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Tom Thurow Honored for Classroom Teaching Ability
April 23, 2012 — Relating coursework to real-life situations and dedication to students are only two attributes that earned a professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management this year's John P. Ellbogen Meritorious Classroom Teaching Award.
"Tom Thurow is consistently rated by the highest proportion of students taking his courses as in the top 10 percent of instructors on campus," says Professor John Tanaka, head of the department in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The award was established in 1977 by businessman John P. "Jack" Ellbogen, to "foster, encourage, and reward excellence in classroom teaching at UW." This year's other recipients are Nicole Lamartine, associate professor in the Department of Music, and Cameron Wright, associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Thurow joined UW in 1999 as department head after five years as an associate professor at Texas A&M University. He returned to a non-administrative position in 2005, conducting research and annually teaching introduction to forest management, wildland watershed management, ecological applications for wildland management, and environment and natural resources problems and restoration.
"He epitomizes what each of us should be striving for in our courses," adds Tanaka.
"He excels in challenging and inspiring students, and demonstrates a genuine commitment to provide the best experience possible for students in range," says Professor Ann Hild, a colleague in the department.
His courses do not earn a student's love for being easy, but for developing professionalism, she adds.
"Tom helps students see the larger picture and their own fit into a broad array of natural resource professions. Then, he gives them the tools and critical thinking skills to become professionals," she says.
Peers also have been mentored.
Professor K.J. Reddy, who has received numerous awards for his teaching and research at UW, says he appreciated Thurow's mentoring as he was establishing his teaching and research program.
"His advice was both practical and profound," he says.
He is a positive force in the life of any student, faculty member or client who has the good fortune to interact with him in teaching, research, service and administrative roles, Reddy says.
"At the heart of what motivates this positive energy is his profound desire to be a force for good in improving people's lives and helping to maintain a sustainable environment," he says.
Thurow promotes long-term learning and understanding, says Melanie Matthews, a former graduate student of Thurow.
"He frequently explains concepts through real-life anecdotes facilitating recollection and comprehension," she says.
Other students talk about that.
"He has a unique ability to bring his personal experiences into the lessons and help fill the gap from class-based theory to real-world application," says former student Brandon Reynolds.
Adds Brian Sebade, former student and now a University of Wyoming Extension educator, "I found these real-world examples helped cement the ideas with students," he says. "It was apparent that he cared greatly about each student's education and always point out why it was important students give their best effort and paid attention in class."