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Communications and Marketing

Teaching honors

Betty Jane Schultz Hollender Professor and Chair of Economics, Business, and Finance and Director of Border Studies Carolyn Tuttle was named this year’s Great Teacher by the Class of 2015.

This was the fourth time graduating seniors honored Tuttle with award. She was also selected by the Classes of 1989, 1995, and 2004. 

Traditionally, the selected faculty member delivers an acceptance speech at the Honors Convocation, held at First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest. Here is the speech Tuttle delivered this year:

“The Joy of Teaching” by Carolyn Tuttle

Welcome President Schutt, Dean Orr, Dean Flot, Colleagues, Parents, Family, Friends and Class of 2015. Thank you seniors for this award—it is quite an honor to be named the Great Teacher.

I would like to accept this award on behalf of all the Great Teachers on this campus—and Lake Forest College is blessed with many. Many are in this church this afternoon, some have retired and others will join us in the fall.

Seniors, many of you know what you are doing after graduation and others are still figuring it out. For those of you seeking employment, it is a tough job market but you will rise to the top and shine above graduates from other institutions. I was in similar shoes looking for a job in 1983, graduating from Northwestern University with a PhD. in economics. I sent out 20 cover letters with my resume to schools in Illinois (and back then each one was typed individually and sent by mail) and I received 10 letters of rejection (including from LFC) and yes, I kept all of these letters!

I had limited my search to Illinois because my husband at the time worked for Harris Bank. I ended up getting offers from Loyola University, North Park College, and Saint Xavier College. I had decided to go to Loyola and the day before my signed contract was due, Bill Moskoff called me and said there was an opening and asked if I was interested in an interview. I asked for an extension from Loyola and went to a full day interview at Lake Forest College. 

Seniors, when I listen to many of your interviewing experiences, it makes me think back to mine. I had a full day of meetings, talking with every faculty member in the department, a member of FPPC, the President and the Dean of Faculty. In addition, we were required to teach a class and give a research seminar. It was a long and anxiety-filled day. For me, the most stressful was being thrown in to teach a class—not knowing any of the students and having the entire department sitting in the back row. I, of course, prepared and practiced for hours the day before and felt pretty confident about the material I was supposed to teach. 

About halfway into the 50-minute class as I was writing on the board, a student in the front row blurted out “shit.” My heart sank and I thought… “I blew it, I made a mistake, and I lost the job”…I turned around and looked at the student and said, “Is there a problem?” and he sheepishly said— his pen leaked! Everyone in the class laughed and, after regaining my confidence, I continued.

That night I got a call from Bailey Donnally, the Dean of Faculty, who offered me a one-year position.  I was thrilled with the idea of working here because I could tell that “teaching is of primary importance” and the faculty in the department were all here because of their passion for teaching and the liberal arts. It was clear to me that they were here to serve the students, not themselves. 

Since my first day on the job in the Fall of 1984, my teaching philosophy has been to teach how I wish I had been taught as an undergraduate and a graduate student.

First and foremost, I believe that professors must want students to learn (and not merely weed out the less prepared or give impossible tests that are humiliating). Where concepts are explained clearly and there is ample opportunity to apply the concepts, work through problem sets, and get feedback. 

Secondly, that required work—be it papers, homework problems sets, quizzes, and exams—forces students to think critically (instead of either memorizing or “guess what the professor wants”). 

Third, that the expectations are clear and enforced. In my syllabi, I put a list of my expectations of students (for example, come to class prepared, hand in assignments on time, and my favorite, do not text during class!) and then let the students on the first day of class articulate their expectations of me (have review sessions before exams, hand back assignments quickly, and—one year—wear holiday sweaters!). This makes the classroom environment more comfortable and engaging and takes the anxiety out of how to fulfill assignments (in sharp contrast to a classroom full of distracted students or students trying to write “the mystery paper”). 

Fourth, I make sure that tests are fair and there is a way to do well on them. In my lower-level classes, I give two versions of each exam to level the playing field among students and eliminate student failure due to test anxiety. In all of my classes, I put old exams on Moodle so that students will not be surprised and can practice problems because the material is difficult. In addition, I pass out a review sheets and draw questions from material in the textbook and class notes, not the footnotes. (I do this because of a terrible experience I had in graduate school. It was the first quarter and I was taking a final in Econometrics. The final was open book and open notes. I studied for days. When I received the exam, I felt so stupid. I could only answer half of the questions and even then I knew my answers were not complete. I walked out of the exam knowing I failed it. I received a message that the professor wanted to see me. I knew this couldn’t be good news. I walked into his office and he gave me my graded final exam back. I received a 23 out of 100 points, my heart sank. The professor then asked if I wanted to be his grader for the undergraduate course next quarter. I was confused to say the least. He then told me I got the highest grade in the class!)  

Fifth, I don’t ask a student to do something that I have not done myself. I ask students to write encyclopedia entries and research papers as I have and continue to do. I edit them extensively and push each student to write better just as the editors of my two books pushed me to write better (and I am making progress—the editor of my first book said I was a terrible writer and the editor of my second book said I was a very good writer!). I ask students to present research by giving a PowerPoint presentation, just as I give presentations at conferences. I can relate to their anxiety in getting up in front of their peers as “experts” on their topic and can better guide them through the process.

As I stand here today, I realize that I have spent more than half of my life teaching at Lake Forest College and I must admit, it is the better half! Why you might ask? Because I love teaching here. What brings me joy?

It is the students that I love because:

  • they are bright, curious, inquisitive, and hardworking, 
  • they  want to learn and want to do their best,
  • they try to understand the reading, to figure out the homework, and to do well on exams,
  • they want to do their best, to master the material, and to apply what they learn,
  • they come with an open mind, ready to listen and think, grapple with new ideas, new perspectives, new ways of doing things, and
  • by the time they graduate, they are amazing global citizens who want to make a difference

Thank you.