By Alyssa Luckhurst
Two professors make annual best lecturer competition’s top 30.
Two Ryerson professors are one step away from making Ontario their classroom.
Philosophy professor James Cunningham and Dana Lee of the School of Radio and Television Arts have advanced to the Top 30 in TVOntario’s 2007 Best Lecturer competition.
Lee said that he did not have any intentions to compete, but he was pleased when he found out he’d been nominated.
“I was obviously pretty honoured that someone would think that highly of me that I have an opportunity to participate in this,” he said.
TVOntario received more than 250 nominations from students and alumni at colleges and universities across the province. The Top 30 sent in their tapes and, in January, independent judges will determine the 10 profs whose lectures will air. Viewer votes will determine the winner.
Cunningham said he is excited about the contest because of the focus it puts on the quality of lecturers.
“Teaching tends not to get the kind of valuing at university that research gets,” he said, adding that Ryerson has an advantage in this competition because the school began as an institute, and professors were hired primarily for their teaching skills.
“So this university has some rather wonderful teaching departments, some rather wonderful teachers.”
Last year, Ryerson history prof Arne Kislenko brought home the glory and the gold: a $10,000 scholarship.
Lee and Cunningham haven’t asked him for any tips though; they’re confident their personal lecture styles will get them to the top.
“I come into a class to tell a story,” Cunningham said. He has thousands of lectures memorized and changes it up for each class, asking questions and drawing on the chalkboard. His style worked for third-year business management student Erin Hotson.
“His personality is so vibrant it can’t help but come through in his teaching,” she said.
Second-year RTA student Annelies McConnachie-Howarth will be cheering Lee on in the competition.
“The technological aspect of television and radio was never something I was interested in, but he made me want to learn,” she said.
“He has this way of commanding attention with his charisma and passion about what he’s teaching.”
Lee thinks that the depth of his lecture material and his approachable presentation style will impress the judges.
“Hopefully what they’ll see in me, and all of their top 10 candidates, is someone who is able to take a lecture and use it as a form of academic rigor so you’re actually learning something of depth,” he said.
“It’s easy to take an academic concept and explain it badly. It’s somewhat more difficult to explain it clearly.”