Lowell Ewert, associate professor of peace and conflict studies (PACS) at Conrad Grebel University College and the University of Waterloo, has been honoured with one of the four UWaterloo 2020 Distinguished Teacher Awards.
The award celebrates exemplary instructors with a record of teaching excellence over an extended period. In addition to intellectual rigour, criteria for the award include impact beyond the classroom, concern for students, and a favourable and lasting influence on students and colleagues.
“These characteristics clearly mark Lowell’s teaching in the PACS department,” says Troy Osborne, Grebel’s dean. “Those of us who have worked alongside Lowell have benefitted from his honest reflection on the craft of teaching, and many of his students have remarked on the way that Lowell has changed their minds—and perhaps their career path. Lowell is clearly a worthy recipient of this award.”
Ewert retired at the end of June. “I often felt like I was on holy ground in the classroom as I listened to students wrestle with their convictions, core values, and explore how they wanted to live responsibly in this increasingly polarized and fractured world,” he says. “Teaching is a profound and sacred privilege that I have been lucky to have had.”
Leaving a distinguished 23-year legacy in collaborative and innovative teaching, he estimates that he has taught about 3,600 undergraduate students, supervised 160 undergraduates in independent study and internships, taught about 125 graduate students, and supervised 30 independent study and internships for graduate students. He also helped to start the university teaching career of 22 individuals and he co-taught courses with nine different people.
“When Lowell invites someone to teach, he not only gives them the opportunity, but he provides mentorship and support,” says Rachel Reist, an alumna, former PACS instructor, and current PACS academic advisor. “He takes a chance on others and builds up their capacity.”
Trained as a lawyer, Ewert researched the ways that peace interacts with human rights, law and civil society. His teaching and in-class discussions empowered students to apply what they are learning in whatever vocation they find themselves.
“Lowell made me believe that my ideas were important and that I could achieve just about anything I set out to do,” noted PACS student Taylor Legere. “His unwavering optimism and excitement about peace work helped me find my own excitement about helping the world be more peaceful.”
One key characteristic of Ewert’s exceptional teaching was his commitment to interdisciplinary study and promoting connections between subject areas to enhance student learning. This is exemplified in some of the courses he developed such as Peace and Disability, Peace and Policing, Math for Good and Evil, Peace is Everyone’s Business, Human Rights, and Peace and Business. As former director of PACS for 20 years, he also cultivated this perspective in others and encouraged the creation of other interdisciplinary courses.
“Lowell’s impact in the classroom is very evident,” says Marcus Shantz, Grebel’s president. “He saw the linkages between academia, law, civil society and business, and brought these insights to bear on the needs of our world. This award at the end of his teaching career is well deserved.”
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