Chicago-Kent Business Law Director Wins Graff Teaching Innovation Award

Because of his inspirational dedication to online instruction and student well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic, Chicago-Kent College of Law Professor Adrian Walters has been awarded Illinois Institute of Technology’s Michael J. Graff Teaching and Advising Innovation Award this year.

The award, meant to encourage teaching practices “designed to improve student learning and success,” is handed out annually to a professor who displays notable innovation.

“Professor Walters’s tremendous accomplishments in teaching innovation have been especially evident over the past three semesters, during which teaching and learning has occurred primarily through online platforms and tools,” Chicago-Kent Dean Anita K. Krug said in her letter recommending Walters for the award. 

Krug further noted that, although Walters received near-perfect student evaluations for his spring 2020 course, which he taught entirely online for the second half of the semester, he spent the following summer learning ways to do it better. 

Walters attended numerous courses and webinars to familiarize himself with various instructional technologies and online teaching techniques. Krug’s letter noted Walters’s willingness to share his experiences with fellow faculty, as well as the college’s Tech Team members.

Upon hearing of Walters’s win, Krug added in a note to faculty, “I am so happy that the university has recognized Adrian for his teaching, particularly over the past year in our online environment.… It is evident that Adrian does all he can each semester to ensure that his students learn the most that they can from his courses, and that he is caring and compassionate in the process.”

Walters, the Ralph L. Brill Professor of Law, has taught business law subjects, including contracts, secured transactions, and bankruptcy, at Chicago-Kent since 2011. He is also the J.D. Business Certificate program director. 

Additionally, he has twice won Chicago-Kent’s Student Bar Association Professor of the Year Award, in 2015 and 2017, and won the Chicago-Kent Excellence in Teaching Award in 2018.

In his teaching/advising statement submitted for his nomination, Walters included a quote by the Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis, which Walters called “the cornerstone principle of my teaching practice.”

“Ideal teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their own,” Kazantzakis wrote.

Since 2019, the large majority of Walters’ students respond to assessment surveys of his courses, which receive an average of anywhere from 1 to 1.21 on a scale of one to five, with one being the best.

Student comments noted Walters’ “absolutely phenomenal use of technology!” and the fact that he “has nailed down virtual learning.” Another noted Walters was “incredibly compassionate and sympathetic as a professor.”

Walters earned his bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Cambridge and his law degree from Nottingham Law School in 1991. He started as a solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales at the law firm of Eking Manning, and after several years, returned to teach at Nottingham, where he became a full professor in 2005.

The purpose of the Michael J. Graff award is to honor specific teaching and/or advising innovations. The award recognizes teaching and/or advising practices designed to improve student learning and success. It includes a $5,000 prize to the award winner, and a $5,000 prize to their department to encourage innovation in teaching and advising.

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