Graduate studies awards celebrate excellence in teaching

The excellence in teaching displayed by two York faculty members was recognized by their peers during the Faculty of Graduate Studies Faculty Council meeting on Thursday, March 5. Professor Amir Asif, chair of the Graduate Program in Computer Science & Engineering, and Professor Norman Gledhill of the Graduate Program in Kinesiology & Health Science, each received the Faculty of Graduate Studies Teaching Award. The awards were presented to the professors prior to the start of the council meeting; more than 50 people were present.

The Faculty of Graduate Studies Teaching Award is bestowed annually on a member or members of the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) who have displayed substantial, significant and sustained excellence, commitment and enthusiasm to graduate teaching at York. Nominations for the award are reviewed and the selection is made by the FGS Standing Committee on Awards. Present at the ceremony to make the award presentations were York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, Vice-President Academic & Provost Sheila Embleton, and Douglas Peers, dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and associate vice-president graduate.

Above: From left, York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, Professor Amir Asif, Professor Norman Gledhill, York VP Academic & Provost Sheila Embleton and FGS Dean Douglas Peers

In awarding the prize to Asif, Peers described the professor as "a prolific scholar with an international reputation and an exceptionally dedicated teacher." Asif was nominated for the award by a graduate student who described how Asif had provided her with supportive mentoring and assistance in fashioning an independent research agenda. "She now has high hopes for establishing an academic career for herself," said Peers. "This is indeed very high praise."

Asif has been at York since 2002 and in the 2002-2003 academic year, he received the departmental award for excellence in teaching, the Faculty of Science & Engineering award in 2007, and a University-wide Teaching Award in 2008. Asif is keenly interested in the use of technology to improve teaching and has published two papers on this topic. He is respected for his contributions to the development of programs of study in computer engineering and has played an important role in curriculum development in the area of communications and signal processing.

"Dr. Asif is a real asset to York University, providing outstanding support to graduate students. In their letters of support, students uniformly describe him as helpful, approachable, knowledgeable and respectful," said Peers. "He is praised for fostering an open and intellectually challenging learning environment."

Gledhill, the other FGS award recipient, was lauded by Peers for his contributions to graduate education at York as a teacher, supervisor of four doctoral and 53 master’s students, and active member of the Graduate Program in Kinesiology & Health Science. He has served a total of 10 years as graduate program director. "Dr. Gledhill’s course evaluations have consistently demonstrated his enthusiasm for and expertise in graduate teaching and mentoring," said Peers. "Student letters attest to the passion and enthusiasm that Dr. Gledhill brings to his teaching. The breadth and depth of his expertise provide students with an effective learning environment and prepares them to become leaders in the discipline of exercise physiology."

Within the human physiology research field, Peers said that Gledhill’s work is internationally recognized and he is considered one of the leading researchers in the areas of applied sports medicine, physical activity and fitness.

"In addition to his research accomplishments, Dr. Gledhill was the initiator, designer and developer of the coursework only master of fitness science program, which has distinguished York University from other universities for many years," said Peers. "He has continued to coordinate this program, which has produced graduates in applied kinesiology who have played vital roles within the public health system.

"Dr. Gledhill has been deeply committed to mentoring graduate students in all aspects of their research training," said Peers. "He has taken a genuine interest in and an active role with each of his students and has made innumerable contributions to the Graduate Program in Kinesiology & Health Science, and the Faculty of Graduate Studies."

Both professors, said Peers, exemplify the characteristics that the award is meant to acknowledge and celebrate.