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Engineering prof. recipient of 2002 Gold Apple Award

Daily Staff Reporter
Published December 12, 2001

When seven people showed up at Engineering Prof. Elliot Soloway"s house yesterday afternoon holding cameras and an envelope with his name on it, Soloway might have thought he won the Publisher"s Clearing House sweepstakes. But instead he was informed that he had been selected as this year"s Golden Apple Award winner.

Paul Wong
University Engineering Prof. Elliot Soloway is surprised at his home yesterday by Engineering senior Brian Netter with the news that he is the 2002 recipient of the Golden Apple Award as Stephanie Ballantyne from Hillel looks on.<br><br>EMMA FOSDICK/Daily

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"This is wonderful!" shouted Soloway when he was told had won. "I think the students are great and for years I have been doing this stuff and my colleagues think I am crazy."

Traditionally, Golden Apple Award winners are notified during one of their classes. But yesterday when the award committee went to present the award to Soloway, they found his class had been canceled, so they traveled to his home near North Campus and surprised him with the award.

Soloway, who specializes in the use of technology in classrooms, is best known by his students for his neon pink syllabi, energetic lectures and his physical resemblance to Jerry Garcia.

"When I walked into the first day of software engineering class, I was a little nervous, and a little excited," wrote one student in a nomination of Soloway for the award. "Suddenly, a whirlwind of energy burst through the classroom door, a laptop under an arm, a giant stack of pink papers under the other and a bagel in his mouth."

Soloway said he strives to make a connection with his students by teaching them about life and themselves.

"Teaching isn"t education. Why I won, I think, is because students enjoy my classes and learn about themselves in my classes," he said.

Although Soloway is a professor of electrical engineering and computer science, he said his courses are not just about learning computers but also how computers affect his students" lives.

"It"s an opportunity to think of how they fit into the world of computers," Soloway said. "It"s trying to figure out how what Microsoft does relates to their life."

Students of Soloway who sent in nominations agreed with his philosophy on teaching and said they were inspired by him.

"By treating his students as human beings instead of as worker bees, he fosters well rounded, thinking individuals instead of coding-drones. It takes a very special kind of person who can support you while on the path of learning who you are and teach you the skills you will need to interact with people throughout your life," wrote another student in a nomination.

About 520 students nominated various professors for the Golden Apple Award and about 15 of those nominations were for Soloway, said Engineering junior, Brian Netter.

But the group of students that nominates the winner, Students Honoring Outstanding University Teachers, does not only consider the number of nominations but also the quality of the comments professors receive.

"From engineers naming a professor, that is quite a few," Netter said. "What struck me most was how inspired the students were to challenge themselves."

In honor of winning the Golden Apple Award, Soloway will give his "ideal last lecture" Jan. 22 at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater and be awarded $1,000 cash.

When Soloway was informed that he would get to give the lecture, he jokingly protested, "But I don"t lecture."