Richmond – Dr. James O’Brien, who has taught psychology at Tidewater Community College for 35 years, will be named the inaugural recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence. O’Brien will be formally presented with the award at next week’s Annual Meeting for Virginia’s Community Colleges in Portsmouth. The award includes a medallion and a check for $5,000.
“The importance of this award cannot be overstated,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “Dr. O’Brien’s career at Tidewater Community College – from the way he’s impacted the lives of his students to the impact of his research challenging a classic study – defines excellence and demonstrates what we are striving to be throughout our community colleges.”
O’Brien, who began teaching at TCC before the creation of the space shuttle program and the introduction of the first hand-held scientific calculators, has spent his career emphasizing learning by doing. Every student under his instruction participates in research. More than 100 students have co-authored 40 papers, with nearly a dozen of them being recognized by authorities like the Virginia Academy of Science as outstanding.
"TCC is more than proud to claim Jim O'Brien as an outstanding example of faculty excellence," says Dr. Deborah M. DiCroce, president of Tidewater Community College. "His professionalism and class involvement in scientific research give our students exemplary preparation for baccalaureate transfer. I dare say that Jim has helped guide more than a few individuals to new education and career paths."
Former students praise O’Brien for his “devotion to providing the best education possible,” for being “an innovative leader in reaching out to students,” and for offering what one student calls “the most challenging and rewarding times of my life.”
Working with his students through the years, O’Brien has been continuously involved in research on Asch experiments. The original Asch experiment in 1953 suggested that the pressure of conformity could lead people to support a popular answer instead of the right answer, when asked in a group environment. “If [O’Brien and his students] are successful, and it looks as if they will be from preliminary data, the will accomplish two important goals,” wrote Dr. Rita Frank, president of the Virginia Academy of Academic Psychologists. “First, they will force a reevaluation of a classic study. Second, they will show how gender, type of institution in which testing takes place, sex of the experimenter, and experimenter status affects stimulus clarity.”
O’Brien’s experiments have been published in numerous academic journals. He has lectured at institutions throughout the region and in Europe. And he has won a number of teaching awards, including the Phi Theta Kappa Outstanding Teacher.
O’Brien was elected a fellow of the Virginia Academy of Science and was appointed by Governor Tim Kaine to the Board of Trustees of the Science Museum of Virginia. He has also served on a number of TCC campus committees and in several community service organizations.
The Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence was created earlier this year to recognize excellence in teaching at Virginia’s Community Colleges. Nominations for the award are considered by a panel and judged on four criteria: instructional effectiveness, student focus, discipline competence and personal attributes. To learn more about the award and its selection process, please visit our website at myfuture.vccs.edu.
About Virginia’s Community Colleges: Created more than 40 years ago, the VCCS is comprised of 23 community colleges located on 40 campuses across the commonwealth. Together, Virginia’s Community Colleges serve more than a quarter-million credit students each year. For more information, please visit myfuture.vccs.edu .
For immediate release : November 7, 2007
For more information, contact:
Assistant Vice Chancellor for Public Relations
Virginia’s Community Colleges