Bloustein School News

Briavel Holcomb Awarded AAG Distinguished Teaching Honors

Briavel HolcombBriavel Holcomb, a professor of geography and planning at the Bloustein School, is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Honors award from the Association of American Geographers for 2012.

AAG Honors are the highest awards offered by the Association of American Geographers. They are offered annually to recognize outstanding accomplishments by members in research & scholarship, teaching, education, service to the discipline, public service outside academe and for lifetime achievement. No more than six individuals may be awarded AAG Honors in a single year; normally one award in each category is made annually. Dr. Holcomb was nominated by professor Robert Lake with letters of support from several of her students.

The award will be presented at the AAG annual meeting awards luncheon in New York City on February 28, 2012. The citation that accompanies Dr. Holcomb's award is as follows:


Briavel Holcomb, Professor of Geography and Planning in the Bloustein School of Rutgers University, has been an inspiring teacher and advisor throughout her career. Through her engagement and creativity, she models what pedagogic excellence amounts to. Enthusiastic about bringing geography to the world, she has gone beyond teaching at every level of the university, leaving the Ivory Tower to work with the Geography Alliance, instruct geography through newspaper articles, and engage in adult education in places near and far—drawing in people from around the world.

In the classroom, Professor Holcomb is renowned across Rutgers University for her Socratic teaching style: throwing questions out to students, fielding them, questioning them. Her classes are dynamic and open; students feel welcome, and liberated to participate, question and suggest. Her skill at combining this time-honored philosophy with the latest pedagogic development—experimenting with visual media, online materials, active pedagogy—makes her classrooms, large and small, venues of excited, hand-on learning where students soon find themselves questioning their own presuppositions. Her subtle and heart-felt interpersonal skills draw students in. She can make every student feel welcome, creating a congenial social atmosphere where challenging questions can be posed while remaining open to a breadth of perspectives. Her evaluations are stellar and enthusiastic. She extends classroom learning into the field, through her widely anticipated walking tours of New Brunswick. A tireless advocate of better teaching and betters student performance, she is described as the best instructor in the Bloustein School for over a decade, to whom experienced faculty also come for teaching advice.

Professor Holcomb willingly extends her interactions with students beyond classroom interactions, and also is popular and deeply respected as a graduate advisor. She not only is sensitive to each student's particular backgrounds and needs, adjusting her approach to the circumstances, but also goes out of her way to support students from diverse backgrounds. Women and international students praise her sensitivity to the particular challenges they face in graduate school, making doctoral study more humane and accessible. Drawing students from multiple disciplines and many corners of the earth, she has quietly and determinedly contributed to the expansion of our discipline.

In recognition of her legendary teaching skills, her commitment to a diverse, open and welcoming classroom, her dedication to inducing an appreciate for Geography in the broadest possible audiences, and her support of women and international students, we are pleased to confer upon Briavel Holcomb the 2012 AAG Distinguished Teaching Honors.



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