Queen's University

Two Queen's profs up for TVO Best Lecturer


Members of the Queen’s community will soon have the chance to make a Queen’s professor the bestknown lecturer in the country – but they’ll have a choice to make. That’s because two Queen’s professors have been named top-ten finalists in TVO’s 2010 Best Lecturer competition.

Virginia Walker (Biology) and Eleanor MacDonald (Political Studies) were selected from a large nomination pool that originally included 690 candidates. The winner of the contest will receive a $10,000 scholarship for his or her school.

“I didn’t know about it until they called to say a student had nominated me,” says Professor MacDonald, who almost missed her chance to accept the nomination when the notice from TVO was sent to the wrong email address. “I certainly didn’t expect to be in the top ten.”

Neither did Professor Walker, who suspects one of her 1,000 first-year biology students sent in her nomination. Professor Walker says she’s always been interested in using a variety of teaching styles to
reach students. “I’m probably one of the first lecturers to put my notes on the internet,” says Professor Walker, who began doing so in 1994. “Some students aren’t good at taking notes. It helps them, and it also helps me.”

Professor Walker, who’s been at Queen’s since 1981, says she doesn’t like Power Point, but is “with it” enough to know that students expect it. She prefers an overhead projector, so she can face her students and illustrate things on her own, step by step. She also gives quizzes every week, the results of which don’t count towards the students’ final grades. The questions do, however, give students an idea of what they’ll see on the final exam. “I’m a pretty serious scientist, but now and again I will tell them a silly story about another scientist or about myself,” says Professor Walker. “They seem to like that a lot.”

TVO was on campus to tape the lectures on February 11, and both professors were nervous about going in front of the camera. “I’m not a morning person, so this is not a good thing,” laughs Professor Walker, who delivered an 8:30 am lecture titled HIV, Parasites, and the Exhausted Immune System. “And I’m talking about viruses, and I’m not a virologist.”

Professor MacDonald, who is at the Centre for Canadian Studies at the University of Edinburgh this year, gave her lecture, Are We Postmodern?, to an assembled group of students, colleagues and friends. “A good, well-polished, interesting lecture is a pleasure to give,” says Professor MacDonald. “It means you have something to convey and you’ve figured out how to convey it well.”

Professor MacDonald will be back in Scotland when her lecture airs on TVO, but is hoping a little technological magic will allow her to watch the show with friends. “I’m thinking of setting it up so I can watch it with them on Skype,” she says.

Professor MacDonald’s lecture airs on March 7, and Professor Walker’s will be broadcast on March 21. Both can be seen on TVO at 5 pm. For information on the Best Lecturer program, the nominees, and how to vote, go to www.tvo.org.

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Last updated at 2:22 pm EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
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