As the school year comes to an end, the Underground has selected the recipients for the third annual Professors of the Year awards. Nominated by students and selected by the Underground editors, this list of professors is comprised of hard working and dedicated professionals. This year, the Underground is proud to congratulate Steve Joordens (psychology), Christopher Cochrane (political science), Sonja Nikkila (English) and Susannah Bunce (geography) for excellence in the field of teaching and research.
Professor Steve Joordens has been teaching in the psychology department at UTSC for 17 years. He is recognized by his students for being passionate and enthusiastic in what he teaches and what he believes in. Originally from New Brunswick, Joordens believes that his journey from a relative monoculture has been remarkable. With more than 10 teaching awards under his name, Joordens is one of UTSC’s most celebrated professors. One of the awards, the President’s Teaching Award, has enabled Joordens to become a part of the President’s Teaching Academy. He is passionate about his teaching, music, animal rights and public speaking. This year, he was a feature presenter for the TEDxUTSC conference. But all the fame is not why he teaches. “The thing that feeds my soul is the response I get from students… That’s what I value the most about my job.”
Professor Christopher Cochrane is another faculty member who grew up in New Brunswick. He has been teaching in the department of political science at UTSC for three years now and his experience has been wonderful so far. Cochrane obtained his PhD in political science at the University of Toronto. He says he loves his office, enjoys the students and appreciates the culture at UTSC. Cochrane’s research interests lie in Canadian Politics, political disagreement, public opinion and anti-immigrant sentiments He has also co-authored one of the best-selling textbooks, Canadian Politics. In the future, he hopes to contribute to the open-source movement by publishing a textbook that is freely available through the web. Cochrane is a Fellow at the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada and at the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion.
Professor Sonja Nikkila is most appreciated by her students for the efforts that she makes in tying current events to the English literature that she teaches. Nikkila has been teaching at UTSC for four years. Nikkila knew she wanted to be an educator since she was seven years old. She is involved in working with the Scarborough Storefront by directing creative writing workshops and she has given presentations at the university fair on behalf of UTSC. Nikkila likes to incorporate multimedia to get students interested in the texts used in her courses. One of her favourite aspects of teaching is sharing what she discovers within the books she reads. She is extremely happy with what she is doing and says that she would love to spend her life and energy on teaching. “I want students to feel connected to what I’m doing,” Nikkila explains. “I want them to feel like I’m giving them something that is theirs.”
Professor Susannah Bunce teaches in the geography and city studies department. Her research interests lie in urban geography studies, specifically on the scale of neighbourhoods. She has taught at UTSC since 2008. Bunce has authored several papers on sustainability and the importance of green urban growth. Bunce appreciates the strong sense of social activism on this campus. As a professor, she likes using a more active form of education. “I focus on experiential learning,” Bunce says. “My goal is to have students learn not just in the classroom, but also getting out of the classroom. So I try to encourage a lot of field trips.” She also has a service learning course in which students are placed into local social service organizations. Bunce likes to bring her own research into the classroom and she sees teaching and research as extensions of one another. Bunce believes that knowledge is meant to be shared and that “the university is about education and students learning about what’s happening in the world.”