Dr. Jo Kurdziel won The College of Literature, Science, and the Art's prestigious Individual Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education.
Kurdziel, the Beverly Rathcke Collegiate Lecturer in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, has excelled in teaching undergraduate courses, leading departmental initiatives to increase diversity, equity and inclusion, and mentoring underrepresented undergraduate students in a departmental Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, according to a nomination letter by Professor Catherine Badgley, associate chair for the undergraduate program. This article comprises excerpts from Badgley’s letter.
Kurdziel’s teaching includes large introductory lecture courses and small upper-level lecture and seminar-style courses. Her 100-level courses include Bio 100 (Biology for Scientific Literacy), Bio 171 (Introductory Biology: Ecology and Evolution), and most recently Bio 105 (Nutrition). In winter 2015, she taught EEB/MCDB 494 (Teaching College Science) and in fall 2015, she taught EEB 442 (Biology of Insects). This remarkable breadth of course topics draws upon her academic background. Her Ph.D. from the Department of Ecology and Evolution at StonyBrook (1999) focused on ecology and evolution of marine invertebrates.
She also studied and published articles about teaching natural science at the college level. Both her peers and students rank Kurdziel’s teaching highly. Peer teaching evaluations in fall of 2014 noted that she is an excellent lecturer, with an “approachable, open, transparent” style. In a seminar class, the evaluator noted that “her classroom management style combined an enviable mix of friendly, charming, and inclusive, while never ceding authority or control.” Students were motivated as participants and discussion leaders. Kurdziel’s online teaching evaluations are consistently high, in large introductory courses with 600 students as well as seminars.
Kurdziel is currently the chair of the EEB Diversity Committee, which seeks to promote diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the department. This committee organized a town hall for the department last December and she synthesized comments from at least 10 different tables of faculty, graduate students, and staff to present at a faculty meeting in January. She exemplifies leadership and commitment on these topics. She also serves on the current College Curriculum Committee.
Kurdziel was co-principal investigator of a National Science Foundation grant designed to offer underrepresented undergraduates from around the country research experiences in the department for 10 weeks. This program ran for three consecutive summers (2011-2013) and she was one of the coordinators for each of these summer programs. The programs served 23 students, many of whom have gone on to graduate and professional schools.
In summary, for over 10 years, Kurdziel has maintained an excellent record of teaching, mentoring, and service that have focused primarily on undergraduate education. “I am delighted that my department nominated me for this important award. I know that student letters play a large role in the selection process and this makes the recognition even more meaningful for me.”