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David Finnoff: Everything a UW College Professor Should Be

April 28, 2014
Man smiling
David Finnoff

Creating a learning environment dedicated to the knowledge and growth of students and providing outstanding leadership with fellow faculty members are  just a couple of the reasons Associate Professor David Finnoff has received a top University of Wyoming teaching honor.

The John P. Ellbogen Meritorious Classroom Teaching Award was established in 1977 by businessman John P. “Jack” Ellbogen to “foster, encourage and reward excellence in classroom teaching at UW.” Winners are selected from a list nominated by students, and the awards are based entirely on classroom performance and helpfulness to students.

This year’s other winners are Joe Cooper, assistant professor in the Department of Management and Marketing; and Jeffrey Selden, a lecturer in the Department of Mathematics.

An associate professor in the Department of Economics and Finance, Finnoff is in his 10th year as a UW faculty member.

“His impact on classroom teaching goes beyond just his classes,” wrote Fred Sterbenz, chair of the UW Department of Economics and Finance, in his nomination letter. “He has often visited classes taught by our graduate students and advised them on what they could do better. By spending some time advising a graduate student on what can be done better, he has an effect on many students taking undergraduate economics, even if they do not take his course.”

Former student, Shana McDermott, assistant professor in the Department of Economics at the University of New Mexico, agrees. Finnoff has improved not only the lives of students, but has had a huge influence on the faculty members as well.

“My admiration and gratitude for my professor and mentor, Professor Finnoff, goes beyond words,” says McDermott. “He is a constant pillar of support and guidance for his students. I whole-heartedly believe that he is the strongest candidate for this award, given his dedication to students and enthusiasm for teaching.”

Finnoff received both his doctoral and bachelor’s degrees from UW. He began his teaching career as an assistant professor at the University of Central Florida Department of Economics, transferring back to teach at UW in 2004.

Students who have taken his courses express that Finnoff is everything a college professor should be.

“Dr. Finnoff expects a lot of his students and really pushes them hard,” said one student in an evaluation. “He really knows his stuff. He comes to class every day ready to teach and expects us to learn. He is among the greatest teachers that I have had. The economics department would have a huge hole in it without him.”

Students also noted Finnoff’s willingness to spend time outside the classroom for supplemental instruction, and also the compassion he shared with each student.

“Dr. Finnoff is wonderful. He always has time to help us out during his office hours, which made a difference. He has a personal relationship with all of his students: he knows about us and he cares about us. He loves his subject and this shows as he teaches,” a student wrote. “The only thing that would be better is if we did not all have to present or talk at each stage of our paper. I would rather listen to him teach. I loved his class. He is a wonderful professor.”

One of Finnoff’s colleagues in the department also learned from him because of his teaching style.

“I have received amazing feedback regarding Dave from the many undergraduate and graduate students who have taken his classes,” wrote Associate Professor Rob Godby, “I also have seen this firsthand as I was chair of our department for five years, and was the beneficiary  of the ‘great teaching’ seminars I received while evaluating his classes. These were not reviews so much as learning experiences for me.”

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