Matthew Vollmer of Blacksburg, an instructor in the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, received the university's 2009 Sporn Award for Excellence in Teaching Introductory Subjects.
Sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the Virginia Tech Academy for Teaching Excellence, the Sporn Award for Excellence in Teaching Introductory Subjects is presented annually to a Virginia Tech faculty member to recognize excellence in teaching introductory-level courses. Nominations are received from students. Recipients are selected by a committee comprised of student representatives from Omicron Delta Kappa and Golden Key honor societies and a faculty advisor who was the previous year's award winner. Recipients are awarded $2,000 and are inducted into the university’s Academy of Teaching Excellence.
The award was established in memory of Dr. and Mrs. Philip J. Sporn. Dr. Sporn was a Virginia Tech alumnus and president and chief executive officer of American Electric Power Company.
In a letter to support Vollmer’s nomination for this award, Kristin Frank, a student majoring in architecture, wrote that the experience of taking Vollmer’s class, “changed me as a student, not just in English, but in all disciplines. [It] forced me to start asking questions about my assumptions, things I took to be true. By questioning my thoughts I was creating my own, new definitions of things I thought I understood. These 16 week redefined English for me”
“Matthew’s students often comment on how they will continue to value writing, which had been no more than a chore to many of them before,” notes Carolyn Rude, professor of chair of the Department of English. “Kristin ends her portfolio letter, as do many students in their Student Perceptions of Instruction remarks, with powerful evidence of the potential for growth that Matthew leads his students to discover in themselves.
“While this is the end of my formal English education” she wrote, “I will continue to learn about writing and English, since it is every[where] in any form of communication.”
Vollmer's work has appeared in Paris Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Epoch, Tin House, Colorado Review, Gulf Coast, Antioch Review, Portland Review, Confrontation, Salt Hill, Fugue, PRISM International, and New Letters. His work has been twice short-listed for the Best American Short Stories series, and he has been nominated numerous times for the Pushcart Prize.
Vollmer received his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina, a master’s degree from North Carolina State University, and a master of fine arts degree from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.