UTM professor ranks top ten in the country


On February 8, it was announced that UTM Biology Professor Monika Havelka became a finalist in TVO’s Best Lecturer Competition. Out of the initial 300 nominees from universities all over Canada, Havelka is one of ten university professors in the running to win the title of Best Lecturer. In five consecutive years of TVO’s Best Lecturer competition, this year is the largest competition thus far.

The ten finalists were chosen by a jury made up of teachers, trainers, television producers and three hosts: Linda Armstrong, journalist Jesse Brown and journalist-poet Clifton Joseph. The finalists were judged based on their ability to present ideas in an entertaining and energetic way while remaining authoritative and cohesive.

Ten different universities are represented among the top ten finalists: Laurentian University at Georgian College, Queen’s University, Ryerson University, the University of Toronto (two contenders), the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, the University of Ottawa and York University.

Havelka, a member of the UTM faculty since 2003, has an MSc and PhD in Zoology from the University of Western Ontario, where she studied the evolution of life history patterns in small mammals. Apart from teaching biology, Havelka has also taught courses in evolutionary biology, comparative psychology, biostatistics, ecology, organismal diversity, landscape ecology, mammalian biology and environmental science.

“I am a big advocate of experiential learning—my favourite place to conduct a lecture is on the tundra in Churchill MB or in a deciduous forest on the Oak Ridges Moraine. I am lucky to have a great husband and kids who share my passion for the natural world. When not in the field or in the classroom, I can usually be found on the back of my horse,” said Professor Havelka.

Many UTM students hold her in high regard. “She is a fantastic and enthusiastic speaker,” said Patrick Redegeld, a third-year UTM student. “Her passion for her subject matter shows in her teaching style.”

“[Havelka is] one of the most engaging personalities on the UTM campus,” said another third-year, Ekaterina Kosyachkova. “Her fun, yet comprehensive approach to biology has inspired me to pursue a biology major.”

Professor Havelka will give a lecture airing on TVO’s Big Ideas on March 28, with other finalists presenting their lectures on different days. Viewers will be able to vote on their favourite lecturer online at tvo.org or by calling toll-free at 1-866-792-VOTE (8683). Polls close on April 11, and the winner will be chosen on April 17. Along with winning several great prizes and the title of TVO’s Best Lecturer 2010, the winner’s university will also receive a $10,000 TD Insurance Meloche Monnex scholarship.