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Michael J. Alexander receives 2011 Sporn Award for Excellence in Teaching Introductory Subjects


Michael Alexander Michael Alexander

BLACKSBURG, Va., April 25, 2011 – Michael J. Alexander, assistant professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, received the 2011 Sporn Award for Excellence in Teaching Introductory Subjects.

The annual award recognizes a Virginia Tech faculty member who teaches introductory-level courses. Students submit the nominations. Award recipients are selected by a committee composed of student representatives from the Omicron Delta Kappa and Golden Key honor societies, as well as the faculty member who won the award the previous year. Award winners receive $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 and is sponsored by the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research and the Virginia Tech Academy for Teaching Excellence. Sporn was a Virginia Tech alumnus and president and chief executive officer of American Electric Power Co.

A member of the Virginia Tech faculty since 2007, Alexander has established himself as an extremely popular and highly effective teacher, a thoughtful advisor, and a teaching-scholar who enjoys sharing his highly successful approach to teaching and learning with others.

“His students appreciate the great care he takes in producing compelling PowerPoint presentations, his captivating lecture style, his use of innovative concept maps to make connections in history, his effective incorporation of music and video into his presentations, his clear passion for teaching, and his ability to make history come alive,” said Mark Barrow, professor and chair of the Department of History who nominated Alexander for the award. “They value his friendly demeanor, his genuine desire to help them succeed, and his willingness to provide useful advice not just about classes but also about graduate school and careers in history.”

Alexander has also shared his enthusiasm for teaching with his faculty colleagues. In 2009, he presented a poster on integrating animation, audio, and video into PowerPoint at the university’s first Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy. That presentation led to the creation of a Faculty Development Institute workshop that was attended by more than 50 graduate students. Last year he participated in a roundtable discussion about his department’s peer mentoring teaching group that was enthusiastically received at the second Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy.

In 2008, Alexander launched the department’s Graduate Teacher Mentoring program.

“Michael Alexander is dedicated to being the best teacher possible for his students,” Barrow said. “His enthusiasm for teaching is positively infectious.”

Alexander is a member of the American Historical Association, Medieval Academy of America, Renaissance Society of America, Society for Italian Historical Studies, and the Venetian Studies Association. He received his bachelor's degree from Vanderbilt University and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia.

The College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech includes programs in the arts, humanities, social and human sciences, and education. The college seeks to illuminate human experience and expression by creating works of lasting scholarly, cultural, and aesthetic value; empower individuals to engage critically with the complexities of a diverse, global society; and foster the inquiry, innovation, and growth that produce individual and social transformation.