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History Prof Annette Finley-Croswhite Recipient of Inaugural Kate Broderick Faculty Award

Old Dominion University History Professor Annette Finley-Croswhite was recently named the first recipient of the Kate Broderick Faculty Award for Excellence in Promoting Educational Accessibility.

The award is named for First Lady Kate Broderick, who is the former director of the ODU Office of Educational Accessibility. This annual award recognizes an outstanding faculty member who intentionally designs classes and curricula that are accessible to all learners. Award recipients receive a $500 professional development grant and an original piece of glass art that symbolizes the unique beauty, gifts and abilities of all students at ODU.

Finley-Croswhite was selected for the honor from among 16 ODU faculty member nominees. She is an award-winning professor who came to ODU in 1991, gained tenure in 1997 and was promoted to professor in 2009. In addition, Finley-Croswhite has served in the College of Arts and Letters as director of graduate studies, 2000-2001; associate dean for research and graduate studies, 2001-2006; and chair of the history department, 2006-2010.

She specializes in early modern and modern European history with a focus on France and teaches classes that cover a range of topics, including religious violence during the period 1450-1789, especially in the context of the Protestant Reformation; the history of medicine, disease and health technology; and the Holocaust. She leads an annual study abroad course to Europe where students learn about the Holocaust through visits to Auschwitz and other notable landmarks.

"I strive to create multiple types of learning environments with a variety of different kinds of assignments that improve the opportunities students have to succeed at Old Dominion University," Finley-Croswhite said. "That might mean getting on a plane and exposing students to different landscapes or taking them into a synagogue to talk with congregants or simply having an open door where they can easily come for help. I have always kept it utmost in my mind as a teacher, that if I do my job very well, I will make a difference in my students' lives."

In a letter nominating Finley-Croswhite for the award, Emma Needham, an undergraduate Interdisciplinary Studies major who took the Holocaust study abroad course, said Finley-Croswhite challenges students' ideas and thinking and requires them to view situations from different perspectives.

"Dr. Finley-Croswhite deserves this award for her compassion towards her students, the passion she demonstrates for the subject matter and education in general, and her contributions to the class and community that go above and beyond her job requirements," Needham said. "I constantly hear positive things about the class and Dr. Finley-Croswhite, who many consider a role model. I am planning to be a teacher and Dr. Finley-Croswhite has inspired me to reach new heights."

Finley-Croswhite's interest in educational accessibility and "neurodiversity" is very personal, she said, and drawn from her own experiences with son Alex who was diagnosed at 7 years of age with non-specific, broad-spectrum learning disabilities and later further diagnosed as gifted/learning disabled.

Commitment to neurodiversity means creating a learning environment that is nurturing to all students with a variety of learning activities that engage the spectrum of learners, she said.

"I have come to realize that I was not educated in any way, in my route to a Ph.D., to understand the realities of brain difference, and yet I confront those realities in every class I teach," Finley-Croswhite said. "I thank my son for educating me about non-traditional learners and making me aware of neurodiversity. He has made me a better teacher."

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