Dalhousie Alumni Association Award of Excellence for Teaching


2017 Recipient

Vivian Howard, School of Information Management

Vivian Howard, this year's recipient of the university's top teaching award, first joined Dal in a full-time role in 1999 as one of the original instructors in the then newly launched Bachelor of Management program. Since then, she has built a reputation as an outstanding teacher and community leader. An associate professor in the School of Information Management, Dr. Howard is being recognized for her scholarly contributions on teaching and learning and for her commitment to community engagement and helping boost retention efforts for international students. She has also provided consistent support for peers across faculties on major initiatives such as the development of the Indigenous Studies minor, which launched in the fall of 2015.

Meet this year's Dalhousie teaching award winners

DalNews, Ryan McNutt and Matt Reeder - June 15, 2017

Previous Recipients


Anne Marie Ryan, Department of Earth Sciences

This year’s top award for teaching is being presented to Anne Marie Ryan. Dr. Ryan has been with Dalhousie since 2001. She is being recognized for her leadership in developing programs for early career faculty within the Faculty of Science and the expansion to a “Community of Teaching Practice, Faculty of Science,” as well as her her scholarly contributions to pedagogic research. One student noted that, “Anne Marie is a great prof whose dedication and love for geology is evident through her teaching styles and enthusiasm.”

Originally posting: Helping students succeed: Meet this year's Dal teaching award winners. Posted by Michelle Soucy and Ryan McNutt, Dal News on May 11, 2016.

Turning teaching into a conversation

Posted by Emily Côté for Dal News on December 8, 2016


Dr. Carolyn Campbell, School of Social Work

The university’s top award for teaching has been awarded to the School of Social Work’s Carolyn Campbell. Dr. Campbell has been with Dalhousie since 1994 and has been instrumental the redesign of the university’s undergraduate programs in social work. Dr. Campbell utilizes a range of teaching methods, including blended, distance learning, interactive and engaging formats including workshops and experiential learning. Her leadership in the field has been recognized nationally by the Canadian Association of Social Work Education, where she has served as president, chair of the women's caucus and co-chair of the educational policy committee.  

Construction, Deconstruction, Reconstruction

Dal News, Matt Reeder - October 13, 2015


Dr. Roberta Barker, Department of Theatre

When Roberta Barker was a high school student, she was asked what she wanted to do for a career. “I said I wanted to be a university professor because I just think that’s the best job on earth,” she says. Now an associate professor in the Fountain School of Performing Arts, she still feels that way, approaching her work with an enthusiasm that rubs off on her students. Dr. Barker has long been one of the university’s most popular professors, topping The Coast’s poll for best prof in Halifax several years in a row.

Dr. Barker has taught 16 different courses at Dalhousie and the University of King’s College during her 13 years on campus. “I teach theatre, literature and performance. These are things that I really love and that I look to for joy in my life,” she says. “Just the opportunity to share that joy and inspiration with the students, I think this is an aspect of teaching that just grows over the years.”

Dr. Barker says she’s honoured to have been nominated and chosen for the award but she adds that she can’t take all the credit. “There are so many great teachers at Dal and King’s. I think that I’m also incredibly lucky to work with the students that I work with,” she says. “The Theatre students and the King’s students are pretty famous for being very passionate and having a lot to say, as well as being full of insight. It’s not very hard to go into class with these students.”

Dr. Barker’s nominators had plenty to say about her. “She can command a room and draw attention to her words in ways few of us can,” wrote one. Added another, “I have never encountered a professor with such striking dedication to her students’ success.”

When asked about what keeps her going, Dr. Barker again mentions her students and the dynamic quality of the profession. “It’s that aspect of teaching where you’re learning all the time, and where things are changing all the time. It’s always in flux and therefore always surprising and refreshing.”


Dr. Arunika Gunawardena, Department of Biology

Dr. Arunika Gunawardena says she’s “humbled” to receive the university’s top award for teaching.

Dr. Gunawardena, an associate professor in the Department of Biology whose research focuses on programmed cell death in plant development http://pcdlab.biology.dal.ca, is no stranger to acclaim. In addition to a Faculty of Science Killam Prize for her research in 2011/12, she received a DSU Teaching Excellence Award in 2011 and a 2013 Outstanding Graduate Advisor Award.

A Shared Education: Arunika Gunawardena receives Dal's top teaching award

DalNews, Jessica Chisholm - June 21, 2013


Dr. Frank Harvey, Department of Political Science

Don’t expect any pat answers in Dr. Frank Harvey’s class. The international relations professor challenges his students to dig deep in their study of global politics and international conflict.

And he does it with enthusiasm and skill, as glowing student evaluations and letters from graduates attest. Frank doesn’t impose his views or suggest that he’s got everything figured out. Instead, he presents students with a series of theoretical perspectives and the historical context of international events and encourages them to reflect on their own positions and adopt a broader world view. Whether teaching an introductory course or a graduate seminar, he’s noted for engaging students in thought-provoking discussion and debate.

Frank, who held a Fulbright Canada Visiting Research Chair in Canadian Studies in 2007, has also received Dalhousie’s Outstanding Graduate Advisor Award and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Award for Excellence in Teaching.


