For Accinno Teaching Award recipient, the journey matters most
Dr. Fred Drogula has many goals for his students. Two apply equally to all of them.
The first is obvious: learn the material presented. The second goal is less tangible: affect how students think.
“Whether it’s history, economics, or marketing, a great education is helping students think critically, to think in ways they haven’t thought before, and to challenge the way they see the world,” said Drogula, an associate professor of history. “When they leave my class, hopefully they learned something about Rome, but, more important, I hope they have learned to think.”
Since he started teaching at Providence College in 2006, Drogula has engaged and inspired hundreds of students — in Development of Western Civilization seminars, in Greek and Latin classes, and in history courses focused on Greece and Rome, ancient warfare, women in the ancient world, and the Spartans.
For his excellence in the classroom, Drogula recently was named the 12th recipient of the Joseph R. Accinno Faculty Teaching Award — presented annually to the faculty member who best exhibits excellence in teaching, passion and enthusiasm for learning, and genuine concern for students’ academic and personal growth.
The award program is administered by the Center for Teaching Excellence and the Teaching Award Selection Committee (TASC). The recipient receives a cash stipend, gives an address at the Academic Awards Ceremony in May, is formally acknowledged at the College's Academic Convocation in September, and has his or her name inscribed on a plaque that is permanently displayed in Phillips Memorial Library.
“It’s a delight to be honored,” he said. “For me, teaching is my first and best love. I just adore it. It’s something I do with great pleasure.”
Drogula, who was promoted to associate professor in 2011, earned a bachelor’s degree in classics from Kenyon College, a master’s degree in classics from Boston University, and a master’s degree and doctorate in history from the University of Virginia.
He is the author of several journal articles and the forthcoming Commanders and Command in the Roman Republic and Early Empire (University of North Carolina Press). Drogula’s areas of expertise include ancient Greece and Rome, ancient warfare, women in the ancient world, ancient Greek and Latin.
Praised for support, enthusiasm
As part of the Accinno Award selection process, nominations are sought from faculty, staff, students, and alumni. In an anonymous nomination letter written by a former student, Drogula was lauded for his dedication to his craft and his students.
The student, who took three courses taught by Drogula, said the first of those courses “realigned the whole focus of my life.”
“I had planned to go to law school and took his class just because I had an interest in Ancient Greece and Rome,” the letter read. “I liked it so much that during the next semester, which I spent abroad in Spain, I spent all my traveling time visiting Roman ruins. I loved it so much that I changed my plans in order to pursue a Ph.D. in the classics … in no small part thanks to that great teacher.”
The transformation that took place in this student is something Drogula said he aims for in all of his students.
“A student is an opportunity,” Drogula explained. “My goal is to show them what I can help them achieve. To those students whom I have managed to hook, I can be a mentor. That is the ideal. That’s the best. They have connected with you as much as you’ve connected with them.”
On the way to forming that connection, Drogula prods his students to grapple with subjects they don’t understand, he asks them to question assumptions, and he makes it fun — introducing students to medieval beer-making techniques, ancient art, and Roman role-playing exercises.
“Some of the best forms of education are when you get two minds together working on a historical problem. It doesn’t matter that it’s a teacher and a student,” he said. “I find it exciting when students make themselves a part of the quest. I always cherished that in my education. It’s an incomparable opportunity.”
— Chris Machado
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