U of G Prof Among Ontario’s Most Outstanding University Teachers

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Professor with folded arms in outdoor campus setting

Prof. Dan Gillis, School of Computer Science, is among Ontario’s most outstanding university teachers for 2018-2019.

Prof. Dan Gillis, School of Computer Science, will receive a prestigious Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) teaching award. The annual awards recognize Ontario’s most outstanding university teachers.

Gillis said he is humbled and overwhelmed by the award.

“I’m incredibly grateful to the students, colleagues and community partners who came together to support my nomination,” said Gillis. “I also feel beyond lucky that I had a seemingly disproportionate number of professors during my undergraduate and graduate training who demonstrated what I believe teaching excellence is.”

He said he feels “incredibly privileged” to teach students and challenge their ideas “But I think what I love the most is how much I learn from them, the connections I make with them, and the way that they constantly challenge my way of thinking.”

Beyond the classroom, Gillis serves on several scientific advisory panels. His research interests span statistics, computer science, biology, pedagogy and community-engaged scholarship.

He is a collaborator and co-founder of projects including Farm to Fork, which aims to improve the quality and quantity of food donated to food banks and pantries, and ICON, a transdisciplinary undergraduate classroom that brings together U of G students from across campus to work on social challenges.

“Daniel Gillis has succeeded in making the essential connection between what he teaches and the real-world application of the skills developed by his students,” said Judy Bornais, chair of OCUFA’s award committee. “These transformative experiences empower his graduates to reach their potential and produce a profound social impact through the contributions they make in their communities.”

Gillis said he develops and delivers courses that involve real-world challenges with a local community focus.

“It can be more difficult to manage a course like this, but the impact it has on learning is undeniable,” he said.  “It’s also, in my opinion, far more interesting and rewarding to see what students come up with if you allow them to use the skills they’ve learned to solve something real.”

The study of computer science, he added, is highly interdisciplinary and opens up a wide range of opportunities for his students and for himself as a teacher.

“I’ve had the great fortune to find myself working on so many different projects, learning from a diverse group of amazing colleagues and researchers because computer science, math and statistics opened those doors,” he said.

Gillis and three other instructors will receive OCUFA teaching awards this month.

“Faculty are at the heart of Ontario’s vibrant universities,” said OCUFA president Rahul Sapra. “Through their hard work and boundless energy, they inspire students to embrace new ideas and build a brighter future.”