Professor Eli Burrell, left, with Dr. Sunder Balasubramanian, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. (Photo courtesy Eli Burrell)
By Devyn Sigars/Clarion News
LINCOLN UNIVERSITY – An LU English professor was recently recognized for being one of the state’s best teachers in higher education. The Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching is presented annually to one faculty member from each higher education institution in Missouri.
On March 15, 2023, Professor Eli Burrell was honored with the award for “effective teaching, effective advising, service to the university community, commitment to high standards of excellence, and success in nurturing student achievement.”
The Clarion asked Professor Burrell a few questions about the award.
The Clarion: You graduated from Lincoln. How does it feel to teach here and to be recognized for excellence in teaching?
Burrell: My mother also graduated from Lincoln, so I’m a legacy student. Because of that, I’ve always felt connected to LU. During my time as a student at the university, I learned from many talented and dedicated professors. Although that time was years ago, some of those same professors are still here teaching students. Now they are my peers. I’m still learning from many of them. Instead of learning how to solve an equation or write an effective thesis sentence, I witness how they interact with students and one another. That’s the truth of it. You never stop learning. It means so much to be recognized for excellence of any type. Still, it’s incredibly gratifying to receive this award for teaching in the very place I once was—and in many ways still am—a learner.
The Clarion: What are your favorite classes to teach and why?
Burrell: I cherish time spent with English majors and minors. Those upper-level courses are challenging and rewarding; students continually amaze me with their creativity. Everyone has a story to tell, and they must figure out how to tell it. Everyone can relate to and learn from excellent writing from the past—and the present—they have to find the writing that speaks to them. I enjoy meeting students every semester in ENG 102: Advanced Composition & Rhetoric who learn to write compelling arguments and do research. It’s satisfying to see them find their way into what they read in the course (whether it’s someone like James Baldwin, Yusef Komunyakaa, Kendrick Lamar, or W.B. Yeats), then apply it to their own writing. It’s deeply fulfilling for me—and, more importantly, for them—when they see themselves in others’ writing and realize they’re never really alone in the world.
Clarion: What makes a good student, and how can students excel in your classes?
Burrell: A good student is a good communicator. That means keeping an open dialogue with and getting to know their professors. A good student is a student who’s willing to engage and grow by reading the materials. A good student is a curious student. A good student sees those that have come before them and been successful and wonders, “Why not me?”