Congratulations to DOECL Professor Søren George Palmer for receiving the 2023 Chapman Family Teaching Award!
Out of 876 nominations, Dr. Palmer was one of twenty-five recipients of the 2023 University Teaching Awards. The Chapman Family Teaching Award was established in 1993 to honor the distinguished teaching of undergraduate students.
Upon receiving the initial email about the award, Professor Palmer didn’t believe he had won it:
“I’d kind of talked myself out of it [winning the award], just to be safe, and then I received an email with no text and a PDF attached. The title was ‘UNC Teaching Awards,’ and I thought they were letting me know who won, and that it wasn’t me. I’d prepared myself for that outcome. And since the award is student nominated it really was an honor simply to receive that nomination, a line I was very well prepared to repeat. I was half-way through skimming the PDF before I realized I had won, and then had to read it a couple more times just to make sure. I waited half the day to tell anyone just in case it was a mistake. Teaching isn’t always rewarded at the university level, but UNC in particular does a tremendous job of recognizing the value of teaching and the hard work that so many people put into their profession. It’s very humbling to see my name on a list with so many fantastic and accomplished teachers and it feels great to be recognized.”
The Office of the Provost website beautifully captures Dr. Palmer’s pedagogical service to the University community:
“His classroom is a place where students from varied cultural, religious, and educational backgrounds establish relationships and learn from the experiences of others. Taking a class with him is a life-changing experience. Dr. Palmer instills an atmosphere of trust where difficult topics are shared and thoughtfully and beautifully discussed.”
When speaking to his teaching style, Professor Palmer noted on the importance of establishing a comfortable atmosphere for his students to share:
“I’ve found that students, for the most part, give back as much as you give them, it’s a symbiotic relationship in that way, so I try to work really hard for them. I try to be open and honest with them so they will be open and honest with me. Occasionally a joke lands and they do me the courtesy of laughing. It’s important to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing, and not everyone does, so it takes some effort to tease that comfort out for the class as a whole–at which point I try to make them uncomfortable.”
Professor Palmer’s teaching philosophy emphasizes ways to mediate discomfort in a manner that opens the classroom for empathetic discussion:
“Conversations about race, gender dynamics, and class are built into the material of a class like ‘Literature and Cultural Diversity,’ creating daily opportunities for students to feel uncomfortable and, hopefully, more empathetic. Given those dynamics, I see myself as a facilitator for discussion in a space where participation and dialogue are encouraged in order to establish an equitable and inclusive learning environment.”
Please join us in extending a heartfelt congratulations again to Professor Palmer!