OSWEGO — Excellence inside and beyond the classroom earned Harrison Yang of SUNY Oswego’s curriculum and instruction department the rank of SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor, a top honor in the statewide system.
Yang “is considered a world-class authority on learning and teaching,” SUNY Oswego President Deborah F. Stanley wrote as part of nomination materials that praised Yang’s professional accomplishments, interpersonal abilities and positive style of encouragement.
“Dr. Yang’s mastery of teaching and learning has elevated the standards of his colleagues around the world as well as the students he is preparing to become teachers,” Stanley noted. “He is an extraordinarily effective teacher and scholar and a highly sought after expert on learning and teaching.”
Yang’s teaching consistently receives “superlative reviews” from students and colleagues alike, Stanley noted, but makes an impact beyond any individual classroom.
“It is clear he continues to be an ardent advocate for guiding each student in their learning journey,” Stanley wrote. “Dr. Yang is an outstanding teacher who strives to improve his own teaching and learning so as to benefit others. His highly effective approach to teaching and learning consistently challenges and engages students.”
Yang recalled coming north from hot and muggy Florida to Oswego in summer 1997, a year after completing his doctorate in vocational-education leadership from Florida International University with his parents in tow, with what eventually became much more than a job.
“Regardless of where my professional journey has taken me — giving speeches in countries ranging from China to the Czech Republic — SUNY Oswego has been my rock, my base, my home,” Yang said.
In that time, Yang estimates he “had the privilege of teaching” around 1,500 students, advising about 300 in the master’s in education program and giving guidance to countless others.
“I have found that my work as a researcher and a leader in the field has enhanced what I bring to my own classes, allowing me to reinvigorate them with refreshing content and cutting-edge pedagogy,” Yang noted.
Creative and caring
Yang’s work impacts students, colleagues and the larger education community, preparing Oswego’s educators to make a difference in the lives of generations of students.
“Students consistently note that Dr. Yang is one of the best professors and cite his accessibility and caring as qualities that help their own learning,” wrote Scott Furlong, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “They also note his ability to create and cultivate a learning community that enhances the classroom.”
In that way, Yang — who shares smiles and laughs freely — serves as a role model in both his attitude and aptitude.
“Perhaps the strongest statement of support for Dr. Yang are student comments stating that they hope to be able to create a similar learning community once they find themselves leading a classroom,” Furlong wrote. “Students also note his abilities in teaching instructional technology, which is a constantly changing area that requires a faculty member to stay current on what works best in the classroom.”
Yang continues to bring professional development opportunities to a range of communities, especially through building international partnerships for SUNY Oswego, most notably with Central China Normal University. “Over the last ten years, Dr. Yang has hosted over 30 visiting scholars from China and has enriched teaching and learning both on campus and at the institutions in China,” Furlong said.
As “an important contributor to the scholarship of teaching,” Furlong noted Yang has published and presented his research findings widely. “He has authored and co-authored books and articles on e-learning thus sharing his expertise with faculty around the academy,” Furlong wrote. “His work, in this time of the pandemic where virtual learning is more the rule than the exception, can not be overstated.”
Yang’s positive impact on so many of the years and across borders is “abundant evidence of his excellence in teaching, scholarship and service on our campus and worldwide,” said Pamela Michel, dean of the School of Education. “Dr. Yang is a prolific and internationally recognized scholar whose contributions just within the last two years have included dozens of book chapters, journal articles and conference papers.”
Student comments like “extraordinary,” “brilliant,” “incredible” and “awesome” to describe Yang’s classes are not unusual given his friendly, knowledgeable and encouraging nature. Students often want to take more classes from Yang “since they learned so much and had such rewarding experiences due to his dedication and energy,” Michel wrote.
“He is well known for engaging his students in meaningful learning activities related to instructional technology,” Michel said, as “even the most apprehensive students become confident and proficient users of technology prepared to serve the needs of learners.”
Yang also has mentored more than 60 students completing theses or other projects to culminate graduate programs. “These time-intensive education projects exemplify Dr. Yang’s unwavering dedication to enriching his students’ learning,” Michel noted.
Prior to the Distinguished Teacher Professor accolade, Yang received the SUNY Chanellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, the SUNY Oswego President’s Award of Teaching Excellence and the Philip Martin Award as an Educator of Excellence, Greater Central New York Education Consortium.
Before earning his doctorate, Yang received a master of business education from Florida A & M University and an undergraduate degree in library and information system management from Xiangtan University in China. This connection to his homeland has benefited students, teachers and institutions on both sides of the ocean.
Joshua McKeown, associate provost for international education and programs, nominated Yang and joined colleagues from across the globe in praising the many exchanges and professional development partnerships with China produced through Yang’s leadership, skill and dedication.
“He has shown consistent vibrancy and expertise in his teaching, his incorporation of technology has been innovative and forward-looking, and his service to SUNY, Oswego and the betterment of mankind through international exchange partnerships has been extensive and noteworthy,” McKeown said.
“Harrison is a positive person, a humble and trusted colleague, a rigorous research mentor and student advisor, and overall a role model for the optimal balance of teaching, research and service,” McKeown said. “He has shown consistent devotion to his home campus as well as an extensive outward worldview that has brought benefits to SUNY Oswego and to the broader world.”
Amanda Fenlon, professor and chair of the curriculum and instruction department, wrote that Yang “consistently excels” in student evaluations, where “students rate his instruction, content area knowledge and supportive practices highly.”
Comments have included: “Harrison Yang makes a course that has a lot of components manageable and engaging, while still learning a lot.”; “I truly enjoy taking classes from this professor!”; and “Wonderful course with a wonderful instructor who values the well-being of his students.”
Kevin Coleman, a non-traditional student pursuing his master’s in education, wrote that Yang’s talent as a teacher is complemented by being highly approachable, always available to his students, presenting quick and helpful feedback.
“Dr. Yang genuinely enjoys teaching and working with his students,” Coleman said. “He is academically intelligent, engaging and enthusiastic about teaching. Dr. Yang is careful to explain the fundamentals of a project and then guide his students based on their individual needs.”
Yang’s personal approach shines as well, Coleman noted, as he encourages students to “breathe, relax and most importantly have fun” while reassuring students they will all succeed together.
“I have found Dr. Yang to be an inspiration to pre-service teachers like myself,” Coleman wrote. “His style of instruction is thoughtful, easy-going and humorous. He is able to keep the entire class engaged throughout. He is dynamic, professional and always punctual. Dr. Yang begins every class with a welcoming smile and by asking students how they are doing.”
Kyle J. Bautista, master’s in education student, studying adolescence education - physics, lauded Yang’s “tremendous amount of compassion for his students and the content he teaches.”
“It is clear from the moment you step in his classroom that Dr. Yang believes in what he teaches,” Bautista wrote. “Dr. Yang commits extensive amounts of time to his students, not only during class but throughout the week. The level of dedication Dr. Yang maintains throughout a semester is unwavering and something to be admired by all.”
Bautista also praised Yang’s attitude that learning from his own students is as important as lessons they can take from the honored professor.
“I truly believe Dr. Yang possesses all the qualities of an effective, supportive and caring educator,” Bautista wrote. “It is with his guidance I find myself ready to enter the world of education prepared and willing to lead and grow as he does.”