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UTSC professor wins teaching prize from Canadian Association of Geographers

TEACHING AWARD: Professor Bill Gough, pictured at the campus weather station atop the S-wing, has won a CAG teaching award. (Photo by Ken Jones.)

by Mary Ann Gratton

Professor Bill Gough, vice-dean of graduate education and program development at the University of Toronto Scarborough, has won a teaching award from the Canadian Association of Geographers (CAG).

This is the first year that a U of T professor has won the CAG teaching award since its inception in 1997. Gough shares this year’s award with health geography professor Jody Decker of Wilfrid Laurier University.

Gough is a climatologist who teaches physical geography through his environmental science courses at UTSC. He also teaches geography at the graduate level at the St. George campus. His background is in physics, but his physical geography research relates to terrestrial environments. His research focuses on sea ice and permafrost in the Arctic.

He was presented with the 2010 award last weekend at the organization’s annual meeting, held this year in Regina, Saskatchewan. The award covers his expenses to travel to and attend the event.

“I was thrilled,” he says of the news. “I knew that I had been nominated, but I was still very surprised. One of the things I like to do is bring my research into the classroom, and share my research and research experiences with my students to get them excited about physical geography and environmental science.”

Climate change is the focus of his research. “This is a field that is socially relevant and meaningful, so I feel that I’m contributing in some way to solving or identifying environmental problems that matter to all of us.”

Asked about his approach to teaching, he says he aims to ensure that his lectures are well-organized and that course objectives are clear and identifiable. “On the more substantive side, I try to enliven the material by having a clear understanding of what students find challenging, and bringing in current and real-world examples.”

Gough has won two previous teaching awards from UTSC. He won the Principal’s Teaching Award in 1998 and the SCSU Award for Teaching in 2002.

“I'm glad but not surprised to learn that Professor Gough has won another teaching award, and it’s wonderful to see his great work recognized,” says Professor Clare Hasenkampf, director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning at UTSC. “I’ve heard Bill speak about teaching and it’s clear that he cares deeply about his students and their learning. He has also demonstrated that excellence in both teaching and research can go hand in hand.”

Students are also enthusiastic about Gough’s teaching. “Professor Gough’s dedication, patience and professionalism put him head-and-shoulders above the rest,” says graduate student Smriti Das, who has taken two of his courses. “As an undergraduate, I found that his strength as an instructor lay in his structured, organized approach while teaching difficult course material. He also brings in his current research and teaches it – quite enthusiastically – to the class.”

Gough is Das’ advisor as she pursues her Master of Science degree in geography. “As a mentor, he shows patience, support and a fabulous sense of humour – one of his best assets – and these qualities shine through as he helps to guide me and my graduate student colleagues. These are the reasons he has so many graduate students interested in working with him.”




© University of Toronto Scarborough