One University of Colorado professor's computer science classes inspire origami and other see-and-touch mathematics. Another has spent the past 20 years teaching in prisons and jails. And a CU political science student helps organize an annual bicycle ride to raise money for women in the developing world.
Those diverse pursuits led to the three men being named winners of the 2010 Thomas Jefferson Award:
Michael Eisenberg, Ph.D., professor of computer science at CU-Boulder; Stephen Hartnett, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the communication department in the UC Denver College of Liberal Arts; and Eamon Aloyo, a doctoral candidate in the CU-Boulder political science department.
The award is among the highest conferred at CU, and recognizes a professor, staff member or student who helps advance the ideals of Thomas Jefferson, the nation's third president and a Founding Father acclaimed for his broad interests in the arts, sciences, education and public affairs. CU has been recognizing members of the university community with the award since 1962.
Winners receive an engraved plaque and a $2,000 cash honorarium, and will be recognized by the CU Board of Regents at an April board meeting. Funding for the awards stems from earnings on an endowment provided by the McConnell Foundation and from a bequest by CU alumnus Harrison Blair.
Thomas Jefferson nominees must demonstrate a broad interest in literature, arts and sciences and public affairs, a strong concern for the advancement of higher education, a deeply seated sense of individual civic responsibility, and a profound commitment to the welfare and rights of the individual. Their efforts must combine excellence in the performance of regular academic or work responsibilities with outstanding service to the broader community.
Members of the selection committee included CU alumni, students, faculty and staff members from across the CU system.
Eisenberg, also a CU President's Teaching Scholar, earned his master's and doctoral degrees in computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has won widespread recognition as a scholar, with awards that include the Charles Hutchinson Teaching Award from the CU-Boulder School of Engineering and the Boulder Faculty Assembly Excellence in Teaching Award.
Besides distinguishing himself in the classroom, Eisenberg is a playwright and songwriter who inspires his students to incorporate art into learning, and shares his passion for computer science and math with K-12 students through CU-Boulder's renowned Science Discovery Class Program.
"Mike is one of our best-loved teachers, even though he insists on deep thinking and hard work," wrote computer science Professor Elizabeth Bradley in her nomination letter. "And Mike's teaching extends well beyond the university classroom. His Ph.D. students do wonderfully creative work and move on to build their own research programs in some of the very best universities in the world."
Hartnett is a prolific and nationally recognized scholar and writer who teaches Thomas Jefferson's texts and speaks publicly about the U.S. president's legacy. He participated in a convincing re-enactment of the 1858 senatorial debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas at UC Denver in 2008, earning him local and international recognition. Hartnett has received many other accolades for his academic and community work, including the Northwestern Communication Association's 2008 Human Rights Award.
His books include the forthcoming "Executing Democracy, Volume One: Capital Punishment and the Making of America" and 2002's "Sweet Freedom's Song: 'My Country 'Tis of Thee' and Democracy in America." Hartnett also has earned a national reputation as a fervent opponent of the nation's prison system and an experienced and successful prison educator.
"Hartnett thus embodies the Jeffersonian ideals of the public man of letters committed to enhancing the norms of democratic deliberation," wrote Daniel J. Howard, Ph.D., dean of the UC Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in a nomination letter. "Dr. Hartnett is a scholar who strives to embody the democratic ideals, intellectual daring, and artistic creativity that we have come to know and love as the legacy of Thomas Jefferson."
Aloyo is a doctoral candidate in the CU-Boulder political science department who is studying international development and political theory. He also works as a teaching assistant and hopes to become a college professor after he earns his degree. As part of his efforts to broaden his experience of other cultures, he has studied in Spain, Italy and Argentina, and has been involved with humanitarian efforts in the United States and abroad. He has helped organize bicycle fundraisers, including a cross-country event to help alleviate poverty in developing nations.
"I have seldom encountered a graduate student with such a strong social conscience and burning desire to be of help to others," wrote David Mapel, CU-Boulder political science professor, in his nomination letter. "Eamon is determined to use his graduate training to be of practical use in the world."