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Harris-Warrick receives first Menschel teaching award

Ron Harris-Warrick

Ron Harris-Warrick, professor of neurobiology and behavior, has been named Cornell's first Menschel Distinguished Teaching Fellow for 2010-11 for his commitment to "working with others on pedagogy and his proven ability to promote strong teaching in a range of contexts."

The Menschel fellowship is a new award funded by the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education in connection with the Center for Teaching Excellence. The one-year fellowship is intended to engage a distinguished faculty member in promoting the teaching mission of the university, said Laura Brown, vice provost for undergraduate education. As a fellow, Harris-Warrick will receive a stipend of $10,000.

"Professor Harris-Warrick has been widely recognized for excellence, creativity and innovation in teaching," said Brown, who noted that Harris-Warrick has been a Weiss presidential fellow for his excellence in teaching, advising undergraduate students and exemplary efforts to improve instruction on campus as well as a recipient of such awards as the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Edgerton Career Teaching Award.

"Ron earned these awards not merely because is he a superb teacher, but because he has been highly creative in utilizing both traditional and leading-edge teaching techniques to provide innovative and successful learning opportunities for his students," said Susan Henry, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences, who nominated Harris-Warrick for the fellowship. Comments from students about Harris-Warrick's teaching, she said, "highlight his refreshing enthusiasm and love for teaching, and identify him as an exceptional teacher among the faculty of Cornell."

Harris-Warrick regularly teaches "Introduction to Neurobiology," the flagship course of neurobiology and behavior, according to Brown, who has been a leader of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Task Force.

"As the Menschel Distinguished Teaching Fellow, Professor Harris-Warrick will promote strong teaching across the campus, in part by serving as a model through his own contributions as a teacher, and in part by initiating activities, developing resources and involving colleagues, within and beyond his own field, in the promotion of teaching," said Brown.

He also will develop a specific yearlong project, which will be implemented with the assistance of the Center for Teaching Excellence.

"We expect that the activities of the Menschel Distinguished Teaching Fellow will add significantly to opportunities for campuswide engagement with teaching, and that in this position, Professor Harris-Warrick will make a lasting contribution to the Cornell community," Brown added.

Said Theresa Pettit, director of the Center for Teaching Excellence: "Professor Harris-Warrick brings a remarkable record of excellence in teaching and a strong commitment to student learning. We look forward to working with him to provide support to faculty across the university."

A member of the Cornell faculty since 1980, Harris-Warrick studies the mechanisms underlying flexibility in behavior, focusing on simple model systems to understand how neurotransmitters can reconfigure anatomically defined behavioral neural networks to provide flexibility in rhythmic behaviors. His lab is beginning to study the neural networks for locomotion in the spinal cord and the changes that spinal cord injury causes in those networks.

Harris-Warrick received his B.A. degree in biological sciences at Stanford University in 1970 and a Ph.D. in genetics at Stanford University School of Medicine in 1976.