Vol. 15 No. 3
Winter 2005-06



After college, things tend to blur together. Soon enough, a number of years have passed and, when you reflect on your university days, chances are pretty good that you remember few specifics. Maybe the whole experience is cloaked in a warm, nostalgic glow, and only a couple of things come to mind, but that’s it.

That is, unless you had an exceptional professor, instructor, or class.

This issue highlights the power of teaching and its effect on learning.

What some of these stories in this issue have in common is a teacher whose influence extends beyond the classroom to shape lives. It’s fair to say that the U of U is in the business of doing just that. Duncan Metcalfe (“Sifting Through Time,” page 24), for example, isn’t just leading the study of Range Creek. He’s also helping students in their own research, and he’s just as dedicated to that endeavor as he is to understanding Fremont culture. The best teachers are driven by an internal turbocharger that pushes them beyond simply teaching: They want their students to succeed, and to have an experience that will be both rewarding and relevant.

For me, there was Dr. Braeger’s human physiology class at (ahem) a university to the south (not that university—think farther south, to red rocks and Shakespeare). His was one of those eye-opening science classes—this coming from an English major who broke into a cold sweat at the mention of science or math, and any course ending in -ology. But I’ll never forget the day Braeger crowded us into an airless, windowless room to show us two cadavers and explain, in clear, jargon-free terms, how the human body works. It hit me then that human beings are exceptionally complicated yet also fragile, and I have Dr. Braeger to thank for that. He followed the lecture by paying homage to those who donate their bodies to science, leavened by a humorous tale about transporting these same cadavers from Salt Lake to Cedar City in the back of his truck, and trying to explain the bodies to a Utah Highway Patrol officer who had stopped him for speeding. I don’t know if the story was true, but no matter: He struck the perfect tone—intense instruction with a heavy dose of humanity.

I hear many similar stories from folks here at the U. Current and former students sometimes rave about their favorite professor or class with a kind of breathless adulation.

Ann Bardsley’s story (“A Class that Made a Difference”) provides a direct look at the power of teaching as seven alumni discuss the teacher or class that most affected them. Bardsley herself once hooked my sleeve at a Hinckley Institute soiree downtown and said, “You’ve got to meet someone.” She led me to J.D. Williams, a former political science professor and director of the Hinckley Institute. She couldn’t say enough about him or his ability to instruct and inspire. And not too long ago I overheard a student gushing about Richard Ingebretsen, a professor in physics and medicine, and his penchant for infecting the whole class with enthusiasm over how the knee works. No doubt there are numerous such examples every day on campus, with students streaming out of classrooms having just had their worlds rocked by an exciting idea or concept presented by an engaged instructor.

The College of Education’s Amy Bergerson closes out this issue with an essay about what it takes to retain students.

The secret—and it’s not a secret at all, really—is an engaged faculty to spark students’ imaginations.

Editor’s note: Continuum would like to apologize to John J. Flynn, former professor at the S.J. Quinney College of Law and author of last issue’s And Finally … column, “The Academy in the Crosshairs.” During the editing process, some elements of Flynn’s text were excised without his approval. Continuum deeply regrets the error.

Continuum’s Fall 2006 issue will feature stories with an international bent. We’re looking for tips, tales, anecdotes, or fond remembrances. Did a U class in foreign languages or politics open your eyes? Did you study abroad while at the U, or have you spent some time since graduation in a very different culture? Do you have a striking photograph or two from your travels? U students and grads are a particularly savvy bunch of globetrotters, so we want to hear from you. Send your ideas to: jason.smith@ucomm.utah.edu.
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