This weekend as we celebrate our graduates at convocation, we also take the time to award two Concordia professors who have gone the extra mile and exhibited excellence in their field.
As part of Concordia’s faculty since 1989, Dr. Elizabeth Smythe primarily teaches political science courses. However, it is her exceptional research in international trade and relations – which has brought her to places including South America, Africa and Europe – that made her stand out as this year’s recipient of Concordia’s Excellence in Research Award.
Dr. Smythe grew up in southern Ontario. Throughout her post-secondary studies she was inspired by political science professors, specifically those who taught international politics and did research on international trade. Now, as a researcher herself, she explains how it helps her thrive as a professional.
“Research is important for your own development as a scholar, to keep you active and engaged,” she said. “As a social scientist you should always be wondering why things are happening and not happening.”
Taking on research projects in addition to teaching four to five courses per semester is a lot. However, Dr. Smythe explains that in addition to her own professional development, her research is important for her students and the university.
“Through my experience in research I can shed a light on some of the questions I am asked in class, giving students the sense that what they are studying is not just something boring in a textbook,” she said. Also, “research is a way for Concordia to have a broader face in the academic community.”
Dr. Smythe holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in political science (McMaster University); a Master’s Degree in International Relations (Carleton University); and a Doctorate Degree in Political Science (Carleton University).
After more than three decades as an instructor at Concordia University College of Alberta, Dr. Tom Tavouktsoglou – the university’s popular mathematics, computing science and chemistry professor – is recognized as this year’s recipient of the Judith C. Meier Excellence in Teaching Award.
Describing his time at Concordia as ‘very exciting,’ Dr. T has seen Concordia through many changes, but is satisfied with how the university is able to maintain its core values when it comes to teaching.
“Concordia is a university where students feel comfortable with their instructors and professors are actively involved in their learning,” he said. For me “this is not just a teaching job.”
As a professional who has been teaching for more than 30 years, Dr. T explains that it is not just a love for a subject matter that makes you an affective instructor. It also takes a proper understanding of the needs of your students – knowing what makes them tick and how they learn.
Dr. T works with students, ignoring what they think are their weaknesses and focuses on their strengths. He explains that when learning is a two-way exercise between student and instructor, it results in success. This is especially important for the subject of Mathematics.
“Mathematics is a field where the vast majority of students are hesitant about the subject. You will not hear a student say that they can’t do a specific subject, but you will hear them say that they can’t do math,” he said, “but mathematics is approachable for everyone.”
Dr. Tavouktsoglou holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Theoretical Chemistry (University of Sussex); a Master’s Degree in Quantum Chemistry (University of Alberta); and a Doctorate degree in Mathematics Education (Aristotle University).