Jodi Magness— 2008 Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award

Award Citation:

The Archaeological Institute of America is pleased to recognize Dr. Jodi Magness as the recipient of the 2008 Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award. Professor Magness, who is now the Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, received a B.A. in archaeology and history from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a Ph.D. in classical archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania. Before joining the faculty of the University of North Carolina in 2003, Dr. Magness spent 10 years at Tufts University as a professor of classical and Near Eastern archaeology, and she was a visiting professor at a number of institutions. Throughout her career, Jodi Magness has successfully conveyed her knowledge and passion for archaeology to undergraduates: a recent headline from the University of North Carolina’s student newspaper states simply, “Students Enraptured by Magness’ Teaching Style” (The Daily Tar Heel, 11 April 2007). This appears to encapsulate students’ thoughts wherever she has been.

Dr. Magness is uniformly praised by both students and colleagues as an enthusiastic, clear, and thoughtful teacher. A former student traces his decision to pursue a career in archaeology to a course he took from her as a freshman eight years ago, an experience he still regards as the most enthralling class he has ever taken. A colleague reports that Professor Magness has the knack of engaging everyone, even in large classes: the room, he claims, seems to vibrate with energy when she starts to speak. Over the years, Dr. Magness has taught a wide range of undergraduate courses, including Introductory Classical Archaeology, Archaeology of Palestine, Aegean Archaeology, Introduction to Early Judaism, New Testament Archaeology, and many others. Her colleagues note that whatever the class, students come away with heightened interest and a desire to learn more.

Jodi Magness is an active field archaeologist who has worked for many projects in Israel and is currently codirector of the excavations at Yotvata. Her research interests are varied; her publications embrace architecture, ceramics, gender studies, and ancient Jewish religious practice. She brings fieldwork into the classroom in various ways: one assignment in an introductory class requires that students read an excavation report and attempt to explain the finds—but without the benefit of the excavator’s conclusions. Another assignment asks students to weigh conflicting judgments made by experts concerning a problematic building and to evaluate how they employ evidence and arguments to reach their conclusions. Professor Magness’ assignments demonstrate her respect for students’ intelligence and that she seeks to challenge and intrigue them with the difficulties and ambiguities of real archaeology.

Professor Magness’ contributions to professional organizations and the public have also been outstanding. She has served on the board of the AIA, the American Schools of Oriental Research, the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, and the Southeast Conference for the Study of Religion. She has also been on the managing committee of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. She has not restricted her teaching to the university classroom: as a guest speaker for learned societies, religious congregations, and educational television, she has been in such demand that it is difficult to determine when she finds time to eat and sleep. A colleague at the North Carolina Center for Jewish Studies states that she is the program’s most sought-after lecturer in the state and that once audiences have seen her, they are hooked and ask for her again.

In recognition of her exemplary performance and dedication as an undergraduate teacher, the Archaeological Institute of America names Dr. Jodi Magness the 2008 recipient of the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award.

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