Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

University Honors Scholar-Teachers

History professor James Collins, public interest law professor Philip Schrag and the late pharmacology professor Karen Gale will be honored for their dedication to scholarly research and student engagement with the President’s Awards for Distinguished Scholar-Teachers, University President John J. DeGioia announced Friday.

“There are some who believe that research and teaching are in conflict,” Provost Robert Groves said. “We make sure that we honor those among us who do both well simultaneously to note that great researchers can be great teachers.”

The award, which was created last year, provides an annual grant of $10,000 for three academic years to support the scholarship of distinguished professors.

Throughout his 29 years at Georgetown, Collins has taught a wide range of students, including first-years, upper-level graduate students and doctoral candidates, and he said that he enjoys working with students in a small classroom setting.

“My favorite thing about teaching at Georgetown is that I get to teach at multiple levels of the curriculum,” Collins said. “I’ve always taught those classes with a focus on the smaller discussion sections. I prefer the discussion sections because the main thing that we’re trying to teach students to do at Georgetown is how to think, not what to think.”

For Collins, research and teaching are not two separate entities but rather complementary parts of the classroom experience.

“For me, Georgetown pays me a salary and it pays me to teach,” Collins said. “So my first priority is to teach. And to me, scholarship is a natural outgrowth of teaching. Students will always come with a new perspective to those books chosen for class, a perspective that I don’t have, and help me think about not only those texts but also other texts that I’m working on for scholarship.”

Collins said he especially loves to learn from his students, noting poignant memories of teaching students with diverse backgrounds, including adult students who provided first-hand accounts in class from their personal experiences during the Cambodian genocide, Ceausescu’s Romanian government and Nazi occupation.

“This is the advantage of teaching at a place like Georgetown,” Collins said. “There are all kinds of fascinating people here. We are in a city that attracts people from all over the world. And the student body comes from all over the globe.”

Schrag, as the Delaney Family Professor of Public Interest Law and founding director of the Center for Applied Legal Studies, received the award for his innovation in the legal clinical program. Schrag said that his favorite part of teaching is the clinical program, which allows law students to represents clients who are seeking asylum in the United States because they fear persecution in their home countries.

“My students worked with their clients for the entire semester and ended up defending a deportation case against their clients in seeking asylum in a federal immigration court proceeding,” Schrag said.”After preparing them for the entire semester, I’m so proud of these students who are able to handle a four-hour hearing in court by themselves.”

According to Margaret Parker (LAW ’15), who is participating in the clinical program this year, Schrag creates a stronger learning experience by encouraging his students to explore what interests them.

“He really gave us room to make mistakes within the comfort of his supervision,” Parker said. “He didn’t really tell us, ‘You should go there to find this expert or look here.’ He encouraged us to just explore and try things. If we really got off track, he would just lead us back. It was empowering to do things as if we weren’t actually students. We were actually just advocates.”

Gale, who died this August, was honored for her groundbreaking neuroscience research of seizures on the brain and her impactful teaching as the founding director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience.

Pharmacology professor Barry Wolfe, Gale’s colleague of 25 years, said that he remembers the moment when Gale was elected as the director of the program.

“That very time when she learned she was the one elected, she hugged me and broke down and started crying and said, ‘This is my lifetime dream.’ And it was,” Wolfe said.

According to Wolfe, Gale let students take control of their education. She organized three new courses that helped promote students’ professional success.

“What she really did was that she empowered students in a very large way, in a way that most faculty would look at and say, ‘Oh my goodness, students have so much power over the program. How could that be?’” Wolfe said.

Wolfe noted Gale’s dedication to supporting female faculty. Gale often pointed out occasions in which few women were invited as guest speakers for the program, even when the majority of doctoral students were women.

The award grants that Gale would have received will be used to create a Memorial Lecture Fund for Women in Neuroscience.

“Karen was one of the faculty members of the Georgetown Women in Medicine organization. So she was a firm believer in providing education opportunities for women and minority students and to help them succeed,” Gale’s former postdoctoral student, Patrick Forcelli (GRD ’11), said.

Forcelli, who co-nominated her for this award, said that Gale had a multidisciplinary way of teaching that was highly effective.

“One of the things that I love about her is that she had such a wide view in pharmacology,” Forcelli said. “She really could span multiple levels of analysis, from basic pharmacology all the way up to neuroscience. Since neuroscience is inherently multidisciplinary, it’s essential to look at all different levels to really look at how the brain works.”

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