School of Government & Public Policy Professor, Suzanne Dovi, was awarded the Gerald J. Swanson Price for Teaching Excellence. This award recognizes excellence in undergraduate teaching and was created through a gift from the Thomas R. Brown Foundation in honor of Gerald J. Swanson, professor emeritus of economics. This is a student nominated award and includes a $5,000 prize.
Read the full list of awardees here.
This award celebrates your triumphs in undergraduate teaching- where does your passion for teaching come from? Did you have a passionate teacher that inspired you?
I really believe that a democracy is only as good as its citizens. What citizens believe can allow their democracy to flourish or to fail. Education, especially public education, plays a crucial role in preserving the health of a democratic institutions. Given that political scientists have recently classified the US as a flawed democracy, it is vital that citizens know how to differentiate democratic vs. non-democratic governance. They also need to recognize that one cannot have political freedom without having political disagreements.
I've been blessed by outstanding teachers throughout my life. My fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Marshall, would tell us every day that "she loves our heart" while my freshman English teacher in high school, Mrs. Fine, would insist that "we say something pithy." Bruce Douglass at Georgetown University taught me how to run a discussion. My tutor Eddie Hyland at Trinity College University of Dublin, Ireland would say "we should go for a think" and proceed to walk about Dublin talking about political theory. My dissertation advisor was Amy Gutmann who wrote on democratic education and was the President of The University of Pennsylvania. She is currently the US Ambassador of Germany. I watched her once run a discussion of the entire freshman class at Princeton. She showed how to make ideas come alive in large groups or in small ones. I feel like each of these teachers gave me an intellectual gift.
Do you recognize that you are an inspiration to your students? How does this make you feel?
I understand my job as not only expanding their sense of the possible but also helping them get to where they want to go. I am truly honored to teach at the University of Arizona. It means a lot to me that it is a land-grant institution that is committed to providing an affordable, excellent education. I am very humbled by the experience.
What do you hope your undergraduate students take away from your courses at the end of their academic careers?
Given how hard our world is these days, I want them to find joy in learning, that they can learn from those they disagree with and to recognize that democracy is the most necessary and valuable when citizens disagree. I also hope that they read something that makes them angry as well as something that feeds their convictions.