Wesley T. Hanson Distinguished Professor Award for Excellence in Teaching
As soon as word got out that Saroj Viswanathan was to be nominated for the 2007 Dr. Wesley T. Hanson Award for Teaching Excellence, support letters began pouring in from students dating back three decades.
Viswanathan, professor of dental studies, ended up receiving the award – evidence, she says, of her “passion to be instrumental in the progression of my students.”
In one student support letter for Dr. Vis, as she is known, Marie Cramer ’85 wrote, “… when you realize a teacher loves what she is doing, it makes you want to do well for her and yourself.” Others painted her as a friend, counselor and mother.
Knowing patients sometimes feel more comfortable approaching hygienists rather than dentists with questions, Viswanathan has students observe local periodontists and write a paper demonstrating that they are being given sound information both in the field and in the classroom. Viswanathan validates her high expectations by using real-life examples whenever possible. “I use a lot of case studies so they know this is not just a drab book,” she says. “This is a field that is people-oriented. You’re not just taking an instrument and cleaning somebody’s teeth.”
Her Periodontics III students are expected to do a lot of writing because “writing makes you a better learner,” notes Viswanathan, who guides them in putting together a complete periodontal report that can be inserted in their fourth-semester portfolio.
As the department’s chairperson for six years, she was instrumental in helping secure a grant for new dental units and has championed the use of technology in the classroom. She was the first instructor in the department to deliver a test to students online. Viswanathan regularly heads faculty committees and takes the lead in hiring and reappointing professors every semester.
In 2004, Viswanathan recognized the needs of economically disadvantaged students with a personally endowed scholarship fund through the MCC Foundation.
The Webster resident is married, has two grown children and spends much of her spare time attending her two grandchildren’s sports games.