Marianne DeKoven Wins Teaching Award for 2003

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Fall/ Winter 03


Marianne DeKoven Wins Teaching Award for 2003

The English Department is pleased to announce that Professor Marianne DeKoven has won the Warren I. Susman Award for Excellence in Teaching for 2003. A member of the English faculty since 1977, Professor DeKoven has been, for a quarter of a century, an inspirational teacher of modernist and contemporary literature, gender studies, and feminist theory. The Susman Award is the highest teaching honor at the University, given annually to four professors in recognition of their "outstanding service" in stimulating and guiding students' intellectual development.

Professor DeKoven's undergraduate classes are among the most heavily enrolled in the English Department, with good reason. She is known for her high intellectual standards and her lucid approach to difficult material. One colleague admires her ability "to encourage students to work at a level far above expectations," and states how enjoyable it is to teach students who have worked with her. Students appreciate the way she challenges the simplified understandings often brought to subjects like contemporary literature or feminist studies. As one student put it, she "sharpened my critical skills, opened my eyes to new ideas and reading, and made me understand the importance of disagreeing."

In their evaluations, students frequently praise Professor DeKoven for her willingness to engage in scholarly debate and consider a wide range of opinions in the classroom. She is "always encouraging and enthusiastic about students' ideas," and succeeds in creating a classroom atmosphere that is "conducive to learning" and "bristling with intelligence." Many students summarize their experience simply by writing, "I loved this class" or, "This was one of my favorite courses at Rutgers."

Graduate students who have worked with Professor DeKoven also speak glowingly of her impact on them both as a teacher and a mentor. Her classes are known for being intellectually rigorous without being intimidating. Students appreciate her ability to "navigate the class discussion through difficult and sensitive subjects with grace and openness," according to one evaluation. She has been a director or reader for many dissertations, and her former advisees praise the inspiring exchanges they shared with her, as well as her supportive mentoring through studying for orals, writing dissertations, and searching for jobs. Several former students describe Professor DeKoven as their professional ideal, "a brilliant model of the teacher I hope to become" or "the best possible role model for the students" in the Graduate Program.

Outside the classroom, Professor DeKoven has been influential in shaping the curriculum for both the Graduate Program and the undergraduate major. She has been enormously successful and innovative in developing new courses of her own at all levels, and she has served as chair of the English Department's Women and Literature/Feminist Studies committee, which was responsible for creating the current Feminist Studies option within the English major. Her contributions have helped to maintain modernism, postmodernism, and gender studies as vibrant components of the English Department curriculum.

Her influence does not stop within the Department though. Professor DeKoven has also long been an active supporter of cross-disciplinary work at Rutgers, particularly in feminist and gender studies. In 1986, she was co-founder and co-chair of The Gender Group at Rutgers, an interdisciplinary feminist colloquium sponsored by the English and History Departments. She is currently a member of the Institute for Women's Leadership, and from 1995-1998 was the Director of the Institute for Research on Women, where she obtained a $250,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to bring outstanding scholars to campus for seminars and public lectures. Her work has created a universitywide support network for all professors working on issues of gender and women's studies, stimulating important new research and teaching in those fields. As one colleague notes, "the influence of her wonderful teaching has reverberated intensively within her disciplines and extensively throughout the University as a whole."

Professor DeKoven's many years of service to the English Department, and to scholarly work at Rutgers in general, have made an invaluable contribution to the school's academic excellence, and students and colleagues both are grateful beneficiaries of her continuing dedication. Congratulations to Professor Marianne DeKoven for her well-deserved Warren I. Susman Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Record Amount of Teaching Awards

Do we really need statistical evidence that the English Department is home to outstanding teachers? Marianne DeKoven's 2003 Susman Award makes her the tenth English Department professor to receive this honor. Of the eighty-nine awards given over the years, English holds more than any other department.

Professor Barry V. Qualls (now Dean, but fortunately for students, still teaching), won one of the first awards given, in 1985. Since then, English Professors Maurice Charney, Bridget Gellert Lyons, Thomas R. Edwards, Daniel A. Harris, Harriet Davidson, Ann Baynes Coiro, Cheryl A. Wall, Carolyn Williams, and Marianne DeKoven have all received the Warren I. Susman Award for Excellence in Teaching. The English Department is very proud of its talented and dedicated teachers.

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