Williams and Morris Earn Excellence in Teaching Awards for 2014

Dr. Eric J. Williams , Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies

Dr. Eric J. Williams, Chair of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies, strives to use the law as a way to give his students a deeper understanding of our political system and their own critical thinking skills. He also hopes to inspire a passion for the topics he teaches in constitutional law, civil liberties and punishment and corrections.

His writings on prisons and rural communities have appeared in academic journals and newspapers nation-wide, including the L.A. Times and Boston Globe. His book The Big House in a Small Town was published in 2011 He has taken hundreds of SSU students on tours of prisons all over California so that they can actually see what they have studied about in his class.

Professor Williams also has an interest in teaching those who are already in the field. He has given guest lectures on various topics relating to prisons and prison management across the country. He also developed and facilitates training programs that teach critical thinking and decision making to senior level criminal justice leaders.

Born and raised in Bangor, Maine, he received his B.A. in Government and American Studies from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA in 1994. After working in Maine and New Hampshire for a few years, Professor Williams went back to school and received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Rutgers University in 2008.

Dr. Jerry Morris, Mathematics

In the eighth grade, Jerry Morris discovered that he had a passion for teaching when he taught algebra to an anxious and reluctant student – his grandmother.

Dr. Morris joined the mathematics faculty at Sonoma State University in 2002 and now spends much of his time in the math lab where he helps students become capable, confident problem solvers who can successfully use resources and work together productively with others. Working with students one-on-one or in small groups, he models the mathematical habits of mind that are so critical for succeeding in the field.

Much of Dr. Morris’ scholarly work involves creating innovative learning materials that challenge students without overwhelming them. By posing challenging and interesting questions for discussion, he encourages students to extend some of the relevant tools and concepts independently or in groups. His goal is to motivate students to learn and explore mathematics on their own and to get excited about learning in general.

Dr. Morris received his B.S. in Mathematics at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and continued his graduate studies at Colorado State University where he earned a masters degree and his Ph.D. in analysis, the field of mathematics that serves as the basis for calculus. As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Arizona, he became a member of the Harvard Calculus Consortium, a group of mathematicians and mathematics educators who think deeply about the teaching of undergraduate mathematics.

Background on EITA

SSU's Excellence in Teaching Award was first presented in 1997, with generous contributions of the Sarlo Foundation and Wayne Rollins. The monetary gift to the awardee is currently funded by the Sarlo Foundation that was established by George Sarlo and his wife Sejong in 1992 as a supporting foundation of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties.

Each year nominations are sought from students, faculty, staff and administrators to acknowledge faculty who exemplify excellence in teaching in the following areas:

  • quality of instruction
  • creation of an academic environment that successfully encourages high intellectual aspiration and achievement
  • effectiveness in mentoring students
  • promotion of learning outside the classroom

The recipient becomes part of the Platform Party during Commencement and carries the SSU banner in the exercises and is honored with a reception, usually in the Fall, after the award is given.