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UMD Outstanding Faculty Award at HCIL

Allison Druin wins award

Allison Druin won the UMD Outstanding Faculty award this year out of over 50 nominees throughout the entire university. She was nominated by her group of undergraduate Gemstones students who she has mentored for the past 3 years. Gemstones is an honors program for undergraduates to participate in research. The essay the students wrote in nominating Allison follows:

This nomination for Outstanding Faculty member is being submitted by the entire Gemstone LearnUSA team in recommendation of our mentor Dr. Allison Druin. Gemstone is a three year research program in which 6-12 students from diverse majors come together in multidisciplinary teams to conduct projects that examine issues of major societal importance. Each team develops their own project guided by a faculty mentor. The role of this mentor is to oversee the progress of the team and assist them in developing a project to pursue. Dr. Druin has done this and more.

When we decided to nominate Dr. Druin for an outstanding faculty member award we had a hard time determining whether to nominate her as an outstanding teacher or outstanding advisor as Dr. Druin has been both for all seven of us. When we found our college advisors to be unavailable or unresponsive each one of us was able to go to Dr. Druin to get the help we needed. Every member of our class turned to her for assistance with class selection, career choice, or applications to graduate and professional school, this despite the fact that of the 10 majors held by members of our group only two were in the colleges where Dr. Druin teaches.

Dr. Druin has also taught us a great deal about conducting research. When we first came together as a team the majority of us knew virtually nothing about what was required to conduct experimental research. In the three years that Dr. Druin has mentored our group she has taught us how to conduct a review of applicable literature, create a statistically valid survey, develop methods for conducting a research study, engage in qualitative research, and write a thesis. All of these skills have been helpful to us not just for the Gemstone research project but also throughout our time at the University of Maryland. She has taught us all of these skills not through lecture but rather by engaging us in hands on projects. One of the things that has made Dr. Druin an outstanding teacher is her innate understanding of when to help us out and when to step back and let us find things for ourselves.

Our team put together an education reform conference which was quite successful and demonstrated how far our team had come under the guidance of Dr. Druin. Throughout the year long planning process Dr. Druin provided us with invaluable assistance yet made sure that each member of the team had an important role to play. While it would probably have been easier for Dr. Druin to organize the conference on her own, she instead spent a great deal of time directing us toward the resources we needed to create such a large-scale production. The conference, which took place in October of 2000, brought together close to one hundred teachers, administrators, students, parents, and policy makers to dialogue on the future of education. Before we began working with Dr. Druin we had never considered such an accomplishment to be possible for undergraduates.

The most admirable thing about Dr. Druin is that she has devoted so much time to our group while dealing with many issues in her personal life. In December of 1999 Dr. Druin adopted a child from overseas. She moved our meetings to her home in order to spend more time with her child while continuing to dedicate enormous amounts of time and energy to ensuring that our research project continued to be a success. Last year, within the space of one month, both her mother and husband were diagnosed with cancer. This semester she has had to go with her husband to New York for treatment every other weekend but she still continued her rigorous schedule of teaching and research. Never once did any member of our team feel like we were unable to ask her for anything we needed, despite her extremely difficult situation and busy schedule.

It is therefore because of her dedication to teaching in the truest sense, her devotion to the success of her students, and her strength of character for which we nominate Allison Druin for the Outstanding Faculty Award. It is the consensus of our team that Allison Druin is the most exceptional teacher, as well advisor, mentor, and friend that we have encountered in the faculty in our four years at the University of Maryland.

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