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J. Philip Smith Outstanding Teaching Award

SCSU 2020 Teachers of the Year
Carrie Michalski, Carolyn Thompson, and Elliott Horch

Elliott Horch, (right), an astrophysicist who was recently named as a CSUS Professor, and Carolyn Thompson, (center), who teaches geography as an adjunct faculty member, have been selected for the university’s J. Philip Smith Outstanding Teaching Award.

The award is given annually to a full-time faculty member, as well as a part-time faculty member, who have excelled in the classroom.

It is named after the former interim president and longtime vice president for academic affairs. Smith previously served in various capacities at Southern, including as dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, as well as professor of mathematics and the first director of the Honors College. He continues to serve as an adjunct faculty member.

In addition, Carrie Michalski, (left), a professor of nursing, has been chosen as the Academic Advisor Award.

During his career, Horch has developed a super-powered device for telescopes called a Differential Speckle Survey Instrument that he once described as being like “putting eyeglasses on a telescope.” It enabled astronomers to snap photos of celestial objects many times clearer than had ever been taken. He also was tapped by NASA to assist with the Kepler Mission – a project to find potential “new Earths” in the Milky Way Galaxy.

But Horch, who earned the CSU System Research Award in 2011 and the SCSU Faculty Scholar Award in 2012, also has enjoyed a stellar teaching record and demonstrated a strong commitment to student success since he began teaching at Southern in 2007.

“The direct feedback from students and comments on course evaluations indicate that he is effective at connecting with students and getting them interested in the topic,” writes Matthew Enjalran, chairman of the Physics Department.

“Elliott’s ability to motivate students to do better derives from his enthusiasm for physics, particularly astronomy, and a genuine concern for his students and the quality of their learning experience.”

Justin Rupert, a student of Horch, underscores that sentiment.

“In the classroom, Dr. Horch was always animated about the topic of discussion, a quality I’ve not come across very often in a lecturer,” Rupert wrote. “(He) never seemed to tire of teaching, even some of the more basic principles of optics and astronomy. As a student sitting in these multi-hour lectures, it was easy to be engaged and to want to learn more.”

Thompson began teaching in the fall of 2013, according to Patrick Heidkamp, chairman of the Environment, Geography and Marine Sciences Department. “She is an innovative teacher, thoughtful scholar and terrific human being,” Heidkamp said.

“Student comments were very positive and ranged from extremely knowledgeable of the subject matter and maintaining high academic standards, to extremely helpful and compassionate….I believe Dr. Thompson is more than deserving of this award.”

Lauren Thelen, a senior nursing student, agreed.

“She has provided me with immense amount of knowledge, wisdom, and support,” Thelen wrote. “During our advisement meetings, she went above and beyond the simple task of handing me a registration pin number. She would always ask me about how I was doing in my academic life and about how I was coping with the stress of nursing.”

Meanwhile, Michalski has demonstrated a strong commitment to her students and the department, according to Chelsea Ortiz, information and admissions coordinator for the Nursing Department.

“She not only makes herself available to her assigned advisees, but also devotes time for other students seeking support in our programs,” Ortiz said. “She is a great representation of who we are as educators and nurses both on and off-campus.”