Joan Riley: An Appreciation for Teaching – and the Teacher
The District of Columbia Professor of the Year – assistant professor Joan Burggraf Riley -- has her Georgetown students design health promotion programs that often get implemented on campus.
“Students see that their work can effect change and improve the community,” says Riley, a human science and nursing professor at the School of Nursing and Health Studies. “…It’s not a passive environment. There’s a level of engagement that is exciting and rewarding. We’re encouraging our students to have a responsibility to foster lifelong learning.”
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education announced the Georgetown professor and alumna as the 2009 District of Columbia Professor of the Year on Nov. 19.
Selected from a pool of more than 300 top professors in the United States, Riley received her award along with national and state winners during a luncheon at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington.
Through the Bringing Theory to Practice Project, Riley and other Georgetown faculty integrate student mental health and wellness topics into course curriculum across campus. She also plays a leadership role in the nationwide initiative that is supported by the Charles Engelhard Foundation in partnership with the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
Outside the classroom, she serves as a nurse practitioner in the student health center and as faculty adviser to the university’s Best Buddies chapter, which fosters friendships between college students and individuals with intellectual disabilities.
The professor says she is honored and humbled by the recognition and continues to be “inspired by the intellectual curiosity and passion for the learning of Georgetown students.”
“I teach because I find fulfillment in being part of an academic community dedicated to students’ development in a climate marked by intellectual curiosity, openness, diversity, respect and support,” she says.
NHS Dean Bette Jacobs says the professor puts her students first and gives them much support.
“Joan is always there for her students, and she rarely says no to their requests for help,” the dean notes. “Joan fully appreciates and lives by Georgetown’s internationally recognized commitments to academic rigor and the promotion of social justice through community service.”
Recent graduate Robert Denicola (C’09) served as director of the Best Buddies chapter with Riley as adviser and praised the professor for instructing her students on effective leadership.
“Our chapter would not be nearly as successful without the participation, advice and support of Professor Riley,” says Denicola. “She continually helps and inspires the officers of Best Buddies to become better leaders, which in turn assists our chapter to effectively realize its mission.”
Georgetown President John J. DeGioia also lauds the professor for her work as a campus educator.
“I have known Joan for many years, and her commitment to the development and well-being of our undergraduates is a model for all of us in the academy,” says DeGioia of Riley, a 1976 NHS graduate who also received her graduate degree from Georgetown in 1997. “For more than 35 years, first as a student and now as a faculty member, Joan Riley has exemplified the ideals of Georgetown University. Without her, our community would be a far different -- and much less powerful -- place.”
Riley says she is grateful for what her students give her as an educator.
“It’s just a remarkable experience to have students let you into their lives in such personal ways -- into their joys, enlightenments, ‘ah-ha’ moments and sorrows,” she says. “I am proud and honored to be part of my students’ journeys.”
By Bill Cessato, excerpted from the Blue & Gray