2013 Faculty Awards: Q&A with Miriam Ferzli

May 2, 2013
By Bill Krueger

The Alumni Association is honoring 21 NC State professors with the 2013 Faculty Awards for their outstanding work in the classroom, in the laboratory and in the field. We talked (via email) with some of the recipients about their work and the keys to being a successful professor.

Today we’re visiting with Miriam Ferzli, a teaching assistant professor of biology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Ferzli, who earned her masters degree and doctorate at NC State, is one of six professors being recognized as Alumni Association Distinguished Undergraduate Professors.

photo_ferzliWhat prompted you to become a professor? During my graduate career, I was “forced” to be a teaching assistant, and it was during this time that I fell in love with teaching. Prior to that, I just wanted to be a scientist, and teaching was not on my radar. I was actually terrified at the prospect of teaching, but felt right at home from the very first day. Since then, I have made teaching and the scholarship of teaching and learning my central focus.

What are the keys to being a successful teacher/professor? I believe that the most important thing to achieve is a strong rapport with your students, one that is built on mutual respect and a love of learning. This will serve as the foundation to fostering a learning community in which students are willing to participate. I always aim to establish this type of learning environment. I lead by example and in the process try to instill a joy in learning the subject material by making it meaningful to their lives. I try to teach them ways of thinking that they can apply everywhere and I make my objectives very clear.

What gives you the greatest satisfaction as a professor? My greatest satisfaction comes when a student has gone beyond doing course work for the sake of a grade and shows investment in learning. An example would be a student who tells me that she found the exam or course very challenging; but that she really liked it, because it made her think and learn. When I see the evidence of learning, I feel rewarded. I also feel rewarded when the students stay in touch with me throughout their undergraduate years and tell me how much my class helped them in later courses. In general, there is a great satisfaction in seeing my students grow and develop academically and professionally — that is my greatest reward!

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