Lee and Kuzyk Bring a World-Class Education to Honors Students

Chuck Munson, chair of the WSU Teaching Academy, presented awards to Kuzyk and Lee at the 2011 University College Awards Ceremony.
Chuck Munson, chair of the WSU Teaching Academy, presented awards to Kuzyk and Lee at the 2011 University College Awards Ceremony.

Pamela Lee and Pat Kuzyk, two long-time Honors College faculty members, landed a top university honor when each received the 2011 WSU Distinguished Teaching Award in spring.

The annual award from the WSU Teaching Academy recognizes non-tenured/non-tenure-track faculty who “display exceptional commitment to teaching and have made significant contributions to teaching and learning at WSU for six or more semesters.” The award was first presented in 2009 and two other Honors faculty-Sheila Converse and Fred Gittes-were the inaugural recipients.

“It was gratifying just to be nominated, but to win was absolutely humbling,” says Kuzyk, a clinical assistant professor of economic sciences. She is responsible for up to six economics classes each year-two in the Honors College and four in the School of Economic Sciences-enrolling more than 425 undergraduates.

Lee, a clinical assistant professor in fine arts, agrees. “It was such a boost to know that someone noticed me, and that my application made me stand out to the selection committee. I am very honored.” Lee sometimes teaches four classes a semester-Honors plus non-Honors general education courses in her field.

“I believe that my attitude is as important as what I teach, so I’m determined to show students I’m having a great time doing what I love and that I’m there by choice,” says Lee. (Her nominators for the award described her as amazingly successful in adapting to her students’ needs, abilities, and backgrounds while maintaining high standards of quality. “She makes visual art accessible and comprehensible to students of all ability levels and backgrounds.”)

“The first time I taught, many years ago, I thought that everyone should respond as I did to the subject, that my students would all be thrilled about economics,” says Kuzyk. “I learned that perhaps I had to work a little harder and inspire my students so that the lessons would be as interesting as they could be for as many as possible.” (Her nominators noted that she cultivates a desire to learn and motivates students to put high-quality effort into the study of economics with a real-world connection.)

While both have been scholars and educators for decades, neither set out to be a teacher. They did, however, share a passion for helping others.

Minnesota native Lee attended the University of New Mexico-Albuquerque on scholarship to study psychology, intending to become a counselor. An internship at a crisis center allowed her to work with depressed patients, using art as occupational therapy. The experience ignited both her artistic creativity as well as her excitement for teaching, and led to her earning a master’s of fine arts degree.

“Art, some may say, isn’t ‘practical.’ But it is such an important part of the world! It’s such a part of being human. It reflects what it is to be alive. It records our history as human beings, and how we interact with the world around us.

“Through teaching, I can take one subject that I am absolutely passionate about-art-and combine it with another thing I love-learning-and it’s a perfect combination.” In fall 2011, Lee began her 29th year at WSU.

From Pennsylvania, Philadelphian Kuzyk planned to study physics at college. Her interests changed to psychology, psycho-linguistics, humanities, and communications; she chose accounting for its job prospects, but when she took her first economics class, her fate was sealed.”I loved it! Economics has elements of so many interests that I find exciting-people, math, history, and philosophy, to name but a few. I earned my Ph.D. in economics at Temple University. I realized that by becoming a teacher of economics, I could share my excitement for the subject with others every day, and hopefully inspire them to understand what I find so interesting about it.” Kuzyk taught at Temple and Penn State universities before moving to Washington with her husband, Mark, a physics professor and researcher; she has taught at WSU since 1994.

Both Kuzyk and Lee are respected as innovative educators. As the international economy took a tumble and filled headlines throughout 2011, Kuzyk modeled one of her own grad school professors by posing contemporary problems to solve: she introduced new topics to students by organizing her syllabi around questions: “What is happening to the banking industry?” “Why is the income distribution becoming more skewed?” And, “Is it always good to reduce the government’s deficit?,” for example.

Preparing to lead a study abroad class, Lee walked many kilometers “in Firenza, Siena, and Roma” for over two weeks in summer 2011. She went from museums to plazas to galleries as she plotted each step the Honors students will take as part of the course “Exploring Art in Florence and Rome: Classical, Renaissance, and Baroque Masterworks” in summer 2012.

“I was immersed in a culture where the people relate so intensely and passionately to each other and where there is such a respect for history,” Lee says. “And the art! So fabulous! I thought I loved painting more than sculpture and architecture, but to be right there and see it in 3D, I really appreciate it all so much more. I think the students will, too!” As part of the faculty-led, global case study in humanities course, Lee has arranged for students to observe the restoration of an altar piece by Raphael, Italian High Renaissance painter and architect. Many of the works of Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino are in The Vatican’s frescoed Raphael Rooms, which the Honors students will see while in Rome.

Whether studying in Italy or a classroom halfway around the globe in Pullman, Washington, Honors students in these educators’ courses truly can expect to realize the WSU promise: a world-class education, delivered face-to-face by award-winning-and deeply caring-professors.

Lee Receives Third Teaching Award, Grant

Pamela Lee, clinical assistant professor of fine arts and Honors College faculty member, received three additional tributes in 2011, one from the Honors College and two more from a program in the University College at WSU.

At Honors’ spring commencement celebration, Lee was feted as the recipient of the Honors College Faculty Award. The month before, she was one of two recipients of the Eric W. Bell Learning Communities Excellence Award for her exemplary efforts teaching a course in the Freshman Focus program, part of the University College.

In May, she learned that a proposal to the University College was funded by a Smith Teaching and Learning Grant to support development of a course. Part of the university’s general education curriculum, it will “increase student engagement by linking large courses around the practice of Egyptian funerary portraiture at Fayum” and will be taught in fall 2011 to new students in Freshman Focus. Co-principal investigator on the project is Trevor Bond, from WSU Libraries, who also teaches in Freshman Focus and is the husband of Robin Bond, a member of the Honors College faculty.