Prof. Shoshanah Jacobs

A University of Guelph professor has been named one of Ontario’s most outstanding teachers by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA).

Prof. Shoshanah Jacobs, Department of Integrative Biology, will receive a 2019-20 OCUFA Teaching Award for outstanding contributions to improving the quality of higher education at the province’s universities.

“University teaching presents us with the opportunity to engage with the part of society that wants to learn new things,” said Jacobs, who joined U of G in 2012 and who holds an adjunct faculty appointment in the Department of Management.

“As professors, it gives us a window into what society needs, and challenges us to devise ways of making lifelong learners of us all. It is a privilege for me to be within a community of passionate and innovative professors who are constantly reflecting on their teaching practice, wanting to hone it and try new things.”

Judy Bornais, chair of OCUFA’s award committee, said, “Shoshanah Jacobs challenges old practices and drives forward a new culture of teaching by creating safe learning environments that allow her students to take risks in a way that fosters their personal growth and professional development.

“Soshanah is a teacher who places diversity and inclusion at the centre of her teaching philosophy and students at the centre of their learning experiences.”

Jacobs co-developed and has co-taught U of G’s Ideas Congress (ICON) course, a self-directed, transdisciplinary course that challenges undergraduate students to come up with solutions to important societal problems. Focused on community-engaged learning in social innovation and entrepreneurship, the course has challenged students to refine a pitch for a sustainable project, such as helping ensure food security.

“This award is so important to me because it means that we are on the right track,” said Jacobs. “We must continue to question, to reflect and to engage with our students as we redesign our classrooms, our pedagogy and our measure of success.”

Jacobs has taught courses ranging from business consulting and Arctic biodiversity to invertebrate morphology and ornithology.

An expert in Arctic seabird ecophysiology, Jacobs has appeared regularly in media interviews, including the Discovery Channel. Before joining U of G, she was a polar expedition leader.

Five faculty members at Ontario universities will receive this year’s teaching awards. The other recipients this year are as follows:

• Prof. William Cluett, Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, University of Toronto
• Prof. Joel Faflak, Department of English and Writing Studies, Western University
• Kim Hellemans, instructor and chair, Department of Neuroscience, Carleton University
• Aaron Langille, master lecturer, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, Laurentian University

“Faculty are at the heart of Ontario’s vibrant universities. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the dedication and boundless energy demonstrated by faculty like Shoshanah Jacobs continues to inspire students to embrace new ideas and build a brighter future,” said OCUFA president Rahul Sapra.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 30 faculty associations across Ontario.