June 8, 1995
Vol. 14, No. 19

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    Graduate Teaching Award: George Haley

    During his more than 30 years of teaching at Chicago, George Haley, Professor in Romance Languages & Literatures, has maintained a singular mission: "I have made graduate teaching the center of my career," he said.

    Given this dedication, Haley was more than pleased to learn that he had received a Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching.

    "The award has special meaning to me since it comes from a section of the University that I have been most concerned with," he said.

    Haley's specialty is the Spanish literature of the 16th and 17th centuries, what he calls the "golden age" of Spanish literature. During his decades working in this area, he has written numerous books and articles and has taught courses covering a wide range of subject matter, from the work of obscure poets to Cervantes' Don Quixote. But Haley, a University faculty member since 1959, said that throughout his career he has remained consistent in one area of his teaching -- "complete preparation."

    "A clear focus on teaching will always include an occasional spot of chaos," Haley said. "Even with complete preparation -- as complete as it can ever be -- one can never foresee the problems that might arise."

    Haley said that graduate students and his methods of teaching them have changed over the years.

    "When I first started, New Criticism was all the rage as the critical methodology to use in the classroom -- an emphasis on close reading of the text with minimal consideration of context," he said. "Since then, I have refined my views, and I take more into account the overall historical context of the text, the influence of history on a text."

    Haley said that graduate students now are more interested in historical issues related to classic works. "Graduate students are definitely more interested in that than ever before," he said. "I like to expand out from the book in that way, but I always make sure to come back to the text."

    Haley has been able to observe changes in graduate students from outside the classroom as well. As a member of the Department of Romance Languages & Literatures, Haley has served in numerous positions, including as Chairman of the department from 1970 to 1973. He currently serves as a counselor for the doctoral program in Spanish and as a member of the department's advisory council.

    "Some things don't change -- I think graduate students have always had a professional interest in their studies," he said. "They don't register their objections as readily as undergraduates."

    Out of all his years of teaching, this year stands out as a particularly special year, Haley said.

    "One always sees differences from class to class," he said. "But because of the particular makeup of the class this year, the students melded and the class became a unit with the least pain and strain that I have ever seen."

    While that may be one reason he received the teaching award this year, Haley doesn't think it's the only reason.

    "I think students respond to my carefully disciplined way of attacking a text," he said. "That hasn't changed over the years."

    -- Jeff Makos