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ODU Professors Receive Teaching Awards from Governor

  • Lawrence Hatab
  • Lawrence Weinstein

Old Dominion University faculty members Lawrence Hatab, an expert in Western philosophy, and Lawrence Weinstein, a nuclear physicist, received State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) 2009 Outstanding Faculty Awards in Richmond Thursday, Feb. 19.

They are the 23rd and 24th winners from ODU since 1991. Among the state's colleges and universities, only the College of William and Mary has had more of the award winners during this period.

Hatab and Weinstein joined 10 other faculty members from across the commonwealth to be honored at a ceremony at the Jefferson Hotel. Each received a monetary award of $5,000. The highly competitive program is funded by the Dominion Foundation.

"More than 100 faculty members from dozens of institutions were nominated for this award this year, so it is with great pride that we at Old Dominion celebrate having two of our professors as Outstanding Faculty Award winners," said acting President John Broderick. This is the sixth year that ODU has had two award recipients. "Professors Hatab and Weinstein have demonstrated, with distinction, the qualities of teaching, public service, research and scholarship expected of each winner," Broderick added.

Chandra de Silva, dean of the College of Arts and Letters, said, "Our college has a strong tradition of SCHEV award winners and we are extremely proud of Dr. Hatab's achievement." The dean of the College of Sciences, Chris Platsoucas, praised "the tireless and innovative efforts of Professor Weinstein on behalf of his university, his community and his science" and added, "He inspires his colleagues."

In addition to sharing a first name, the two ODU professors share a passion for teaching, along with a reputation among students for making two of the most difficult academic disciplines both understandable and meaningful.

Hatab, who holds the titles of University Professor and Louis I. Jaffe Professor of philosophy in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, has taught at the university for 32 years. In their course evaluations, students consistently give Hatab high marks for his enthusiasm, expertise, challenging standards and ability to explain and communicate difficult philosophical material.

He has had great success teaching some of the most demanding thinkers in the Western tradition. Hatab combines a depth of expression with a sense of humor, a passion for ideas and a certain theatricality, all of which bring philosophy alive in the classroom.

"I suppose I was born to be a teacher," he said. "I am extremely fortunate to have a career doing something that fits my nature so well. And teaching philosophy goes right to my core."

His approach to teaching, he explains, is based on the gateway principle, the relevance principle and the patience principle:

"First, never forget what it is like to come to philosophical questions for the first time. The easiest trap to fall in is assuming that what is obvious or second nature to you should also be evident to students.

"Second, always connect philosophy with concrete life concerns, and this not simply as a pedagogical technique, but as a measure of philosophy's true meaning and importance.

"Third, have the patience to let students come to important insights at their own pace and through often uneven steps of development."

Hatab's success in the classroom has received praise over the years from both students and colleagues. De Silva calls him "a truly outstanding teacher-scholar."

Christos Hadjioannou, an undergraduate philosophy major, says of Hatab: "His energy, his enthusiasm about philosophy, his approach to students and his extensive knowledge and creativity captured me immediately."

A nationally and internationally recognized scholar, Hatab has published six books (all monographs) and more than 40 articles, book chapters and reviews.

Weinstein, like Hatab, has been designated by Old Dominion as a University Professor for his excellence in teaching. He has taught at ODU for 16 years.

Weinstein, whose specialization is nuclear physics, has received accolades for teaching physics at every level, from Physics 101 to Graduate Quantum Mechanics. In communicating the big-picture message that physics is crucial to understanding how the world works, he demonstrates ideas and principles via experiments that employ a variety of apparatus, ranging from rubber bands to flame tubes.

He constantly searches the results of physics education research for tested ways to better engage introductory physics students. Recently, he introduced SCALE-UP, which stands for Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs. Students work on activities in carefully structured groups of three, sitting around tables with white boards and laptops. While the students work, the instructor roams the classroom - asking questions, sending one team to help another, gently guiding a group, all the while building relationships with the students.

His hands-on approach to teaching and his genuine interest in student learning consistently receives rave reviews. Notes master's student T. David Pyron, "He made time to work with his students until 'they got it' and to feed their interest in areas beyond the scope of required learning."

Weinstein also regularly performs physics demonstration shows for students at local elementary, middle and high schools.

Together with John Adam, University Professor of mathematics, he wrote "Guesstimation: Solving the World's Problems on the Back of a Cocktail Napkin" (Princeton University Press, 2008).

The president of Science and Reason in Hampton Roads, Weinstein says what he loves about being a scientist is that he gets to "investigate unexplained phenomena, determine possible causes, communicate findings and improve people's lives."

He offers the following analogy for the challenging research in the subatomic world that he conducts at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News: "The method of study comes naturally to any 5-year-old: hit it hard and see what comes out. We hit the nucleus with high-energy electrons from a particle accelerator ... and then we detect the particles that come out of the collision using huge spectrometers comprised of massive magnets and complicated particle detectors."

This article was posted on: February 19, 2009

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