When students enter Andrew Tollison’s classes, they are greeted with a QR code. The communications and media professor likes to begin his classes with a question or prompt.
And given the challenges students have faced over the past two years, the question Tollison would regularly attach to the QR code was simply “How are you doing?”
“We would use the results and take five minutes at the start of class to discuss how they are doing as humans,” Tollison explained. “And we obviously weren’t going to fix everything, but I wanted to offer what I could do to make the class as useful as possible.”
It was because of that care for his students, along with myriad other reasons, that Tollison was awarded the 2022 Edward G. Roddy, Jr. Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award. Given annually to a Merrimack faculty member who goes above and beyond in the classroom, the award was established in 1985 by then Merrimack College President Rev. John E. Deegan, O.S.A., to recognize and celebrate Merrimack’s teachers. The first award was presented to Edward G. Roddy, Jr. in appreciation of his 25 years of service to the College.
“Prof. Tollison exemplifies excellence in teaching at Merrimack College,” said Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs John “Sean” Condon, Ph.D. “He is well respected among his colleagues and students and has done tremendous work to grow the Department of Communications and Media, including his leadership in launching the communications graduate program. I congratulate him on this most deserving honor.”
Tollison, who learned he won the award during the 2022 Undergraduate Commencement ceremony, said it would take some time to sink in. He noted the only reason he would be in a position to receive such a recognition is because of his colleagues.
“I completely trust our faculty,” said Tollison, who is the first director of the communications graduate program. “Their work has really opened up opportunities for me to connect with the grad students. This award could have gone to anyone else in the department and is more representative of the department as a whole and the faculty’s collective work. They do a tremendous job and serve the students so well.”
Tollison’s research and expertise focuses on interactions and dissemination of information within the patient-provider relationship, as well as how people communicatively cope with chronic illness such as cancer.
He joined Merrimack in August 2012 said it has been great to witness Merrimack’s growth and transformation over the past 10 years.
“Whether you are talking about research or classrooms or projects, there is an energy here,” Tollison said. “And you get the chance to really know your students and that pushes you to bring your best to the classroom each day.”