Bina Mehta’s sustained excellence as a professor awarded at convocation

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Photo by Jackie Vang

Each year, Laurier hands out awards to faculty for teaching excellence in multiple categories, and the recipients receive these awards at convocation, which occurred between Oct. 26 and 27 this year.

The awards given for the Donald F. Morgenson Faculty Awards for Teaching Excellence include Early Career Excellence, Sustained Excellence, Innovation in Teaching, Excellence in Interna-tionalization, Faculty Mentoring Award, Hoffman-Little Award and the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) Award for Excellence In Teaching.

This year, one of the recipients for the Sustained Excellence category was Bina Mehta, a part-time faculty member in both North American and global studies. Mehta has been an instructor at Laurier for 13 years and has taught in higher education for 25 years.

“I am extremely, extremely humbled by this recognition. A colleague of mine in global studies nominated me for the award and he kind of had to twist my arm to let my nomination stand. I wasn’t really too keen about it, partly because I just don’t like the attention,” said Bina Mehta, recipient of the Sustained Excellence award.

“It’s just kind of outside my wheelhouse a little bit in terms of that level of attention, but the teaching award I feel very humbled.”

As Mehta is contract faculty, she would typically make less than full-time colleagues, thanks to underfunding by the government. Ontario universities are 34 per cent behind the Canadian average for funding and therefore almost half the teaching done in the province is done by contract staff.

What sets Mehta apart in her excellence is that she values the opportunity for growth and relationships with her students to not only enhance her experience as an instructor, but to make an impact on youth who spend a decent chunk of their life here.

“I have to say that I share it with a lot of part-time faculty who work at Laurier, close to 50 per cent of the teaching done at Ontario universities is done by people who are contract faculty, so the word part-time is a bit of a misnomer,” Mehta said.

“It’s more like contract people who have been working sometimes at two or three universities, so I share this award with them.”

As for Mehta’s work at Wilfrid Laurier, it goes beyond the lecture hall. One of her colleagues, John Abraham, invited her to organize a field course in Kerala, India, where they took 10 students in Global Studies to look at sustainable development in a developing country.

“Kerala is a bit of an anomaly. It’s a state in India that defies all the odds in terms of development; infant mortality is low, literacy rates are high — it’s kind of got all these things that you wouldn’t expect about a developing country like India to have,” Mehta said.

The group went for three weeks, from June 1 to 22. The most rewarding experience of the trip, Mehta said, was the relationships established from it.

“We had an enormous opportunity: ten students, nine women and one international male from Colombia … We stayed in the residence there, so we ate cafeteria food together everyday, three meals a day ,” she said.

What sets Mehta apart in her excellence is that she values the opportunity for growth and relationships with her students to not only enhance her experience as an instructor, but to make an impact on youth who spend a decent chunk of their life here.

“It is the relationship that’s gained from the students; I tell them I like double-doubles so they bring me one or we go out and get them,” said Mehta.

“It’s about learning a little about their lives and my teaching philosophy is if I make myself vulnerable and tell them a little bit about who I am, then they open up also and I think that’s the space in which learning happens.”

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