Joan Breton Connelly— 2007 Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award

Award Citation:

The Archaeological Institute of America honors Dr. Joan Breton Connelly as the recipient of the 2007 Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award. Connelly is a professor in the Department of Fine Arts at New York University, where she joined the faculty in 1986. She received her B.A. degree in classics from Princeton and her M.A. and Ph.D. in classical and Near Eastern archaeology from Bryn Mawr College. Her teaching success is no secret at NYU, where she held the Lillian Vernon Chair for Teaching Excellence from 2002 to 2004.

Joan Connelly has taught many undergraduate classes, including surveys in archaeology and art history, as well as upper-level courses on a wide range of topics, especially Greek art and issues relating to cultural property and preservation. She is active in NYU’s core curriculum, developing courses that range from “Conversations of the West, Antiquity, and Modernity: Winners and Losers from the Iliad” to “Star Wars.” Dr. Connelly is regarded by her students and colleagues as one of the university’s finest instructors; their testimony portrays her as a challenging and inspiring professor who makes a profound impression on her students. One of them notes that Dr. Connelly is often in her office until late at night, with lines of students waiting to talk with her about their papers or for a “pep talk” if they are slacking. Several comment that she has remained in touch long after graduation and continues as an important mentor.

Professor Connelly’s courses make outstanding use of New York’s great cultural institutions. Students are required to examine objects in museum collections and then research each object’s function and meaning in ancient context. One of the most interesting aspects of Professor Connelly’s pedagogy is her constantly reminding students to apply these learned analytical skills not only to antiquities but also to contemporary artifacts, buildings, and practices. One assignment, for example, calls for students to identify aspects of landscape and site planning at places such as Delphi and Miletos and then compare those with the layout of New York. Another calls for students to compare the visual experience of ancient theatrical spectacle with modern theater. One student was especially struck by a parallel Dr. Connelly drew between the current controversy over the treatment of Ground Zero and the ancient Athenian debate over the reconstruction of the Acropolis in the wake of the Persian sack.

As the director of NYU’s excavations at Yeronisos in Cyprus, Dr. Connelly also involves undergraduates in archaeological fieldwork. One notes that Connelly teaches not only the basics of archaeological fieldwork but also sensitivity to the local ecology of the island, the importance of a long-range conservation plan, and the importance of working closely with Cypriot archaeologists and ministries. Her students have observed and appreciate her emphasis on building a research team and developing international partnerships with other scholars.

Professor Connelly has given very generously of her time to professional organizations and the public. She has lectured widely at many academic institutions and community organizations across the country. She was appointed by the president of the United States to the State Department’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee in recognition of her work in preservation. The “limitless energy” mentioned by one of her colleagues perhaps explains her ability to manage so many tasks in such an exemplary fashion.

In recognition of her outstanding record as an undergraduate teacher, the Archaeological Institute of America is pleased to name Joan Breton Connelly the 2007 recipient of the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award. 


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