Up With Debbie
the American Dream
the proverbial lightbulb going off over students' heads
may be the most talked about reason for teaching, it's
the goose bumps that are the real thrill, according to Juliet
Getty, one of UNT's most respected professors.
Others say it's simply the joy of sharing their own passions.
But whatever their reasons, the fact is, many of UNT's professors
are talented teachers.
In order to recognize those talents, the students
of North Texas select one professor each year whose dedication surpasses
the norm and achieves the sublime.
It's a tradition that started in 1958, when the United Students
of North Texas (later the Student Government Association) declared
the first 'Fessor Graham Day to honor Floyd Graham, music professor
at North Texas for 47 years and director of the Aces of Collegeland
stage band and Saturday Night Stage Shows for 34 years.
The 2003 recipient of the 'Fessor Graham Award — Richard
Tas, professor of merchandising and hospitality management — says
if there's any award that a professor would want, it's
"The fact that it's student initiated means so much," he
says. "It was such a privilege to be recognized by the students
for teaching and instruction."
Because the exchange of knowledge between
students and professors is the very core of the university, we went
into the classrooms of three past recipients.
What we found — the enthusiasm, the energy, the fun — made
it clear why they are award winners.
Associate professor of merchandising
and hospitality management
Teaching at UNT since 1986
Class attended: Principles of Nutrition
and hemorrhoids to the differences between movie theater butter
and real butter, Juliet Getty will discuss anything to get her
"My goal is to arm you with information so you can
make informed choices … to try to help keep you healthy," she
tells the more than 300 students in this fall's 9:30 a.m. audience.
During the 90-minute class, which she also presents at
8 a.m. each Tuesday and Thursday, the students vacillate between
being serious about the science behind complex carbohydrates and
being overcome with laughter as the
realities of our bodies' digestive systems are discussed.
"What did your mothers tell you about swallowing a
piece of gum?" Getty asks.
"It'll take seven years to digest," the class responds.
"Where do they get this stuff? Every year I ask that question, and
every year I get ‘seven years.' Gum — like any
other insoluble substance — comes out of your body just the
way it went in. Corn for instance. Anyone eat corn? …"
The students love it. They say so to each other during the lecture.
They say so on the message boards that accompany the online course
work. And they take notes. Ask questions. Are truly interested.
And for Getty, that is the joy of teaching.
"Teaching energizes me," she says. "I love being in
the classroom with students.
"I have fun with it and so do they. And if you're having fun,
you learn," she says. "Most people do well in subjects
they enjoy, so the idea is to make the subject enjoyable."
Because nutrition is an academically rigorous subject that uses
both chemistry and biology as its basis, Getty says it's
important to tie the science to reality.
And she says the real thrill is watching her students use what
"When they start taking what they learn in class and applying it
to their daily lives, you can't ask for better than that.
You really can't. It's just — well, it makes
all your hard work worthwhile."
Regents Professor of finance,
insurance, real estate and law
Teaching at UNT since 1981
Class attended: Finance
Corporate finance. It's difficult, dry, boring.
These common assumptions about the class he teaches are exactly
why P.R. Chandy has spent the last 22 years at UNT dazzling students
with the relevance, importance
and fun that the world of finance holds.
"I believe everyone at the university should take this class. It's
that important," he says.
But precisely because responsible money management
is serious business, Chandy knows it's learned best when
it becomes fun and relevant.
That's why he will wander into class on occasion with
a mouth full of fake teeth or sporting a baseball cap with
a ponytail wig. It's why he tells jokes and shares stories.
"I just want them to relax — especially on exam day. I try
to give them a laugh and help them not be so serious," he
It's also why, even though the class focuses on corporate
finance, Chandy often incorporates individual financial decisions
as examples. He discusses the ins and outs of
buying a house or a car as well as credit card issues and retirement
And while the students' goal may simply be to earn a high
enough grade to move on in their studies, Chandy is interested
in making sure they understand the importance that money plays
in their lives.
"Finance can be a tough subject. But this business of money affects
everything. It's everywhere, and we all have to deal with
it," he says.
"So I try to teach it in a way that will help my students with the
choices in their lives."
The thank yous that come his way — after each class and years
later — let him know he succeeds.
Professor of music
Teaching at UNT since 1989
Class attended: Jazz Guitar Fundamentals
of jazz is spoken with guitar strings in Fred Hamilton's
jazz guitar fundamentals class.
Even though he teaches and guides by description, it is when he
plays, and the class's aspiring musicians play with him,
that the learning occurs.
"In swing, the second eighth note has to fall later— be-bop. You hear that?" he asks.
The group nods.
"It's impossible to define swing; you can only get it by
listening and playing. You have to feel it in your body. Let's
And they do.
For one hour every Monday through Thursday, Hamilton plugs in his
guitar and leads the students through the basic languages of jazz,
blues and swing.
The students play acoustically as a group.
Their faces are clear pictures of concentration and joy.
Each one brings a different amount of experience and
talent to the class. It's Hamilton's job to ensure
that the non-major guitarist receives as much guidance and help
virtuoso who performs with the bands in the jazz program.
In addition to the fundamentals class, Hamilton teaches improvisation
to jazz majors and a rhythm section master class, and he also directs
"My role is as much coach for the really talented students — who
simply need to hone their skills — as it is instructor for
the rank beginners," he says.
"But no matter what level they're at, they play because they
love the sound."
It's the same reason Hamilton plays. And teaches.
"If you love the sound of something, then you want to make each
sound that you play as pleasing and meaningful
as possible," he says. "When I teach I simply share
what I've learned from playing."
The trick, he says, is to nurture that love of sound and instruct
without doing anything to stop the aspiration.
"There's no diminish there," he tells the class. "Let's
do it again."