By Amy Sharaf
Ryerson is now home to Miss Universe and the best lecturer in Ontario.
Popular history prof Arne Kislenko beat out nine finalists Saturday to claim the Best Lecturer title and a $10,000 prize in TVOntario’s self-proclaimed reality show with a “high IQ.” “It feels great, it’s one of the best things that could happen to you in a career no matter what you do and I’m very honoured. It’s particularly important for me because of students. This is really about the students,” Kislenko said.
A total of 359 professors were nominated by students and a panel of judges narrowed the number down to 10. Finalists included academics from the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo. Each week, pre-taped lectures of two professors aired, and the public was able to rank the lectures out of 100.
Kislenko averaged the highest score with his lecture on the Soviet experience during the Second World War. He was told of his win on Nov. 7, five days before the results were publicly announced. He said he had a hard time keeping a poker face with a student in his office and a TVO rep on the phone telling him he won.
“At the time I was going ‘oh yeah that’s great’ so it was very funny,” he said. “Then it was hard to keep a secret but I was so good at it that I didn’t even… tell my mom. My mom didn’t know till Saturday and I didn’t tell any of my colleagues or any of my friends… it was pretty dodgy business.”
Kislenko was able to tell his wife and Ron Stagg, the chair of the history department at Ryerson. Stagg called his colleague’s victory wonderful. “It’s always nice to see someone who works hard get rewarded for it. I can’t say enough about him,” Stagg said.
Stagg added that the win also provides publicity for Ryerson and his department’s introduction of a history degree next year. Ashkan Mozaffari took Kislenko’s espionage and international relations courses and said he’s proud of his former prof’s win and felt privileged to be in his classes. “Having one of our profs win such a prestigious competition is an honour and it’s well deserved, too,” said the second-year aerospace engineering student.
“He knows just about everything.” After his lecture aired Nov. 5, Kislenko said his e-mail inbox was filled with more than 100 messages from students, professionals, retired teachers and perfect strangers praising him. Now that he’s won, his inbox is full with hundreds more congratulating him. Kislenko remains modest and credits Ryerson’s “abundantly charming” students for his recognition. “What kind of students do you have that do this (for you)?” he said.
“You just sort of sit there and think ‘I’ve got the best frigging life you could imagine.’ You’re surrounded by bright young people who actually give a crap about what you’re teaching and they’re super nice and go out of their way to support you. This is like a dream.”
Kislenko hopes to use the prize money to establish a travel scholarship where students can earn credits while studying abroad.