Award-winning professors still learning from students

Award-winning professors still learning from students

June 5, 2014


Clarke Mackey (left) and Robert Morrison are this year's winners of the Frank Knox Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Each year, the Alma Mater Society (AMS) at Queen’s awards two professors for their outstanding commitment to teaching excellence with the highest honour given by students: the Frank Knox Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Named for Frank Knox, an economics professor who taught at Queen’s for 40 years, the award serves as a reminder of the need for a strong commitment and high quality of teaching from professors at Queen’s.

This year’s award recipients, Clarke Mackey (Film and Media) and Robert Morrison (English Language and Literature) sat down with Rosie Hales, Communications Officer, to talk about the award, Queen’s students, and the value of an education in the humanities.

Rosie Hales: How did it feel to win the Frank Knox Teaching Award?

Clarke Mackey: I must say that I was pleasantly surprised because sometimes I worry that it will be hard to connect with my students because of our generational gap. It didn’t matter to me whether I won; it was just great to be nominated. The fact that this award is based on who students believe to be the most dedicated means everything to me and I’m glad that students feel they are getting something meaningful out of our time together.

Robert Morrison: This is my third Frank Knox award but each one has felt just as good as the others. It’s like listening to “Hey Jude.” It’s feels fantastic whether it’s your first time or 50th time listening to it. To be nominated means that I’m still doing my job and I was very happy to know that. The process, from nomination to award, is an avalanche of work for the students, especially when they have so many other commitments. I really applaud Queen’s students - they are wonderful in a whole bunch of ways.

RH: How have you seen Queen’s students change over the years?

CM: In my 25 years at Queen’s, I’ve found the students here to be decent, curious, smart and good to each other and their professors. It’s a really positive working atmosphere.

RM: I have found Queen’s students wonderful from the day I arrived 11 years ago. My admiration for students here is very high; they’re just top notch people.

RH: Do you think students respond differently to the humanities now than when you started?

CM: I think we have to do a little work on explaining to people that it’s enormously helpful to have a humanities education. Humanities give you the chance to think critically, be creative, and communicate effectively in different ways. You gain a sense of ethics and sense of the larger world which makes you a better decision maker and independent worker.

RM: I think that a humanities degree is applicable everywhere. In regards to English literature, I always talk about how John Keats relates to today, because John Keats does relate to today. He struggled with health, relationships, debt, and death – as many people today do. An education in the humanities exposes you to things that are part of yourself that you didn’t know were there.

RH: What do you hope your future at Queen’s brings for you?

CM: Hanging around with 22 year olds and keeping up with them is very stimulating for me and teaches me an enormous amount about the world. I learn a lot from my students. I hope I still have some useful things to tell them so they can learn from me, too.

RM: The first year prof I had at the University of Lethbridge changed my life. I remember him telling me that my job was to go into the classroom and aim to do the same for others. I hope I can do this for Queen’s students.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. This story first appeared in the May edition of the Gazette newspaper.

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