APA Virginia Chapter Recognizes Teaching Excellence

This year, APA's Virginia Chapter added a new award category to its roster of chapter awards presented annually during its conference. The APA Virginia Chapter Teaching Award was created to recognize faculty members from the three Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) universities located within the commonwealth. The award also focuses on how superb teaching can serve as the bridge between students and the planning profession.

“We are trying to build the concept of a continuum between first deciding to pursue planning — perhaps in high school — to being an AICP-credentialed professional planner,” said George Homewood, FAICP, APA Virginia Chapter president. “For very nearly every one of us, that path goes through a university planning program where the faculty played a central critical role in helping us decide what kind of planner we wanted to be, how we approach planning, what are our core values as applied to planning and the like. Faculty taught us and inspired us to be what we are. That’s important to us as individuals and even more important to the profession.”

This year’s recipients were:

Professor James Smither, instructor at the Virginia Commonwealth University’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. The nomination stated: “James is engaging and innovative, encouraging students to push the boundaries of planning, and challenges us to plan in unconventional and creative ways. He does an amazing job of getting students excited and passionate about planning as a whole.”

Professor Daphne Spain, PhD, is the James M. Page Professor at the University of Virginia School of Architecture. Her nomination stated: “Professor Spain is a great professor, dedicated to her students, does interesting research, and works hard to engage students with the material and is active in planning outside of just academia; she is also on the Albemarle County Planning Commission.”

Professor Yang Zhang, PhD, is an associate professor of urban affairs and planning at Virginia Tech. His nomination stated: “Dr. Zhang is patient with students but also has a great sense of humor. He treats his students with a lot of respect and listens to our concerns and suggestions. He tailors the class to our interests and always goes the extra mile to find ways to explain the material so we will understand it and so that it is applicable to planning, the real world and our interests.”

The award recipients are chosen by students based on three criteria: teaching, mentoring, and inspiration. The award criterion does not focus on research and publications as the chapter wanted to ensure adjunct faculty were under equal consideration with tenured faculty.

Top image: Virginia Chapter Teaching Award winners: (from left) Diane Zahm, AICP, PhD, accepting for Professor Yang Zhang, PhD; Professor James Smither; and Professor Daphne Spain, PhD.

August 5, 2016