Heidi Furey, Ph.D. Awarded Costello Award For Excellence in Teaching

Professor Furey receiving the Costello Award, presented by Dean of SoLA, Cory Blad. @MC_LIBERAL_ARTS/COURTESY

By Grace Cardinal, Asst. News Editor

Heidi Furey, Ph.D., assistant professor of philosophy at Manhattan College, has been awarded this year’s Costello Award for Excellence in Teaching. 

Furey has been at the college since 2017 and has been praised by both students and faculty alike for her skills not only as a professor but for the connections she makes with her students. 

The Costello Award was first awarded in 2012, as an add-on to the yearly Costello Lecture, which has existed since the early 2000s. The goal of the award is to “Recognize a faculty member in the School of Liberal Arts (SoLA) who exemplifies excellence in teaching that characterizes Manhattan College and is central to its mission and the mission of the Lasallian Christian Brothers”, according to manhattan.edu. 

Professors are nominated for the award by undergraduate students each spring. A committee, led by the current chair of the history department and former award winners, decides on a final recipient. 

Each fall, the Dean of SoLA is tasked with presenting the award to the year’s recipient following the lecture. Dean Cory Blad, Ph.D., explains why it is one of the most rewarding parts of his job.  

“Every once in a while you have these moments,” Blad said. “There’s just certain things that it’s such a privilege to be able to play a significant role in, and this is absolutely in that category…These are people that I’ve worked with. I’ve seen them do some amazing work. It is such an honor to be able to put something short together to reflect on the outstanding teachers and people that are the award winners and certainly, this year’s award winner fits in that category.”

Blad reflected on Furey’s accomplishments, saying that she exceeded the criteria of the award’s high standards. 

“She fits all of the criteria,” Blad said. “She is mission-oriented, everything she does is geared toward providing opportunities for students in so many ways. As a philosopher, she’s often got double duty, she has to introduce the discipline in the field, and then get people excited about it… it’s hard to imagine a more adaptive teacher and a more accessible professor…she’s a master of that art. It’s amazing.”

Isabella DeMelfi, a sophomore psychology and criminology major, had Furey as a professor during her first semester of freshman year. She credits Furey’s teaching style as one of the reasons she felt comfortable on campus, even as a new student.

“The only way I can put it is she was for the people, as in students,” DeMelfi said. “Everything she’s ever done was for our benefit. You could tell her personality outside of school is so genuine…The way she taught, the way she spoke…she talked to us and not down to us…we were just more comfortable going to her.”

Furey was extremely humble in her acceptance of the award and was emotional when she found out that the award comes from students, not just the institution.

“I was so surprised,” Furey said. “Once I found out that it’s students who nominate you, and that they had to take the time to do that, then it meant everything to me. I’ve won teaching awards before, but a lot of times they’re from your peers or from the institution, which is great, but it means a whole different thing [coming] from students.”

Furey said that what originally drew her to teaching at Manhattan was the teacher-student bonding that she noticed from her very first interview. 

“David Bollert that was one of the biggest reasons for me [coming here],” Furey said. “First of all, he knew every student on campus by name, and some student came up to him [during the interview] and said, ‘Bollert, I forgot lunch money. Can you loan me five bucks?’ And Dave was like, ‘Oh, yeah, of course’. It just felt so good. So I gave up all the other jobs, I left the job that I had. I wanted to be in a place like that where students care that much about being here and the teachers care about being here.”

Furey said that while she doesn’t necessarily feel special compared to her colleagues, the one thing that sets her apart is the unique experiences she had during her time attending higher education. 

“I guess the one thing that I do feel like maybe sets me apart is that I remember feeling like I didn’t belong in the classroom,” Furey said. “When I was in college, I had a very poor education. Not a lot of people in my family went to college – I didn’t even know what the SATs were, the ACTs, or what a syllabus was. I just felt the whole time like they were gonna find out that I didn’t belong there. I think some people go in feeling like that, and I just want to make everybody feel like they belong here.”

According to DeMelfi, it seems that Furey has achieved her goal of making everyone feel welcome in the classroom.

“She will always remember your face,” DeMelfi said. “Even if she doesn’t remember your face, she remembers you and x,y & z [about you]… Everything about her eased me in [to college], and I could have not asked for anything different.”

David Bollert, Ph.D., an adjunct professor of philosophy and former Costello Award recipient himself, finds that Furey’s connections with her students are one of the many things that make her a unique professor and deserving of the award. 

“If you were to talk to any of professor Furey’s students and say, ‘could you name three things that stand out to you about Professor Furey?’ I will guarantee you that one of the three would be that she cares about us [students],” Bollert said. “She understands how to build Lasallian ethos when it comes to teaching. And she lives it…it’s naturally who she is.”

Bollert described Furey as a natural-born teacher and hard worker. 

“She is the most gifted, natural teacher I’ve ever had the honor and the good fortune of meeting and being able to observe a classroom of,” Bollert said. “Professor Furey clearly was born to do what she does in the classroom. One of the most admirable parts, though, is that she has never, ever rested on her natural abilities alone. She works long and hard at perfecting her craft as a teacher and she continues to do so. She is a gift to her students. She’s a gift to her colleagues. She’s a gift to our community as a whole. We are very, very fortunate to have her here at the college”

Bollert’s sentiment is clearly echoed in Furey’s students, with DeMelfi going on to describe her engaging personality, both in and out of the classroom. 

“She is one to help other people, that’s just who she is,” DeMelfi said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more from a professor. She’s what every professor seems to strive to be, and it just comes so naturally to her. She’s such a gift for literally anybody who takes her [class] or even just bumps into her. She’s just such a genuine and kind person.”

Blad says he is proud that SoLA has such an amazing recognition program for professors. 

“I’m very proud that we have the award,” Blad said. “We take a lot of pride in what we do, and we take a lot of pride in communicating ideas in the process of teaching… It’s [the award] just a nice recognition that what we do matters, and not the only that it matters, but that how we do it and the quality of what we do matters.”