in a way that no other class has. We discuss issues that are extremely relevant to today, [and] he has high standards for participation, yet his class is so intellectually stimulating that participation is not a problem.”
She added, “Dr. Mouw seems to genuinely care about all his students.”
He also respects them. “I’m always impressed by how smart students are, but you don’t always get that first in class,” Mouw said. “You have to talk to them one-on-one during office hours or over coffee. That’s when they show you who they really are, and how you as a teacher become approachable.”
Mouw joined UNC’s sociology faculty in 1999, after earning a master’s degree in economics and a Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Michigan.
Howard Aldrich, chair of UNC’s department of sociology, has enjoyed watching Mouw evolve as a teacher and a researcher studying human migration patterns.
“When you talk about Ted, you’re talking about a whole scholar,” Aldrich said. “He is universally praised for his research. He’s a rising star in the profession, but I’m delighted he continues to think of himself first as a teacher.”
Abigail Panter teaches quantitative and research methods to undergraduate and graduate students. She asks students in class to step into the researcher role to gain a clearer view of the process and to apply the learned concepts and skills in settings beyond her courses.
“I like to get into the trenches with my students and show them how the research process works from start to finish,” she said. “It gives them the support they need to do their work, and it tends to alleviate any fears they might have about generating ideas, conducting research or analyzing and presenting data.”
Panter’s advanced undergraduate research methods course can be daunting at first, even for senior psychology major Nick Bailey.
“The first day of class, Dr. Panter went over what we were going to cover over the semester and what was expected of us,” recalled Bailey. “Everything sounded much harder and more in depth than anything I had done before in psychology classes. There was even the possibility that [our] experiments … could be published in a scholarly journal. I thought this would be much more difficult than it has been, and that is because she has shown us what to do each step of the way.”
Another psychology major, Cerina Buchanan, said Panter made research interesting. “That’s because Professor Panter always makes sure students are engaged. She gets excited about the subject, and that keeps students attentive.”
Panter earned her doctoral degree at New York University. In 1989 she joined the UNC faculty in the psychology department's L.L. Thurstone Psychometric Laboratory.
Donald Lysle, chair of the department of psychology, called Panter’s devotion and accomplishments in undergraduate teaching “truly remarkable.”
While flattered by such affirmation, Panter insisted what she does “is really just a part of what we’re about here. It’s just a matter of getting all the pieces working in synch so everyone involved can thrive.”
The Bowman and Gordon Gray professorships, among the top teaching awards at UNC, provide critical support to help Carolina retain outstanding faculty. The professorships were established in 1980 by a gift to the College from the late alumnus Gordon Gray ’30 and the estate of alumnus Bowman Gray Jr. ’29.
-- You can learn more about Professors Panter and Mouw, and other outstanding faculty members, in the Spring 2009 edition of Carolina Arts & Sciences magazine.
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