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Psych prof honored for Gen Ed class

RANDY METCALF/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Psychology instructor Suzanne Delaney won one of four of this year's Provost's General Education Teaching Awards.
By Tessa Hill
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday April 30, 2003

Suzanne Delaney remembers what it's like to be a college student.

And she knows the impact an instructor can have on a college student.

As an Individuals and Societies 101 course instructor, students and colleagues for years have recognized Delaney as a teacher with passion and true interest in the success of her students. But she received formal recognition last night when she was awarded one of four Provost's General Education Teaching Awards.

Selected by the University General Education Committee for the award only open to general education instructors, Delaney's innovative teaching strategies, commitment to her students and ability to relate to students is what some of her colleagues said set her apart from the rest.

"Her teaching strategies are remarkable," said psychology department head Alfred Kaszniak, who aided in Delaney's nomination for the award. "She keeps very current with technology without allowing it to become the dominant focus," he added.

Delaney's course, The Structure of Mind and Behavior, includes an interactive Web site that allows students to review material and student for exams in what Delaney said is a "fun" way.

Incorporating humor, visual aides, role-playing and various interactive activities into the classroom, Delaney said she tries to combine Seasame Street style learning strategies into college curriculum.

"They made it fun, fast, engaging, silly and fun I think they were really right on with their ideas," Delaney said about her interest in the children's educational show.

"I try to use some of those same concepts," she said. "You want to be engaging because it allows students to learn better and deeper."

Delaney graduated from UA in 1995 with a doctorate in cognitive psychology, but has had a knack for teaching psychology since she was young.

Spending much of her childhood teaching her severely retarded sister how to read, Delaney said she became captivated with understanding the limitations of her sister's learning capabilities.

"That made me really interested in the learning process," Delaney said, adding that her fusion of psychology and teaching has been a very natural path.

"I love it when people get excited about psychology and discover it for the first time," she said.

Teaching a large general education course can often be a tough environment for establishing strong student-teacher relationships, but Delaney said she makes a point to communicate to each and every student.

"She's very easy to approach and is always comfortable to be around," said biochemistry freshman Shahid Ahmad, who is enrolled in Delaney's INDV 101 course.

"She shows passion for what she does," Ahmad said.

Ahmad also said that Delaney's innovativeness makes the class material a lot easier to absorb.

Another student in Delaney's course, pre-physiological sciences sophomore Wesley Miller, said her creative teaching methods make her class exciting and different.

"She makes the lecture fun by mixing things up a lot," Miller said. "It really helps you to get deeper in the subject, as opposed to learning from a traditional lecture."

Miller agreed with Ahmad and said that Delaney is very accommodating when it comes to helping students inside and outside of class.

"A large part of her success as an instructor is her ability to relate to the students," Kaszniak said. "She maintains compassion for the experience of being a student."

Along with her compassion, Delaney said she enjoys teaching college-aged students because of her ability to open their eyes to foreign concepts.

"I love it when someone sees the world differently than before," she said about the critical thinking and analytical concepts she teaches in her course.

Delaney, along with the three other award winners, received $2,500 in award money, which she said she plans to use to attend a teaching conference in Florida for university-level psychology teachers.

Despite the recognition, Delaney said her true happiness in winning the award is that she can finally attend the conference, which she has been interested in since she began teaching.

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