Robert Boyd awarded Gerald and Emily Leischuck Endowed Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching

Published: March 07, 2017
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The one thing biology Professor Robert Boyd hopes his students gain from their time in his class is a cure for their plant blindness.

“Many students walk throughout the world filled with plants and they don’t recognize them. They see them as the green stage on which life is played. They are plant blind,” Boyd said. “I try to remove the plant blindness and get them excited or engaged with the idea that there is this whole aspect of the world they may not know.”

Boyd, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, recently received the Gerald and Emily Leischuck Endowed Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching in recognition from students and faculty for his lively classroom lectures and his passion for investing in his students.

Currently, his teaching focuses on upper division and graduate courses in conservation biology and plant ecology. However, Boyd has taught a variety of courses ranging from freshman introductory biology to graduate-level classes.
Coined by his students as being “an animated man, bouncing around the classroom at 8 a.m., talking about his friends, the plants,” Boyd has spread his love of education and science to his students for more than 28 years.

“I think you have to have a passion and enthusiasm for what you do. You have to really care about helping the students see why something is important, and get them engaged so they see the excitement in something like plants,” Boyd said.

Although his biology curriculum is extensive, Boyd strives to ensure his students understand the material and do not fall behind throughout the semester.

“I often figure out if they understand what I’m saying when I give them a group exercise or exam,” Boyd said. “One temptation I have is to focus on covering all the material because I want to give everyone their money’s worth. However, sometimes I hit the brakes and go back to a topic to make sure they are learning the material.”

Boyd also puts a strong emphasis on writing skills and requires his students to be both proficient in written and oral communication.

“Everybody communicates in some form of writing,” Boyd said. “The best way to be a strong writer is to be forced to write and get feedback from someone who pays attention to your writing. I look at the big picture of how things are organized, while also looking at the small details of grammar, because being a strong communicator is extremely important in all walks of life.”

Beyond his work in the classroom, he has published over 100 journal articles and book chapters, has been a guest editor for special issues of three scientific journals and has served on the editorial boards of three additional scientific journals.

Boyd credits his family members and colleagues in the Department of Biological Sciences as key mentors who contribute to his ever-growing excitement for knowledge.

“I am very honored, humbled and grateful to all of the people involved in the nomination process,” Boyd said. “Now that I’ve been here for 28 years I can look back upon a lot of people that I’ve interacted with as students as well as faculty and colleagues here, and I am just very excited that they would think enough of me to support my nomination.”