Melanie Fox, Ph.D.
Collegiate Assistant Professor and Undergraduate Director in Virginia Tech’s Department of Economics
Excellence in Teaching Award from the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Virginia Tech
The award, presented by the center to approximately nine Virginia Tech faculty members each academic year, recognizes a faculty member's effective, engaged, and dynamic approaches and achievements as an educator.
Among the goals of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning are advancing experiential learning at Virginia Tech and improving student learning through research-based instructional practices and student-centered design. According to Fox, her approach to teaching focuses on remembering “what it is like to be a novice at something, and what it is like to struggle with a new idea.” She further elaborated by stating, “Coming from a place of empathy allows me to find the likely pain points that students experience when learning something new and tailor learning activities and experiences to help them past the point where something seems challenging to a place of feeling confident and effective.”
When asked about her most meaningful moments as a teacher, Fox responded, “There have been many, but some of the most meaningful have been seeing students also go into teaching. Or a student who struggled at first excelling.”
One of Fox’s former students, Taylor Cole, said that she came into her “course with absolutely no background knowledge of the subject and left with a changed perspective on how our world works.” Cole noted Fox’s “organization and passion for the material” and described it as “incredibly valuable,” especially during the pandemic. According to Cole, “It was clear to anyone who took Dr. Fox’s course that she held a strong devotion to her students, and I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to have learned from her.”
Principles of Economics Coordinator Steve Trost has worked very closely with Fox since her hiring two years ago. Trost said Fox has “improved undergraduate education for all econ majors through her role as Undergraduate Director.” He added, “Principles of Economics students (from all majors) in particular benefited from her hard work as she led the move to online learning in Spring 2020.” According to Trost, “It is safe to say that teaching and learning of Economics (especially at the Principles level) at Virginia Tech would have been greatly diminished over the past year and a half were it not for Dr. Fox. We hired Dr. Fox because of her excellent teaching record, administrative experience, and background in online education. As she began in Fall of 2019, no one had any idea how prescient her hiring was going to prove. When we were forced to go entirely online in Spring of 2020, her experience and knowledge were essential to our success in putting thousands of students online in a blink. Over the following summer, Dr. Fox worked tirelessly to revamp the Principles courses to make them into truly effective, robust online courses. The blueprint she created for these courses are still being used to improve our (now) in-person courses.”
The head of the economics department, Sudipta Sarangi, also highlighted Fox’s positive qualities and contributions as a teacher. According to Sarangi, “Melanie Fox is a vital part of the undergraduate education in Economics. She not only heads the program but also brings her energy, dynamism and experience to it. She has constantly adapted to the changing needs of the classroom in these last two years.”
Fox provided the following advice for new college teachers: “You have something in common with your students: you are learning to do something new. Give yourself room to learn as much as you do for your students.”