A new undergraduate award at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) carries on the legacy of an inspirational teacher and researcher.
The James E. Greer Teaching, Learning and Technology Undergraduate Research Prize is named for Dr. Jim Greer (PhD), a faculty member in the Department of Computer Science and University of Saskatchewan alumnus (BSc’73, BEd’76, MEd’84, Sc’84) who passed away in 2018.
Students can apply online until Feb. 28 for the $1,000 annual award.
Greer’s daughter Erin DeLathouwer (BA’04) helped establish the prize, which is funded by memorial donations from Greer’s friends and family.
DeLathouwer remembers her father as “a teacher to his core” whose advice was constantly sought by those around him.
“He was a kind, generous and thoughtful person who was always willing to help others,” DeLathouwer said. “He believed in the university and its ability to make the world a better place. He believed in the power of the teaching-learning process to change the direction of a person’s life.”
Greer was the winner of the 1998 Master Teacher Award, USask’s highest honour for teaching. He devoted much of his career to advancing the university’s teaching mission, having served as director of both the University Learning Centre and the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning.
Finding ways to enhance learning—including the use of artificial intelligence in education—was also one of Greer’s main interests as a computational scientist. Among the projects he led as director of the University Learning Centre was the creation of the Student Advice Recommender Agent (SARA), a computerized teaching assistant that gives personalized advice to students in some USask courses.
Greer’s passion for combining teaching, learning and research is what his family and friends wanted to capture with the James E. Greer Prize, said DeLathouwer. The award is open to undergraduate students who have presented or published original research in the area of teaching, learning and technology.
“We thought this would be a really nice way to help undergrads get excited about research and get excited about the prospect of graduate studies,” DeLathouwer said.
DeLathouwer works as the College of Arts and Science’s manager of student recruiting and strategic partnerships—a role that has given her a firsthand look at the value of research as part of an undergraduate education.
“I’ve worked with a lot of students over the years, and I’ve often heard this kind of story where a student comes to the university and thinks they’re going to study one thing. Then one summer they get a job in a lab and completely change their mind and want to do grad studies and research,” she said.
USask students have opportunities to conduct research during their undergraduate years as part of some courses or through paid positions. Many students choose to publish their work in the University of Saskatchewan Undergraduate Research Journal or present it at events such as the USSU Undergraduate Symposium or World Class Day.
DeLathouwer said she has “deep gratitude” towards the donors whose contributions will encourage more students to get involved in research through the James E. Greer Prize.
“There’s this kind of satisfaction in knowing that undergraduates at the University of Saskatchewan will continue to be affected by my dad’s life work,” she said. “I know that would have really meant a lot to him.”