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Marcey Waters

Board of Governors’ Award for Excellence in Teaching Winner

Marcey Waters (Jon Gardiner/ UNC-Chapel Hill)
Marcey Waters (Jon Gardiner/ UNC-Chapel Hill)

Board of Governors’ Award for Excellence in Teaching: Established by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors in 1993 to underscore the importance of teaching and to reward good teaching across the UNC System, the awards are given annually to a tenured faculty member from each UNC System institution.

Glen H. Elder Jr. Distinguished Professor of Chemistry

Faculty member since 1999

Hometown Camarillo, California

Excerpt from award citation:

“She is continuously interacting with students and groups, providing the personalized hints and daily encouragement that each needs. Many students comment on how Waters makes the course content relevant to their daily lives.”

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

The most impactful was Professor Charles Perrin, who I had for intro organic chemistry at the University of California, San Diego, as I wasn’t a chemistry major until I was inspired by his class.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

So, so many things! Most of all I’ve learned how to be an effective teacher from my students. They always challenge me to think about things differently.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

Good question — maybe that I’m actually an introvert who used to have pretty serious anxiety about getting up in front of a class, and it still exhausts me.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2020?

I’m not so sure it’s different in 2020 versus 1999. But in general, these are my thoughts: First, don’t assume — don’t assume that they think like you do, study like you do, learn like you do, or that they will be inherently interested in the material or understand its relevance like you do. Second, you need to care about all of your students to be a good professor; and third, always strive to improve.

What’s the most creative thing you’ve done to engage your students?

I’m not sure that there is any one thing that is unique to me. I try to connect chemistry to the world around them in every class. As an example, when the problem with pollution of the Cape Fear River basin with fluorinated compounds such as GenX was in the news daily, I spent half a class discussing the problem with them. I then explained how I applied knowledge I had about a seemingly unrelated biomedical problem that my group works on to come up with a strategy to develop a chemical sensor for GenX. I did this by explaining it in terms of concepts that they had learned in several classes and connecting it all together.

25 employees received University Teaching Awards this year.