Pohlmann and Sanders Win Clarence Day Awards for Outstanding Teaching and Research

Dr. Betsy Sanders and Dr. Marcus Pohlmann

Dr. Marcus Pohlmann and Dr. Betsy Sanders are recipients of Rhodes’ faculty honors for outstanding teaching and research, which were presented April 28 at the annual Rhodes College Awards Convocation held on campus.

Pohlmann, a professor in the Department of Political Science, received the Clarence Day Award for Outstanding Teaching. Sanders, an associate professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, received the Clarence Day Award for Outstanding Research and/or Creative Activity. The awards, first given in 1981, were established by businessman and Rhodes alumnus Clarence Day and are provided by the Day Foundation.

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The Clarence Day Award for Outstanding Teaching is given to a member of the faculty who has demonstrated excellence in teaching over the previous three years as determined by the assessments of students and colleagues, the effective use of imaginative and creative pedagogy, and a strong record of motivating students to embrace a life of continuing study.

Since joining Rhodes in 1986, Pohlmann has become a beloved professor who served as chair of the Department of Political Science for 16 years and who coached the college’s highly competitive intercollegiate mock trial team to four national championships.

Nomination letters came from more than 40 colleagues, students, and alumni expressing the powerful impact Pohlmann has had on students in his 31-year career at Rhodes. 

One colleague noted, “His immense wisdom and years of experience in teaching matters of Constitutional law have impressed upon his students a hunger for knowledge, an appreciation for the subject matter, and a passion to continue learning the law outside the gates of the college in law schools and legal practices across the country.”

“Professor Pohlmann has changed the trajectory of my future studies,” wrote a student. “His class has given me more information and context to help me navigate current race relations in America. His class is invaluable.” Other students called him a mentor and a guide. 

An alumnus who went into the legal profession stated, “He taught me to think critically about political, social, and legal issues, to question whether I believed laws were just, and to consider the true meaning and value of my place in the legal profession beyond on-paper academic success.” Finally, regarding the deep impact Pohlmann has had on the lives of so many students, a Rhodes graduate wrote, “As a teacher, Mark helped transform me into the person that I am today. He helped and encouraged me to pursue my passions. He challenged me to think about other perspectives, and he exposed me to thinkers and writers that I had never encountered.”

Pohlmann holds degrees from Columbia University and Cornell College.

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The Clarence Day Award for Outstanding Research and/or Creative Activity is presented to a member of the faculty who has demonstrated that research and/or creative activity is an integral part of his or her vocation and who has published or performed outstanding works over the previous three years that have gained scholarly recognition or critical acclaim.

Since joining the Rhodes faculty in 2007, Sanders has helped to build the computer science program at Rhodes. Her research, involving both computer science and psychology, focuses on understanding the cognitive capabilities of humans in virtual environments and improving the design of these environments. She has worked on issues related to computer graphics, animation, computer tutoring, and learning in immersive virtual environments. 

Sanders is an internationally recognized expert in her field, having presented her research at some of the most selective conferences in the United States, China, and Germany. Besides these conference presentations, she has a remarkable record of peer-reviewed journal publications, panel presentations, and professional appearances. 

In 2014, she was awarded a National Science Foundation Early Career Development award that has provided significant funding for her research ventures. Those who nominated Sanders for the Clarence Day Award also noted her inclusion of students in her conference presentations and as coauthors on her publications.  

One of her faculty colleagues wrote, “I am consistently impressed with the amount of high-quality research she produces, and how she involves undergraduates in seemingly all aspects of it. I have never known her to turn away a student who expresses interest in working with her. She runs a graduate-style research lab with only undergraduates, and many of them become coauthors of her papers.”

Students also commented about Sanders’ successful merging of her scholarship with her roles as a professor and mentor. One person wrote, “Prof. Sanders is the quintessential liberal arts professor. She cares for her students, involves them in her research, and is invested in their growth.” Another student wrote, “She has inspired me to be passionate about my work. Not only does she have great ideas to explore, but she also looks to students for their input. She encourages and facilitates learning within her respective field and has become a great mentor to me and many other students.” 

Sanders holds degrees from Millsaps College and Vanderbilt University.