Master Teacher Award - Spring 2007
Professor Vipen Sawhney provides a perfect example of the teacher-scholar envisaged in the mission statement of the University of Saskatchewan. Over the past 30 plus years Vipen has established a reputation as an outstanding teacher, all the while despatching administrative tasks with ease and maintaining a first rate research program, with a co-edited book and over 100 refereed papers to his credit.
A perusal of comments from teaching questionnaires and letters from students reveals an amazing teacher. Vipen’s lectures, which combine overhead transparencies, videos, stories, humorous anecdotes and colourful power point presentations capture the imagination of his students and make biology come alive. Each of Vipen’s lectures is a model of organization and clarity but Vipen’s trademark is his dedication to and enthusiasm for biology, particularly plants. His impact on undergraduate students is captured in the following quotation from a first year student. “Indeed, we all knew that he loved biology and that though his specialty was plants, he too had a favourite animal: the elephant. We also saw that he was quite a dancer, as he tried to show us how the living cell was not static, but rather dynamic. It was this passion for his work that first caught my attention.” And later in the same letter, “ So how has this affected my life as a student? It gave me a new sense of confidence. Dr. Sawhney turned me on to learning and really thinking rather than simply studying to ace an exam”.
Equally important to Vipen’s passion for biology is his compassion for his students. He truly cares for them and wants them to achieve, not only in his biology classes, but in life. A former graduate student wrote: “He always took a personal interest in his students, ensuring newcomers to the city/country were welcomed and comfortable. A central gathering table was a focal part of the laboratory. This provided a relaxed atmosphere and encouraged the interchange between people of different cultural and religious backgrounds, thus providing more than just a scientific education”. A biology colleague put it this way, “Beyond the actual technique of teaching, I believe that Vipen’s attitude toward his students is the major factor contributing to his efforts. He treats them with respect and in every way encourages them to expend their best effort to obtain the maximum benefit from their work. His approach to them is open and friendly and he is always ready to offer help and support to anyone who experiences difficulties.”
Vipen Sawhney is a truly gifted teacher. But perhaps more importantly, he is a fine human being. He is kind and thoughtful, and always strives to improve the lives of those around him.