Golden Apple 2013: Psychology lecturer receives University of Michigan's only student-led teaching award
A University of Michigan psychology lecturer has received the school's only teaching award given by students.
Students surprised Shelly Schreier with the 2013 Golden Apple Award during a Wednesday lecture. About 20 minutes into class, a hand shot up and the student asked what the lecturer had in common with a list of other professors, including popular lecturer Bruce Conforth.
Stumped, Schreier said she didn't know.
Schreier, like 22 professors before her, is the recipient of an award that honors one inspiring and engaging U-M lecturer each year.
"The lights flickered and music started playing and students with balloons walked in," recalled Schreier.
"I don’t think anybody ever feels like they're a contender. It does feel like an incredible honor to be chosen."
Schreier is a psychology lecturer who studies the relationships of siblings, as well as child development and psychopathology. She received her bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees at U-M and has lectured at the school since 1999. She lives in Ann Arbor.
Schreier —who teaches small courses with 20 students and large lectures with 480 students— says what makes her a good teacher is an understanding that as her students learn from her, she has opportunities to learn from her students.
"I care a lot about my students. I spend a great deal of time meeting with them individually, mentoring them. I do a lot of advising," she said. "They pick up that I someone who's interested in investing in them.
"...I am open to what I can learn from them in the process, too."
Students have been awarding the Golden Apple since 1991. Recipients are chosen because they teach with passion, as if each lecture is their last lecture, according representatives of the student-run group Students Honoring Outstanding University Teaching, which facilitates the award. The award is co-sponsored by more than 30 university departments and programs, including its main sponsor Michigan Hillel.
Winners are chosen by a 10-member student committee that considers not only the quantity of votes a professor gets, but also the quality of the nominations, said SHOUT co-chair Jake Levey. This year the group received between 200 and 250 nominations for the award, Levey said. Nominations can be sponsored by several students.
In Schreier's case, students from her Introduction to Psychology and Social Development classes nominated her. According to Levey, one student wrote that Schreier is the reason the student is a psychology major.
Levey said the group looks for a professor that displays "something out of the ordinary."
Winners receive $1,000 toward a charity of their choice and give a year-end lecture. Although she hasn't chosen a topic —on her list of possibilities is speaking about her love of teaching— Schreier's lecture is planned for 7 p.m. April 4 at the Rackham building.
Last year's winner was Conforth, a former curator at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame who teaches American music culture at the university. During his 2012 lecture, Conforth encouraged students to "heed your calling."
Levey said that while the monetary award is small, the Golden Apple's affect on recipients can be large.
"Students are the most honest and the largest body here at the university," he said. "Students are the voice of the university and when the voice of a university says 'you are deserving'... it means a lot more to the teacher."
Levey said Schreier is the first female Golden Apple recipient in 11 years.
Video provided by U-M Golden Apple student group.