Trinity University Biology Professor Wins Teaching Fellowship

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May 28, 2013

Trinity University Biology Professor Wins Teaching Fellowship

James Shinkle uses a coaching perspective in the classroom and laboratory

Biology professor James Shinkle is named Trinity's Z.T. Scott Faculty Fellow
Biology professor James Shinkle, holding portfolio, is named Trinity's Z.T. Scott Faculty Fellow at the 2013 Commencement. Also pictured are, from left, Michael Fischer, vice president for Faculty and Student Affairs; Trinity Trustee J.R. Hurd; and Jennifer Mathews, professor of sociology and anthropology and president of the Faculty Senate.

By Susie P. Gonzalez

SAN ANTONIO - James Shinkle, professor of biology at Trinity University, has been named the 2013 recipient of the Dr. and Mrs. Z.T. Scott Faculty Fellowship in recognition of his outstanding abilities as a teacher and adviser.

The Z.T. Scott Fellowship includes a cash award to be used for professional development and research. Trinity University Trustee Richard M. Kleberg III established the Fellowship in 1984 in honor of his grandparents, Dr. and Mrs. Z.T. Scott. The award, announced May 18 during Trinity's undergraduate commencement, is the most prestigious faculty award the University bestows.

James ShinkleShinkle said he approaches teaching from a coaching perspective - that is, biology students, much like athletes, benefit greatly when the professor (or the coach, in the case of athletes) is at their side. To help convey his course material, Shinkle devises problems to be solved in groups but listens to each student cluster, often asking leading questions or interrupting with what he calls a "visual literacy moment" in which students view graphs and charts to identify any flaws or ways the information could have been more clearly presented.

Students rave about his distinctive teaching methods and praise the way he intertwines concepts from one unit to another to illustrate basic principles in ways that transform facts into knowledge. One alumnus, currently a faculty member at another university, said that not only does Shinkle teach students using the scientific method, but he also guides undergraduates deftly through the daunting task of career discernment using manageable steps to help achieve both personal and professional goals.

Since 2004, he has served as chair of the Health Professions Advisory Committee but is recognized across campus for his skill and dedication in directing students interested in science who are seeking a path that does not lead to medicine.

Heather Sullivan, professor of German and comparative literature at Trinity, said she has been inspired by Shinkle's clarity of lectures and wealth of information in courses they jointly taught on world literature and the environment and global ecology. "What was particularly noteworthy in our collaboration is how rapidly Jim responded to the cultural questions and smoothly integrated the issues into his science lectures and labs," she said.

Shinkle has taught at Trinity for 25 years and has taken leave during his tenure to teach at Rhodes College, University of North Carolina, and Lincoln University in Canterbury, New Zealand. The recipient of the University's award for Distinguished Advising in 2002, Shinkle holds a doctorate and master's degrees from Stanford University and a bachelor's degree from Swarthmore College. He conducted postdoctoral research at the University of California at Berkeley and received substantial external research grants from the National Science Foundation, W.M. Keck Foundation, and the Sherman Fairchild Foundation.

Trinity University is a nationally recognized liberal arts and sciences institution noted for its exceptional faculty and commitment to the comprehensive preparation of its talented student body. It is a learning community that has charted its course with a steadfast commitment to excellence since it was founded in 1869.

Susie P. Gonzalez is director of public and media relations in Trinity's Office of University Communications. She can be reached at