COSAM News Articles 2020 January 2019 Alumni Undergraduate Teaching Excellence Award Presented to Stewart Schneller

2019 Alumni Undergraduate Teaching Excellence Award Presented to Stewart Schneller

Published: 01/28/2020

By: Melanie Vynalek

Dr. Stewart Schneller was awarded the 2019 Alumni Undergraduate Teaching Excellence Award for his influence as former dean and professor in Auburn’s College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM).

Having taught more than 5,000 undergraduate students, Dr. Schneller began instructing chemistry courses nearly 50 years ago. He brought his talents to Auburn in 1994, and continues to make a lasting impression on students in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Dr. Schneller’s impact spreads far beyond the classroom, and does not go unnoticed. He was twice named outstanding professor at a previous institution, became an American Chemical Society Fellow in June 2017, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in October 2018, and received the Faculty Dean’s Research Award.

“I see my role as a mentor of young people in the most important time in their life, that is transitioning from a teenager to a young adult. Thus, being available when they need me,” Dr. Schneller said.

Dr. Schneller keeps his chemistry courses positive and engaging for students, and he even takes the time to meet with those outside of class who need further assistance with material.

Dr. Schneller maintains an enjoyable classroom atmosphere for students by,

  • Respecting them,
  • Realizing their lives are not just organic chemistry,
  • Using a sense of Humor,
  • Being patient,
  • Fostering a friendly, collaborative environment,
  • Understanding the anxiety for the course,
  • Encouraging and guiding questions inside and outside the classroom,
  • Presenting clear course objectives and expectations,
  • Conveying a passion for organic chemistry and a commitment to passing that along,
  • Realizing that very few students will become organic chemists, but knowing that they want to learn the subject, and
  • Starting each class with a robust “War Eagle,” which we all say, Dr. Schneller said.

This method continues to make a difference in the lives of organic chemistry students, and helps them succeed in a course they once may have been nervous to take.

Additionally, Dr. Schneller breaks down concepts by acknowledging that organic chemistry is the first instance in which many students will be thinking at a molecular level. He guides students to reaching an intuitiveness of the structure of molecules, uses 3-dimensional representations of molecules in class, prioritizes understanding reaction mechanism and developing inductive reasoning skills and strives to build student confidence through carefully analyzing an organic structure, thus allowing students to build a “chemical knowledge toolbox."

“It can only be solved by setting a strategy based on practice and critical thinking, fulfilling a tenet of organic chemistry teaching and learning, skills important to all endeavors,” Dr. Schneller said.

Dr. Schneller continues to incorporate this strategy in all of his classes, hoping that it sticks with students long after they complete the course.

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