Eight York profs vie for TVO’s Best Lecturer 2007

Eight York professors have made the first cut in TVOntario’s competition for Best Lecturer 2007.

Producers of “Big Ideas” have selected political science Prof. Olivier Courteaux; humanities Prof. Andrea Davis; theatre Prof. Robert Fothergill; law Prof. Allan Hutchinson; education Prof. Heather Lotherington; political science Prof. Stephen Newman; biology Prof. Mark Vicari; and law Prof. Alan Young. They are among 71 chosen from 155 eligible candidates nominated by students and alumni of 19 Ontario colleges and universities.

“Big Ideas” launched its first search for best lecturer in 2004. It wanted to find lecturers whose lectures engaged, inspired and rivetted audiences. Students nominated 64 contenders. Over several weekends last fall, “Big Ideas” aired lectures by 10 finalists, including two York professors — musicologist Rob Bowman and astronomer Paul Delaney — and asked viewers to vote for their favourite. They gave Arne Kislenko, Ryerson University history professor, the top score for his lecture, WWII: The Russian Perspective. He won the inaugural title as Ontario’s Best Lecturer 2005 and Ryerson received a $10,000 TD Meloche Monnex Scholarship.

Altogether six York professors contended for the 2005 title: social science Prof. John Dwyer and communication studies Prof. Dalton Kehoe made the top 30; and environmental studies Prof. Roger Keil and political studies Prof. Saeed Rahnema were among the original 64 who made the first cut.

If a York professor wins Best Lecturer 2007, the University will receive a $10,000 TD Meloche Monnex Scholarship, not to mention the prestige associated with winning in the competition.

The top 10 finalists selected by an independent three-person jury will be asked by TVO to deliver special lectures to be aired on “Big Ideas” this coming fall. Viewers will get the chance to vote online or by telephone for their favourite, following each broadcast. A winner will be named early in 2007.

Last year’s candidates taught everything from ethnomusicology and astronomy to business and Russian political history.

To see a list of the 71 nominees and video clips of their lectures, visit TVO’s Best Lecturer Web site.  Watch the site for updates as judges narrow the field of competitors down to the top 10.

York contenders for Ontario’s Best Lecturer 2007

Olivier Courteaux

Olivier Courteaux has been teaching history in the Faculty of Arts since 2002. He teaches courses on the emergence of the United States as a modern society and world leader. He likes to write reviews for amazon.ca on books such as the biography of Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoléon III. And students give him high scores on ratemyprofessors.com for telling wonderful stories, putting students first: “He knows his stuff and makes class fun,” said one enthusiast. “His lectures are good and easy to follow,” says another.

Andrea Davis

Humanities Prof. Andrea Davis (left) has been teaching courses on cultures of the Americas at York since 2003. She also coordinates the Latin American & Caribbean Studies Program (LACS), is a fellow of the Centre for Research on Latin America & the Caribbean (CERLAC) and is an affiliated faculty member with the Centre for the Study of Black Cultures in Canada. Her research interests are Caribbean, African-American and African-Canadian literatures; history and theatre; Latin American literature; postcolonial and diaspora studies; and black cultural and feminist studies.

“As a researcher and educator, teaching has always been one of my passions,”  writes the Jamaican-born Davis, who earned an MA and PhD in English from York. “The research I do has little meaning if it cannot engage meaningful dialogues about who we are and who we hope to become. As an African-Jamaican woman living within a marginalized context of black cultures in Canada, my research has long ceased to be a mere academic exercise. It is also intensely personal and has demanded an interrogation of gender and race in which I am implicated out of necessity.”

Robert Fothergill

Robert Fothergill (right) is a playwright, critic and theatre historian. After earning degrees in English at Cambridge, McMaster and University of Toronto, he taught dramatic literature and criticism at Atkinson, then joined York’s Theatre Department in 1994.

His award-winning plays tackle controversial subjects and have all been performed by professional Toronto theatre companies. Detaining Mr. Trotsky, about the internment of Leon Trotsky in a prison camp in Nova Scotia in April 1917, won a Chalmers Award and several Dora nominations in 1987. Public Lies, nominated for a Chalmers Award in 1993, addresses issues of truth, propaganda and media manipulation by dramatizing episodes in the career of NFB founder John Grierson. Borderline, set in a refugee camp on the border of Rwanda and Tanzania, won second prize in the 1999 Herman Voaden Canadian Playwriting contest. His most recent play, The Dershowitz Protocol, about terrorism and torture, was presented in Toronto’s SummerWorks theatre festival in 2003.

Allan Hutchinson

A professor at Osgoode Hall Law School since 1982, Allan Hutchinson (right) is currently associate dean of research, graduate studies and external relations at Osgoode. Educated at London and Manchester universities, he is a legal theorist with an international reputation for original and provocative writing. He has published in leading law journals, and written and edited many books. Much of his work has been devoted to examining the failure of law to live up to its democratic promise. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and his most recent books are Evolution and the Common Law (2004) and The Companies We Keep: Corporate Governance and Democracy (2005). Hutchinson teaches civil procedure, jurisprudence and torts. He has also written a book for students on how to succeed at law school. This year, York named him a distinguished research professor.

Heather Lotherington

Education Prof. Heather Lotherington (left) teaches courses on multilingual education, literacy and social context. At York since 1999, she previously lectured in linguistics and education at universities in Australia and Fiji after earning a PhD at the University of Toronto. Her current research projects are digitization and language change; emergent multiliteracies and education; and digital literacies and education. At York, she is an associate researcher and member of the Institute for Research on Learning Technologies, a member of the Centre for Research on Language Contact, and associate researcher with Telelearning/SITES/OECD, an international research project on factors that contribute to innovative teaching with technology.

Stephen Newman

Political science Prof. Stephen Newman has been teaching at York since 1985, two years after earning a PhD in government from Cornell University. Early in his career, he won a teaching award at Ripon College in Wisconsin, where he taught courses on politics and government. An expert on American constitutional politics, he often comments on American politics on CBC Newsworld, CBC Radio, and CTV News. He is editor of Constitutional Politics in Canada and the United States, published in 2004, and has taught courses on political thought, American politics and government, the new right and liberalism in the United States, and Emerson and Nietzsche.

Mark Vicari

Mark Vicari has been teaching biology and natural science at York since 1999. His research interests are in ecology, especially plant-herbivore and plant-fungal interactions. He is currently researching fungal endophytes, which live in plant tissue without causing disease or infection. He teaches an introductory course on principles and processes of biology for non-biology science students and a course on evolution. Students have commented that Vicari’s lectures are interesting and easy to understand and they like his enthusiasm and method of writing information on an overhead as the class progresses.

Alan Young

Law Prof. Alan Young (left) teaches criminal law and procedure at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. He is co-founder of the Innocence Project at Osgoode and a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, and he practises in the area of criminal litigation. Osgoode and Harvard educated, Young was a law clerk to the Chief Justice for the Supreme Court of Canada, the Right Honourable Bora Laskin, and has served as policy consultant to the Department of Justice on the police powers project, and as a legal researcher for the Canadian Sentencing Commission. Young has published many articles on criminal law issues and has served as counsel (pro bono) for victims’ rights groups. He was counsel of the Wakeford case (re: medicinal marijuana), the Bedford case (re: the legality of sadomasochistic activity) and the Clay case (re: the constitutionality of the marijuana prohibition). In recent years, he has brought constitutional challenges to the obscenity laws, the gambling prohibition, the drug literature prohibition and the marijuana prohibition. He is the author of Justice Defiled: Perverts, Potheads, Serial Killers and Lawyers (Key Porter, 2003).