The David J. Prior COPLAC Award was created in 2012 to recognize senior-level undergraduates whose academic careers and future goals have been shaped by the transformative power of the liberal arts and sciences experience at a COPLAC institution. Each student's reflective personal essay highlights one or more of the following features of COPLAC's student-centered approach to teaching: emphasis on active learning, ethical reasoning, interdisciplinary approaches to knowledge, community engagement, critical and reflective skills, and connections between liberal learning and informed, active citizenship.
The legacy of David Prior - his career-long commitment to superior undergraduate teaching, his desire as a consortium leader to make the outcomes of an education at our public liberal arts institutions widely recognized, and his deep concern that all students, regardless of financial circumstances, have equal access to a high-quality education anchored in the liberal arts and sciences - is the inspiration for this award.
Maria Gershuni, SUNY Geneseo
Maria Gershuni is a senior International Relations major, Central and Eastern European Studies minor, Edgar Fellow at the State University of New York College at Geneseo. Born in Moscow, Russia, Maria spent most of her childhood in Brooklyn, NY and loves the break from city life she received at Geneseo. Her work mostly focuses on peace building, diplomacy, and conflict studies in the regions of Eastern Europe and Eurasia. She spent her senior year fall semester interning at the United Nations in NYC, and is currently working on an honors thesis about the Eurasian Economic Union. After she graduates, Maria will be attending the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies for her Masters Degree in International Relations.
Read her essay here.
The COPLAC Board of Directors, in memory of the contributions of Charles Dunn to the advancement of the consortium and to student success in the public liberal arts sector, had established an annual faculty award in his name.
As President of Henderson State University for twenty-two years, and as a COPLAC President (2000-2001) and Board member for ten years, Dr. Charles Dunn placed student well-being and academic success ahead of all else, affirming Henderson State University's reputation as the "School with a Heart."
Charles Dunn understood that members of the faculty play the essential role in advancing this mission. Therefore the COPLAC Award recognizes a faculty member whose commitment to student success goes "above and beyond" the classroom and office, the traditional roles of teacher, academic advisor, and mentor. She/he will have demonstrated, over the course of many years, extraordinary attention to students as individuals who sometimes face unique challenges, both on and off campus, that may compromise their academic performance.
Examples of student-centered service "above and beyond" are myriad and include: hosting an undergraduate who would otherwise be alone for the holidays, stepping in to assist with transportation to the airport or for a medical appointment, or extending a gesture of friendship when a loved one has been lost. The review committee seeks to recognize a COPLAC faculty colleague who consistently practices the vision of a public liberal arts campus as a community dedicated to learning on a human scale.
Cynthia P. Tidwell, University of Montevallo
A member of the faculty at the University of Montevallo since 2000, Cynthia P. Tidwell is a Professor of Chemistry and Coordinator of the Undergraduate Research Program. Prior to becoming a faculty member at UM, she completed her doctoral work in physical chemistry at The University of Alabama. Dr. Tidwell is rigorously active in the areas of teaching, research and service. The University of Montevallo National Alumni Association named her the recipient of the Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award for 2012.
In addition to excellence in the classroom, Dr. Tidwell has dedicated a large portion of her time to carrying out undergraduate research projects with chemistry students. She believes that undergraduate research is the pinnacle in undergraduate education, an opportunity to draw on knowledge obtained from many different courses and venture into the unknown. In 2009, the University of Montevallo Committee on Undergraduate Research recognized her outstanding commitment to undergraduate research and named her the Undergraduate Research Distinguished Faculty Mentor.
In the area of service, Dr. Tidwell is active on campus on numerous committees and spends a large amount of time serving as a chemistry ambassador providing opportunities for students at local schools to have the opportunity to participate in hands on activities that help them to understand chemistry and the possibilities of a career in chemistry.