Emeritus Prof. Jim Crowfoot may have been giving his “ideal last lecture,” but that didn’t mean the audience was exempt from class participation.
More than 400 students, co-workers and friends gathered in Rackham Auditorium yesterday to hear the Golden Apple Award recipient deliver the customary public lecture, meant to exemplify the award’s philosophy – to reward professors who teach each class as if it’s their last.
Crowfoot, who teaches in the School of Natural Resources, titled his lecture “What Students Helped Me Learn: The Threats and Opportunities Facing Human Civilization.”
Two microphones were placed in the aisles so audience members could take part in the latter half of Crowfoot’s talk, which focused on the causes of environmental crises. Ten audience members shared their perspectives.
The discussion represented Crowfoot’s environmental activism and his distinctive teaching philosophy. Crowfoot told the audience last night that he doesn’t believe in “top-down” teaching. Instead, he works to foster a classroom environment in which students are teachers, too.
“One of the reasons I was so nervous about this lecture tonight is, I haven’t lectured in 10 years,” Crowfoot said.
Crowfoot said many teachers today neglect the emotions of their students – a mistake in his eyes, because that passion often fuels the desire to learn.
“Students aren’t learning machines on a stick. They’re alive. They’re in spirit, rich with emotion with passion, rich with discernment, with intuition,” Crowfoot said.
Crowfoot said he strives to give due respect to his students. Throughout the lecture, it was apparent that many of the students considered Crowfoot a friend – each student who spoke during the lecture simply called him “Jim.”
LSA freshman Zack Crawford, a member of Crowfoot’s class last semester, said he was impressed with how Crowfoot seemed to care about every one of his students. He said he and many classmates still receive e-mail messages from Crowfoot.
“He had, out of any professor I’ve ever encountered, the most respect for students,” he said. “You could tell that he always listened.”