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May 29, 2001

Nowicki goes beyond classroom

By Eric Rangus


There’s something different about walking with somebody across campus or getting a cup of coffee with a student than there is standing in front of a lecture hall,” said Stephen Nowicki, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Psychology.

“But sometimes I think that’s when you do your best teaching,” he continued. “When you don’t have a script and you have to be yourself. I probably do some of my best teaching walking from class to my office.”

The George Cuttino Faculty Award for Mentoring was created in 1997 to annually recognize an Emory professor for his or her contributions to students both inside and outside the classroom. In 2001, the Cuttino Award has been given to Nowicki.

“I didn’t believe it,” Nowicki said, recalling his reaction when told he would receive the award. “It sounds like a cliché, but there are so many other professors who work closely with students.”
Cuttino was a distinguished medieval historian in the history department for 32 years. He retired in 1984 and died seven years later at the age of 77. In addition to the faculty mentoring award, the history department also offers a scholarship, summer study fellowships and a prize for a graduating senior that all bear Cuttino’s name.

“George was our lightning rod within the faculty for working with students,” Nowicki said. “He worked with them all the time; students loved him.”

Sitting in his office, Nowicki is surrounded by pictures of students and other knickknacks from his 31 years as an Emory professor. And he collects more keepsakes by the day.

“I just received this postcard yesterday,” he said, holding up a piece of mail.

For the past 12 years, Nowicki has taught a senior seminar entitled “Empirical and Experimental Approaches to Relationships.” The class size is 15, but students are chosen by lottery. More than 70 applied to take the class this past semester.

Five years ago, Nowicki said, he gave his students—members of the class of 1996—postcards, with the instructions to return them in 2001 with an update on their lives. So far he has received 12 of 15.

“It’s neat because you keep connected, and that’s what keeps me going,” Nowicki said.
Postcards aren’t the only way Nowicki reaches out to students. While one of his research interests is nonverbal communication, he insists that his students communicate with him—verbally.

“I ask my students to say ‘hello’ to me on campus,” Nowicki said. One of the classes he teaches each year is abnormal psychology, which contains 120 students—not the best scenario for individual attention. This allows him to attach names to all the faces he sees.

Nowicki also accompanies students to England for study abroad courses. There, they get to see him outside the classroom, in a place where he is perhaps more approachable.

“That’s the neatest thing when you’re sort of vulnerable as a professor,” he said. “I have a real strong belief that the most important thing about college is when there is one student who wants to learn and one professor who wants to teach. If there are places and times where that relationship can grow, that’s good.”


Back to Emory Report May 29, 2001