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Volcanologist wins top teaching medal

24 July 2019

Volcanologist Associate Professor Ben Kennedy has won the University of Canterbury’s highest award for tertiary teaching excellence, the UC Teaching Medal.


UC awards Teaching Medal to inspiring volcanologist Associate Professor Ben Kennedy.

Volcanologist Associate Professor Ben Kennedy has won the University of Canterbury’s highest award for tertiary teaching excellence, the UC Teaching Medal.

The UC Teaching Medal is awarded for outstanding and sustained contribution to teaching at the University of Canterbury (UC), and only awarded occasionally.

Assistant Vice-Chancellor Professor Catherine Moran says Associate Professor Kennedy is a charismatic teacher who combines his passion and enthusiasm for his subject with energy and commitment.

“Ben inspires the best possible outcomes for students through reflective teaching that is student-centred, experiential, highly structured, and constantly updated through collaboration with peers,” Professor Moran says.

An expert in Physical Volcanology, Associate Professor Kennedy says his research and teaching are “driven by a love of volcanoes and fuelled by experiments and projects that are fun, exciting and important to society”.

With his research taking him around New Zealand and the world to volcanic hotspots including Chile, Iceland and Hawaii, he’s open about his love of rocks and “working out why volcanoes erupt in various different ways”.

Associate Professor Kennedy has previously won a UC Teaching Award and an Ako Aotearoa National Sustained Tertiary Teaching Excellence award for sustained excellence. Over the last decade, he has developed an outstanding track record of teaching excellence and of effective and wide-ranging teaching leadership at UC and beyond. 

In addition to inspiring students in his undergraduate classes, Associate Professor Kennedy has supervised 21 doctoral (PhD) students, 26 masters students and three honours students.

“I’m proud to watch the graduate students grow into not only excellent researchers, but also excellent teachers,” he says.

UC senior lecturer in Engineering Geology Dr Marlene Villeneuve has worked alongside Associate Professor Kennedy for many years and looks to him as an example of tertiary teaching excellence.

“Ben’s leadership is subtle and he leads by example and enthusiasm. While he encourages me to strive for teaching excellence… his attitude instils in me an intrinsic motivation to continue to learn and develop, innovate and engage,” Dr Villeneuve says.

UC Associate Professor of Academic Development Dr Erik Brogt says Associate Professor Kennedy is an educator who practices what he preaches.

“Ben’s approach [to teaching] is helping bring about a culture change in how teaching is viewed at the University, with benefits to students far beyond the Department of Geological Sciences,” he says.

The 2019 Teaching Medal will be formally awarded to Associate Professor Ben Kennedy at a UC Graduation ceremony in December this year.

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