5 UMass Faculty Members Awarded for Teaching Excellence

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

BOSTON — Five University of Massachusetts faculty have been awarded the 2018 Manning Prize for Excellence in Teaching for their exemplary dedication to students and the university. The faculty members — one from each UMass campus — will receive $10,000 awards in recognition of their commitment to academic excellence.

The Manning Prize was established in 2016 by UMass Lowell alumni Rob and Donna Manning to honor UMass professors who excel in teaching and service.

“I’m proud to recognize these brilliant, dedicated faculty members, who are transforming lives through their teaching and mentorship,” said Rob Manning, a 1984 graduate of UMass Lowell and current chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees. “At UMass, we’re blessed with excellent faculty across all five campuses who are harnessing talent, curiosity and ambition to create the leaders of tomorrow, and it’s very important to Donna and me that we acknowledge them for their efforts.” 

Rob Manning is executive chairman of MFS Investment Management, and he credits a math professor at UMass Lowell with helping him land the job that launched his career. Donna Manning, who received her nursing degree and her master of business administration from UMass Lowell, has been an oncology nurse at Boston Medical Center for nearly 30 years. They are among the largest contributors to UMass in its history.

“We’re so grateful to Rob and Donna Manning for their unparalleled generosity and dedication to the UMass mission of world-class public higher education,” said UMass President Marty Meehan. “As a result of their personal experiences, Rob and Donna recognize and seek to honor the incredible contribution of UMass faculty to student learning and to guiding students on pathways to success.”

All full-time, tenured and non-tenured faculty members are eligible to receive the Manning Prize. Each campus is responsible for determining its own nomination and selection process, but that process must include student and peer input to ensure that the selected faculty members meet the criteria of being superb teachers and exemplary members of the campus community.

This year’s Manning Prize winners, who were honored at a luncheon at the UMass Club today, are as follows:

Linda M. Isbell, PhD, of Sturbridge is a professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences at UMass Amherst. She is a social psychologist whose teaching and research examine how situational factors influence our everyday thoughts, feelings and behavior. In the classroom, Professor Isbell is known for the development and use of innovative and creative teaching techniques that actively engage and inspire her students, as well as her ability to make a 300-person lecture feel small and personal to her students. Professor Isbell has received two research grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support her research on emotion and social cognition, and recently received a five-year grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to fund her research examining the role of emotions on decision-making among Emergency Medicine physicians and nurses when treating patients with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders. Professor Isbell is the recipient of numerous teaching awards, including the prestigious UMass Distinguished Teaching Award.

Assistant Professor Olivia Weisser joined the history department at the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2012. Professor Weisser has developed and taught eight different courses at UMass Boston, with subjects that demonstrate an innovative approach to teaching history from an interdisciplinary and scientific perspective, and a prolific, pedagogical imagination. Professor Weisser’s research focuses on health, healing and the body in early modern England.  Her first book, “Ill Composed: Sickness, Gender, and Belief in Early Modern England (2015),” examines how gender shaped patients’ perceptions in the 1600s and 1700s. The book was a finalist for the 2015 Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Book Award, was short-listed for a 2016 British Medical Association Book Award and was named a 2015 Choice Outstanding Academic title. Professor Weisser is currently working on a new book on the history of venereal disease in early modern London.

Since joining UMass Dartmouth in 2009, Dr. Pamela Karimi has cultivated an approach to teaching that grounds intellectual inquiry firmly within the community. At the center of this unique approach is her class, “Architecture and Sustainability in the American Post Industrial City,” which considers pressing issues of revitalization and sustainability in the context of New Bedford. In this course, students work with local activists, politicians and artists to generate proposals for repurposing vacant lots and abandoned mills, building cost-effective community greenhouses and supporting urban farming. Dr. Karimi's classes also tackle difficult and timely topics of global significance. These include the migration of displaced people resulting from war or political violence and the continued impact of slavery in contemporary culture. Exemplary of this commitment is the “Black Spaces Matter: Exploring the Aesthetics and Architectonics of an Abolitionist Neighborhood” exhibition that she organized with students, artists, activists, residents and UMass colleagues in order to showcase the unique history of New Bedford in the abolitionist movement. In the last eight years, Dr. Karimi has received nine teaching based grants from MIT, The Society of Architectural Historians and UMass. Dr. Karimi's teaching exemplifies the mission of a public university.

Anne Gilroy is a Professor Emeritus of Clinical Anatomy in the Division of Translational Anatomy within the Department of Radiology at UMass Medical School. She spent most of her career at UMass, beginning in 1989 in the Departments of Surgery and Cell Biology, where she designed and implemented anatomy-focused curricula for UMMS medical students and residents. From 2014 to 2018, she served as co-director of the first-year Development, Structure and Function course, an integrated program in anatomy, physiology, histology, embryology and imaging. As the Director of Anatomy and Imaging Resources for iCELS between 2013 and 2018, she was instrumental in the medical center’s acquisition of the Anatomage Table and its integration into the medical curriculum. Professor Gilroy is a co-author of the internationally acclaimed “Thieme’s Atlas of Anatomy,” the author of “Anatomy – An Essential Textbook” and editor of the recently released “Anatomy in Your Pocket.” She enjoyed several multi-year visiting professorships including experiences in China, Grenada, South Africa and Liberia. Professor Gilroy has been recognized for her teaching with 24 Outstanding Medical Educator and Golden Apple Awards, and received the Educational Achievement Award (2005 and 2016), the Lamar Soutter Award for Excellence in Medical Education (2009) and the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Teaching (2017). She now resides in Fort Collins, Colo.

Deborah Finch is a lecturer in the Manning School of Business at UMass Lowell and a Lowell resident. Her journey to teaching in higher education included homeschooling her four children until they went to college and returning to college herself to earn an MBA and an EdD. Dr. Finch’s active community involvement includes volunteering and serving on local nonprofit boards. Dr. Finch believes the best way a student can get an education is to take advantage of opportunities in experiential education, service learning and study abroad experiences. She sees her role as a guide and facilitator, with the hope of helping her students become lifelong learners.

Photo caption: (L to R): UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney, UMass Amherst professor Linda Isbell, UMass President Marty Meehan, UMass Boston professor Olivia Weisser, UMass Lowell lecturer Deborah Finch, UMass Dartmouth professor Pamela Karimi, UMass Lowell alum and prize co-founder Donna Manning, UMass Medical School professor Anne Gilroy, UMass Lowell alum, prize co-founder and Board of Trustees Chairman Rob Manning, UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Robert Johnson, UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, UMass Medical School Chancellor Michael Collins and UMass Boston Chancellor Barry Mills at the UMass Club on Tuesday. (Photo credit: Rob Carlin)