Murphy Award winner: Paul Siciliano

Mary 7, 2010

Paul Siciliano, associate professor of horticulture and landscape architecture, talks with students in a garden area. He draws on his family background, his college professors and his students for inspiration to sustain his passion. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

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Five exceptional teachers were honored with 2010 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Awards in Memory of Charles B. Murphy at the Celebration of Teaching Excellence on April 27 in Purdue Memorial Union. This week, Purdue Today will feature a profile on each of the recipients. Today, we focus on Paul Siciliano, associate professor of horticulture and landscape architecture.

Siciliano knows he has just delivered an engaging lecture when his students respond to his enthusiasm with their own.

"My students inspire me," Siciliano says. "They humble me and they fulfill one of my most vital needs as a teacher: to invigorate my passion for a subject with their own lively interest."

His hope is that students' enthusiasm for a subject will lead them to a passion of their own that will inspire new learning.

Siciliano found his niche in landscape architecture and horticulture from his grandfather, an Italian immigrant, who started a successful family landscape business with no formal education. Siciliano came to Purdue as an undergraduate, where his professors showed him how teaching was linked to a lifetime of learning.

"If you are passionate for a subject, it's wonderful to have a lifetime of opportunity to study it further and share your knowledge with others," he says.

Siciliano has harnessed his passion to develop a short- and long-term plan to create a new Horticulture Garden. It will serve as an outdoor learning laboratory for a broad range of majors in horticulture, landscape architecture and related areas of interest. A goal of the garden is to provide state-of-the-art demonstrations and information on the use of traditional and novel horticultural plants and landscape construction materials in a variety of settings.

Siciliano uses service learning as a strategy for introducing significant, real-world landscape design projects of varying context to students. In this problem-based approach to learning, Siciliano believes students assume a greater responsibility for their own learning than in the traditional classroom approach.

"He's been an excellent teacher outside of the classroom -— always challenging and always pushing students to be the best in their field," one anonymous student testimonial says.