University of Pittsburgh
March 14, 2011

Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences Announces 2011 Bellet Award Winners

This year’s honorees are from the Departments of the History of Art and Architecture and Statistics
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—The University of Pittsburgh School of Arts and Sciences has named Christopher Drew Armstrong, director of architectural studies and assistant professor in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture, and Nancy Pfenning, senior lecturer in the Department of Statistics, winners of the 2011 Tina and David Bellet Teaching Excellence Award. The Bellet Award recipients will be honored at a by-invitation-only dinner April 6 at Pitt’s University Club. 

The Bellet Awards were established in 1998 and endowed in 2008 with a $1.5 million gift from Arts and Sciences alumnus David Bellet (CAS ’67) and his wife, Tina, to recognize outstanding and innovative undergraduate teaching in the School of Arts and Sciences. A committee appointed by the Arts and Sciences associate dean for undergraduate studies evaluates teaching skills based on student teaching and peer evaluations, student testimonials, and dossiers submitted by the nominees. Full-time faculty who have taught in Arts and Sciences during the past three years are eligible. Each award recipient receives a cash prize. 

Armstrong joined the University in 2005. Prior to that, he served as an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Toronto from 2002 to 2005. Also at the University of Toronto, from 1992 to 1993, he was the assistant to the University Architect. In 2001, Armstrong spent a year as a teaching fellow in art humanities in Columbia University’s Department of Art History and Archaeology, working with Robin Middleton and Barry Bergdoll on travel and the “discovery” of Greek architecture in the 18th century. 

Armstrong’s work investigates approaches to observation and the experience of art and architecture in the 18th and 19th centuries. He is especially interested in the construction of the “self” and how this concept shapes the relationship of the individual to temporal and spatial phenomena. 

Armstrong is working on the book Julien-David Leroy and the Making of Architectural History under contract with Routledge; it will be published in June 2011. In the book, Armstrong explores French traveler and theorist Leroy’s contributions to late-18th-century neoclassical and “revolutionary” architecture. A related project, titled Mediterranean Exploration in the Early Enlightenment, will examine cartography and the representation of space in the context of French, commercial, diplomatic, and scientific interests. Armstrong continues to do scholarly work on Gothic-revival architecture in America and plans to publish a book on the Connecticut State Capitol and late-19th-century Hartford. 

Among the numerous fellowships Armstrong has received are a 2003-05 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Post-Doctoral Fellowship, a 2001-02 Whiting Foundation Fellowship, a 1999-2000 John Soane’s Museum Foundation Fellowship, a 1997-98 Mellon Foundation Fellowship, and 1995-98 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Graduate Fellowship. 

Armstrong earned BA and MA degrees from the University of Toronto in 1992 and 1994, respectively, and a PhD in art history and archaeology from Columbia University. 

Pfenning began her teaching career at Pitt as a part-time instructor in 1987, becoming a full-time lecturer in 2000 and a senior lecturer in 2004. In the department, Pfenning is in charge of Teaching Assistant (TA) training and is the liaison to the College in High School program. 

As a teacher, Pfenning is interested in helping students master statistical thinking through the use of statistics in the media, data collected from students themselves, and hands-on experiments. Her goal is to guide students toward a more global understanding of the various display, summary, and inference tools encountered in an introductory course. According to Pfenning, statistics gives a framework to discuss questions in any topic that can be imagined—business, neuroscience, pop culture, etc. 

Among the courses Pfenning has taught are Basic Applied Statistics, Applied Statistical Methods, and the Training Seminar for Statistics TAs. She also has taught the Graduate Student Teaching Seminar, Honors Applied Statistical Methods, Statistics in the Modern World, and Statistics and Probability for Business Management. 

Pfenning recently published a textbook on statistics, Elementary Statistics: Looking at the Big Picture (Cengage Learning, 2010). She also is the author of Chances Are…Making Probability and Statistics Fun to Learn and Easy to Teach (Prufrock Press, 1998). 

Her honors include a Pitt Chancellor’s Scholarship in 1974-78 and induction into Phi Beta Kappa in 1978; she also received research and teaching assistantships at Carnegie Mellon University from 1978 to 1984. 

Pfenning earned a BS degree from Pitt in 1978 and MS and PhD degrees in mathematics from Carnegie Mellon in 1979 and 1984, respectively. 

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