JUNE 17, 2021 BY STAFF REPORT
The University of Mississippi College of Liberal Arts recognized three professors for superior teaching at the end of the 2021 spring semester.
Jason Solinger, associate professor of English, is the Howell Family Outstanding Teacher of the Year. Named after alumni donors Dr. Norris Howell (BS 75) and Lynne Thomas Howell (BA 74, MBA 76) of Ripley, the endowment provides funds to recognize the outstanding teacher within the College of Liberal Arts.
Mervin Matthew, instructional associate professor of psychology, is the Outstanding Instructor of the Year, and Neil Manson, professor of philosophy, received the Cora Lee Graham Award for Outstanding Teaching of Freshmen.
“Drs. Solinger, Matthew and Manson represent everything good about teaching at the university,” said Donald L. Dyer, associate dean for faculty and academic affairs and distinguished professor of modern languages.
“Their excellence of class instruction, intellectual stimulation of students and concern for students’ welfare are evident in the classroom and in the nomination letters of support from students and colleagues for the award.
“We are thrilled to add these exceptional educators to our long list of distinguished and influential teachers in the College of Liberal Arts. They are true gems of the university community, and we are extremely proud of them.”
Solinger’s goal in teaching literary studies is “instilling in my students a love of books and an intellectual curiosity that will keep them reading.
“I try to make learning fun, and I care about the whole person,” Solinger said. “On my best days, I’m teaching with humor and maybe ridiculously over-the-top enthusiasm. Always, I want my students –really, all of them – to do really well. So I design my classes so that students with different learning styles and skills can master the material one way or another.
“What happens outside the lecture hall or seminar room is just as important. My office is always open to students, and I encourage them to come see me if they are encountering difficulties with the class, with college, with life. I want them to know that I am someone who is ready to help them identify the university resources and personnel that can help them get to where they need to go.”
He succeeds in his attempts. “The most enthusiastic English teacher I’ve ever had” exemplifies Solinger’s reviews.
Having already mastered online instruction – he won the 2019 Paragon Award for Distance Teaching – Solinger “sought to inspire students by ‘upping his game’ with creativity and ingenuity during the COVID-19 pandemic,” a colleague said.
One pupil noted Solinger’s work to find texts “relevant in our contemporary time period to help look at current events with critical thinking and understanding.”
His “organic perspective on the body of literature that he teaches entails actively considering how students will take their academic work beyond the classroom,” a colleague said. “On behalf of our English majors, Jason has organized and run various career-oriented events and reached out to our alumni to cultivate networking opportunities for our graduates.”
For more about Solinger, read his Q&A on the college website.