Students present Crystal Apples to outstanding professors

By Lai Wei | Emory Report | March 2, 2012

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The Crystal Apple Awards winners are: Front row, left to right, Allison Burdette, Jennifer Mathews, and Christine Ristaino. Back row: Clifford Gunthel, Edward Queen II, Amy Webb Girard, Karla Passalacqua, and Kate Woeber. Emory Photo/Video.

At the 13th annual Crystal Apple Awards ceremony on Feb. 27, the Residence Hall Association honored eight Emory professors for outstanding achievements in teaching. Unlike other teaching awards at Emory, each faculty member was nominated by his or her students. Chosen by a panel of students, the following professors have demonstrated extraordinary leadership and service in both the classroom and the greater Emory community.

The recipients of the 2012 Crystal Apple Award are:

Excellence in Undergraduate Seminar Education: Christine Ristaino, senior lecturer in Italian studies, Emory College

Nominators described Ristaino as an individual of passion, kindness and warmth. "She is the most caring, understanding and intelligent professor I have had thus far at Emory," wrote one student. "She believes that everyone has [a] meaning, a goal and beauty in them." More than one nominator praised Ristaino's "contagious" personality: "No matter how bad my day has been, the minute she walked into class, everything felt a bit brighter." Wrote another: "Emory needs more professors like Christine."

Excellence in Undergraduate Large Class Education: Karla Passalacqua, lecturer in biology, Emory College

Nominators lauded Passalacqua's eloquence and sense of humor. "She challenges students to think outside of the box and critically evaluate fundamental life processes in order to explain the unexplained and to understand the complex dynamics at play in all of our lives," wrote one student.

Excellence in Undergraduate Business Education: Allison Burdette, assistant professor in the practice of business law, Goizueta Business School

Many students commented on Burdette's ability to transform mundane subjects into fascinating lectures. Wrote one, "Burdette makes one of the topics I dreaded the most at Goizueta, Business Law, one of the most applicable and interesting classes I have ever had. I ran into someone who was a Goizueta alum from five years ago, and we bonded over Burdette and her class."

Excellence in Undergraduate Nursing Education: Kate Woeber, clinical instructor of nursing, Woodruff School of Nursing

Students of Woeber's Advanced Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) Health Assessment course unanimously marveled at her ability to teach a semester's worth of material in a mere three weeks. "The amount of coordination required is still overwhelming to think about," wrote one. Another believed Woeber's course has set a permanent foundation for learning. "Her approachability and depth of knowledge fostered an ideal learning environment in a class that will serve as the base of the rest of my nursing education."

Excellence in Graduate School Education: Amy Webb Girard, assistant professor of global health, Rollins School of Public Health

In addition to expressing appreciation for Girard's readiness to make herself available for help both inside and outside the classroom, several nominators wrote that they consider her a lifelong mentor and a friend. "Above all," wrote one, "she is a living example to me that the end of education, regardless of field, is a kindness, love and compassion for others."

Excellence in Professional School Education: Jennifer Mathews, instructor of legal writing, research and advocacy, School of Law

One student compared Mathews to the "Star Wars" character Yoda, praising her wisdom, commitment and humor. "Jenn has employed balloon animals, brownies, frozen yogurt, a dispute over a will, and a fraudulent misrepresentation-themed talent contest to make legal writing – a notoriously dry subject – into something interesting, engaging and fun."

The William H. Fox Award for Emerging Excellence: Clifford Gunthel, investigator at the Center for AIDS Research, School of Medicine

"[Gunthel] has broadened my understanding of what it means to be a caregiver by giving me an appreciation of the social, ethical and biological knowledge required to be an excellent physician," wrote one nominator. "He always encourages students to share their ideas and experiences, congratulates us when we have had a good interaction with a standardized patient, and informs us of what we could do better."

The Laura Jones Hardman Award for Excellence in Service to the Emory Community: Edward Queen II, director of the D. Abbott Turner Program in Ethics and Servant Leadership and coordinator of undergraduate studies at the Center for Ethics

"I cannot imagine my Emory experience without Dr. Queen as a central figure in it," wrote one student. "[…] I have seen Dr. Queen quietly tear up at the sight of his students' passion and devotion to service. Not only is he a great professor that challenges his students both inside and outside the classroom, but he is also a compassionate and kind listener who patiently and constantly mentors us."