Professor Alford Young, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in Sociology and the Department for Afroamerican and African Studies (DAAS), discusses strategies for helping students develop the complex thinking skills central to learning in the social sciences. Using a variety of course materials and teaching strategies, Professor Young helps students develop their ability to ask good questions, examine their own assumptions, analyze course materials and social structures, and construct well-supported arguments.



Thad Polk, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Psychology, offers practical advice for promoting student engagement in a large gateway courses. He also discusses research findings on student learning that have led him to adopt these innovative teaching strategies.



The U-M Regents have announced six new recipients of the Arthur F. Thurnau Professorships. CRLT congratulates these outstanding teachers on this recognition of their remarkable contributions to undergraduate education here at Michigan. The new Thurnau Professors are:

  • Melissa Gross, Kinesiology and Art & Design
  • Alejandro Herrero-Olaizola, Romance Languages and Literatures
  • Anne McNeil, Chemistry
  • Jamie Phillips, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • Meg Sweeney, English, Afroamerican and African Studies, and Women's Studies
  • Michael Thouless, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering

portraits of the six 2014 Thurnau professors

More information about each new Thurnau Professor can be found in this University Record article. You can also learn about some of their outstanding teaching on the CRLT website. For instance, we feature Melissa Gross's innovative use of online collaboration tools here and Anne McNeil's Wikipedia project here. Congratulations to all of these teachers for this well-deserved honor!


CRLT congratulates the six U-M faculty members recently honored by the Regents with Arthur F. Thurnau professorships. The awards recognize the following outstanding teachers for their remarkable contributions to undergraduate education here at Michigan:

  • Samuel D. Epstein, Linguistics
  • Martha S. Jones, History and Afroamerican and African Studies
  • Fritz Kaenzig, Music
  • Janie Paul, Art
  • Volker Sick, Mechanical Engineering
  • L. Monique Ward, Psychology

portraits of the six 2013 Thurnau professors

More information about each new Thurnau Professor can be found in this University Record article. We look forward to spotlighting their innovative teaching here on our blog in the coming months. More information about the Thurnau Professorships can be found at this link


When a professor receives a standing ovation from his students at the semester's end, he must be doing something right. And something rare as well: in the words of one student of Thurnau Professor of History Brian Porter-Szűcs, “the much deserved standing ovation was something I have never seen before or since.”

Porter-Szűcs certainly doesn’t win his students’ acclaim by taking on obviously popular topics. His courses on the history of Poland and the development of the Catholic Church, for instance, focus on subject matter about which many students report having had no prior interest or knowledge. And his courses often treat grim and difficult themes such as the effects of war and the moral complexities of major European social struggles.

Brian Porter-Szűcs But as both students and colleagues report, Porter-Szűcs is beloved for his remarkable commitment to taking undergraduates seriously as intellectual interlocutors and key members of the History department’s academic community. In his undergraduate classes, he engages students as fellow thinkers by giving them primary documents along with a range of historical interpretations—often arguments with which he fundamentally disagrees—and asking them to come to their own conclusions. He uses class blogs to facilitate their interactions with one another’s analyses. And he inspires students to pursue their intellectual passions beyond the bounds of the classroom. Under his guidance as the department's first Director of Undergraduate Studies, the once-moribund History Club has grown into a vibrant intellectual community for undergraduate concentrators. And under his mentorship, a steady stream of students have proceeded to post-graduate study, many of whom who say they would never had thought of themselves as scholars before taking one of his courses. In short, students stand up and applaud Porter-Szűcs not because he entertains them but because he respects them as thinkers.

They do also admit, though, that he is an extraordinarily engaging speaker. Read more »