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2010 Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching

Aaron, Kalsem, and Miller Receive 2010 Goldman Teaching Excellence Award

Challenging. Engaging. Uncanny. Committed. These adjectives describe the 2010 Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching recipients. All have demonstrated their commitment to students and unrelenting support of the College of Law. Congratulations to this year’s recipients: Marjorie Corman Aaron, Kristin Kalsem, and Darrel A.H. Miller.

Professor Marjorie Corman Aaron. Law professors should be familiar with their curriculum teaching assignments.  In this respect, there are few instructors who can rival the combination of real-world, clinical, and academic experiences that Marjorie Corman Aaron brings to the classroom.  In each of her courses, Professor Aaron passes this rich and broad range of knowledge to her students.

This year’s Goldman Prize committee, however, took these qualities as a given. Since 1998, Professor Aaron has been continually growing and improving a lackluster and unpopular part of the curriculum to make it an accessible, enjoyable, and practical gem among dry, bar-prep, and substantive courses.  Her stature in her field and dedication to bringing this to the College of Law has become a staple to this institution.

Instead, our committee focused on a different quality highlighted by the student nominations: an ability to look beyond the curriculum.  Put differently, Professor Aaron is not bound by her teaching assignments; instead, the students and her experience about what skills are integral to a successful legal career dictate her every semester at the College of Law.

Professor Aaron maintains a persona that truly invites and encourages students to seek her advice.  Whether that means inviting and open in-class discussions, questions after class, personal questions, or individual research oversight, she has demonstrated willingness—and, in fact, pleasure—to go well-above and beyond in-class and office hour requirements to meet her students’ needs.

In her own right, Professor Aaron blazed paths for students interested in Trial Advocacy, Mediation, and Negotiation.  She is simply never satisfied with the status quo, and continues to prod students to see the other half of the legal world: practice.  It is a world that looms large over the students at the College of Law, but would be largely left unaddressed if not for Professor Aaron’s sincere and remarkable efforts.

This award could be given to Professor Aaron for her undeniable talents and contributions at the College of Law in her areas of expertise. This year’s committee, however, recognizes her extraordinary ability to teach students at the College of Law beyond the ordinary bounds. It is our pleasure to honor Marjorie Corman Aaron with a 2010 Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

Professor Darrell A.H. Miller. It is not uncommon to hear first-year law students complaining about Civil Procedure.  The fault here is perhaps inherent in the subject matter of Civil Procedure.  Civil Procedure can sometimes seem disconnected from the world that exists outside the practice of law, and some of its rules appear pointless or silly.  For instance, a rule might require that litigants use a red cover for a particular motion instead of a blue cover.  Many students are prompted to inquire: “Why does this matter?”  These students would rather learn about the facts of a lawsuit wherein a tortfeasor has accidentally caused a series of injuries to various victims; these students are less interested in learning about how long the victims have to file their lawsuit.  Simply put, students often struggle to develop any passion for the study of Civil Procedure.

Yet, here at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, we have living proof that Civil Procedure can be an interesting subject that inspires passion.  Professor Miller forthrightly illustrates this passion on an almost daily basis, when he teaches Civil Procedure.  In his Civil Procedure classes, as well as his other classes, Professor Miller shows a fiery intensity that engages his students in the subject matter.  When Professor Miller is at his best, his students may forget they are even in a classroom.  Instead, they may feel they are watching a seasoned litigator deliver his closing argument in an important case.  Professor Miller paces in the front of the room and, sometimes, he will punctuate a statement by emphatically slapping the podium.  He does not hide his emotion, whether it is anger or humor or shock.  Taken together, these techniques draw Professor Miller’s audience, his students, into the material.

However, these statements may seem to suggest that Professor Miller only lectures to his classes.  This is not the case.  Professor Miller also draws generously upon the Socratic Method to ensure that all his students are fully engaged.  In addition, he uses entertaining hypotheticals to clarify arcane concepts and to setup further class discussion.  In one recurring hypothetical, the plaintiff is trying to sue a minister for “wrongful marriage,” because the minister has married the plaintiff’s daughter to an “unfit” husband.
Even when the class period has ended, Professor Miller continues his mission of educating students here at the Cincinnati College of Law.  After class, Professor Miller is often seen answering student questions, and he participates in out-of-class lectures.  Even when he has retreated to his office, his office door is always open.

Professor Miller is also known for his practical assignments.  In Civil Procedure, students must write interrogatories and requests for admissions.  In Civil Rights Litigation, Professor Miller divides his class into mini law firms, and the students become first year associates who research legal issues and write memoranda.  These assignments are an invaluable opportunity to gain practical experience.

In sum, Professor Miller has successfully strived to be a model teacher, and he has cultivated the skills and qualities that earn him his second Goldman Prize in only his third year of teaching.  The Cincinnati College of Law is lucky to have such a passionate educator on its faculty.

Professor Kristin Kalsem. Respectful, extremely intelligent, highly personable, and cutting edge—just a few of the words used by students to describe Professor Kristin Kalsem, one of this year’s recipients of the 2010 Goldman Prize for Teaching. Not many law students are overly eager to learn the intricacies of secured transactions or bankruptcy, yet these two courses happen to be very popular at the College of Law—precisely because Professor Kalsem teaches them. Impeccably organized, always enthusiastic, and often willing to put extra time and energy into making sure that her students are prepared, Professor Kalsem embodies what the Goldman Prize stands for—excellence in teaching.

Inside of the classroom, Professor Kalsem is most known for her exceptional intelligence, her perfectly organized presentations, and her respect for her students.  Professor Kalsem’s command of the subject matter she teaches is extraordinary, yet, the way she is able to convey the subject matter to her students is what makes her an incredible teacher.  Through PowerPoint slides and discussion, Professor molds otherwise complicated and convoluted principles into more easily decipherable, manageable material.  Though she employs the Socratic method, she groups her students into threes, allowing them to answer the questions they know and rely on their group members for questions to which they aren’t sure of the answers.  No student ever feels embarrassed or frightened, yet all are extremely prepared for each class, having studied with their group members and not wanting to let these members down come class time.  Professor Kalsem has found and employed an innovative way to capture the best of both worlds.

Already having established herself at the College of Law as a well-respected and well-liked professor in the areas of secured transactions and bankruptcy, the diversity of Professor Kalsem’s teaching skills became evident this year when she taught a special reading group course devoted to the writings of Professor Carol Sanger, a well-read feminist writer and professor who has been an inspiration to Professor Kalsem. Shying away from her famous PowerPoint slides and structured way of teaching, Professor Kalsem knew that for the class to be successful, her students needed to feel comfortable to express their thoughts and ideas about Ms. Sanger’s articles.  To make sure of this, she made them feel at home—by inviting them into her own home. Even without her PowerPoint slides, she was a brilliant educator, creating lively discussions, respecting the viewpoints of her students, and providing an atmosphere in which conversation flourished.  As Ms. Sanger is an inspiration to Professor Kalsem, Professor Kalsem is an inspiration to her students.

The students at the College of Law are lucky to have such an extraordinary teacher as Professor Kalsem.  It is because of the overwhelming respect that these students have for her that she has earned this award.  With great pleasure, we honor Professor Kalsem with a 2010 Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

About the Goldman Prize for Teaching Excellence

The Goldman Prize has been awarded for over 30 years to recognize excellence in teaching. This award is unique because students nominate and choose the recipients—their professors. To make this decision, the committee also considers the professors’ research and public service as they contribute to superior performance in the classroom.