Dr. Simon Gadbois, Department of Psychology

Simon Gadbois’ passion for wild animals is matched only by his passion to teach about them. And it is that passion that has earned the senior instructor of psychology and neuroscience Dalhousie’s top prize for teaching. Completing his PhD at Dalhousie in 2002, Simon had already begun his teaching career, so remaining at Dal was a natural choice for him. He describes himself as a straight-ahead lecturer, not a showman, and draws on his own research experiences to demonstrate the importance of due diligence, and learning from one’s mistakes. Watch the 2011 Alumni Awards video on YouTube.


Dr. Jean Burnell, Department of Chemistry

His students and colleagues describe him as enthusiastic, approachable, passionate and dedicated. Since 2002, Jean Burnell has been a professor with Dalhousie’s Department of Chemistry. He focuses on putting his students first and makes every effort to ensure they are recognized as individuals. His teaching style instills curiosity, encourages critical thinking and reflects the respect he has for his students and colleagues. It’s no wonder that time and time again his students describe him as one of the best professors they have ever had.


Dr. Tracy Taylor-Helmick, Department of Psychology

No stranger to large classes from her days a student, Dr. Tracy Taylor-Helmick makes it her mission to reach out to her students, so when they describe her as personable, enthusiastic, passionate, engaging and effective, you know that something is working. For the past 10 years Tracy has been guiding students as an instructor, academic advisor, supervisor and mentor in Dalhousie’s Department of Psychology. Her impact on students has been impressive and her fearlessness in taking on new teaching challenges is admired by even the most seasoned faculty.

As a member of the Graduate Studies Program Committee, Tracy has helped advance the Department’s program over the last decade. She was recently rewarded for this commitment when she was named Chair. Tracy has served on more thesis committees than her years of service would indicate, while continuing a rigorous undergraduate teaching schedule and running her own research lab. Her commitment and dedication to giving students the opportunity to develop academically is evident in the accolades she has received from students and colleagues alike.


Dr. Tom MacRae, Department of Biology

Tom MacRae has been teaching at Dalhousie for 28 years and is an outstanding professor, esteemed by both his students and peers.

Throughout his career, Tom has taught hundreds of Dalhousie students in a variety of class settings ranging from large introductory biology classes to much smaller classes of just 10 or 15 senior students. Tom also has a team of six students who collaborate with him on his research.

Tom’s students describe him as inspirational, engaging and approachable. He encourages his students to talk to him about anything, at anytime, and believes in treating them with the utmost respect and fairness.

Tom has won numerous awards, including the Rosemary Gill Award for service to students, the national 3M Teaching Fellowship and the Faculty of Science Award for Excellence in Teaching.


Dr. Peter O’Brien, Department of Classics

Peter O’Brien, an assistant professor in the Classics department with the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, is an outstanding teacher held in esteem by both his students and peers. He takes pride in guiding his students through what he admits is a difficult and ancient subject matter to help them understand the parallels in today’s world.

Peter’s students say his love for what he teaches is apparent and they appreciate the conversational atmosphere he brings to the classroom. Peter has been teaching at Dal since 2001.

He chairs the annual “Reach for Dalhousie” scholarship competition and has contributed to several committees, boards and panels for both Dal and King’s.

In 2006, Peter received the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Award for Excellence in Teaching


Dr. Peter Aucoin, School of Public Administration

The alumni association is pleased to present the Award of Excellence for Teaching to Professor Peter Aucoin (MA’66). Dr. Aucoin has engaged students in his “abiding commitment to the search for truth” in the field of public administration and political science since 1971.

In Peter Aucoin’s classes, the search for truth has few pat answers. While Proffesor Aucoin is held in esteem for his expertise both by his students and by the professional community in the public service, his comprehensive knowledge of his field is only one facet of his teaching. Equally important to his students is his ability to use his considerable expertise and experience to engage them in a process of “learning how to learn” about government institutions and administrative structures. As one student recounts, “Dr. Aucoin is crafty. He doesn’t provide students with easy or short answers, but uses student participation as a way for us to understand the material for ourselves.”

By engaging students in reading, thinking, writing, and speaking about public administration, Professor Aucoin prepares students for future careers in the public service and in academe, in equal measure. Whether new to the field or seasoned public servants, his students value his knowledge, dynamic and enthusiastic teaching style, thought provoking analysis and keen wit.

Peter Aucoin’s teaching extends beyond the classroom. The views of a number of former students were captured by a senior public servant who observed that he is “an outstanding teacher and significant contributor to public policy discussion in Canada and elsewhere in the world.” In recognition of his influence on public service scholarship, education, and practice, Professor Aucoin was awarded the 2005 Vanier Medal by the Institute of Public Administration of Canada and is the Eric Dennis Memorial Professor of Government and Political Science and Professor of Public Administration at Dalhousie.

Dr. Aucoin is a teacher who loves his subject and delights in sharing his knowledge with others. He is a consummate master at drawing students out, engaging them in subjects they may not have even realized they had an interest. He sets a very high standard for his own scholarship and invites students to aspire to share in his thirst for knowledge.

1997 - 2005


Dennis Phillips, Department of Psychology


Stephen Coughlan, Schulich School of Law


Marty Leonard, Department of Biology


James Stolzman, Department of Sociology & Social Anthropology


T. Stanley Cameron, Department of Chemistry


A. Wayne MacKay, Schulich School of Law


Patricia DeMéo, Department of French


Phil Campagna, School of Health & Human Performance


Timothy Lee, Department of Microbiology and Immunology


Simpali Srinivas, Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computing Science