Smith recognized for teaching and mentoring
Jane Austen. Charles Dickens. George Eliot.
Smith, University of Michigan-Dearborn professor of English, was the youngest among his siblings, and his brothers and sisters had to buy paperback novels for school.
“When I was growing up, those were the books I pulled off the shelves and started to read,” he said. “And so I always associated doing literature with Shakespeare and Victorian novels.”
Fast forward a few decades and those same books Smith read as a child shaped his career in academia. His passion for Victorian literature also earned him a nomination for this year’s Michigan Professor of the Year award. Smith didn’t win the award, but he was invited this month to a luncheon where he and other nominees were recognized.
“I felt very honored by that,” said Smith, who modestly added that he knew of other UM-Dearborn faculty more suited for the nomination. “I think my sort of forte has been the way in which I involve students in research and the creation of knowledge. My pedagogy is that, wherever possible, I try to incorporate significant research projects that are published in some form. I think there’s good evidence to show that when students feel they’re writing for an audience, besides their professor, that they become more invested in what they’re doing.”
Cue Megan Torti. A recent graduate of the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters (CASL), Torti worked with Smith for about a year as she researched English poet A.C. Swinburne.
“My independent study on Swinburne was my first large-scale research effort,” she said. “I had no idea what I’d gotten myself into when I began the paper, what kind of resources were available to me or how I could transform my curiosity about a rather eccentric Victorian poet into a piece of scholarship. During the year I worked on the project, Professor Smith helped me to research and to write and, ultimately, to think like a literary scholar. His advice and encouragement throughout were invaluable.”
Her hard work paid off, as Victorian Poetry agreed to publish her article. Torti is one of the few undergraduate students to be published in Victorian Poetry, a leading scholarly journal that focuses on 19th-century literary studies and attracts both national and international audiences. She attributes much of her success with the research article to Smith.
Torti is just one of many UM-Dearborn students who have benefited from Smith’s successful teaching methods.
And because of that, Smith is highly regarded throughout academia for his knowledge of Victorian literature, CASL Dean Jerold Hale said. Hale commended Smith for his teaching prowess and overall involvement in UM-Dearborn endeavors.