2020 Julian Ross Award for Excellence in Teaching — Eric Pallant

Eric Pallant
Eric Pallant, Ph.D. (photo by John Mangine)

The Christine Scott Nelson ’73 Endowed Professor in Environmental Science & Sustainability, Eric Pallant, is known to countless Alleghenians as a thoughtful, curious educator who pushes his students to confront and solve problems. 

“He makes you excited to learn and creates an environment where it is okay to not know the answer,” said Marley Parish ’19. “Using examples to make learning easy to understand, Eric teaches you how to be comfortable with silence. He teaches you how to wonder and how to embrace the unknown. He doesn’t just teach lessons; Eric instructs his students in a way that matters.”

An incredibly clear and concise communicator, Professor Pallant understands how to make complex issues accessible to students at all levels. Instead of conducting lectures, he structures courses as a conversation that prizes discovery over rote learning. “You tell me” is a signature phrase that Professor Pallant uses to stimulate independent thinking in his classes. Moreover, he incorporates field trips into the curriculum to introduce concepts firsthand, such as visits to local farms for an up-close look at how food is grown. 

“There are few teachers in my life that have taught me such an important and necessary skill in life,” said Jennifer Torrance ’16. “Eric teaches his students important values and skills in the world of environmental science but nourishes the seeds of self-growth, confidence, and a desire to learn more that help us to succeed in our careers as well as in life.”

Professor Pallant, who joined the Allegheny faculty in 1987, has had the distinction of receiving two Fulbright Awards, traveling to Israel and the United Kingdom. He has brought the knowledge gained from those teaching and research opportunities back to Allegheny to enrich the experience for his students. 

Described as brilliant yet humble, Professor Pallant is exceptional at advising students beyond the classroom. Alumni praise him as a person who always has an open ear, allowing students to formulate their thoughts before offering insightful advice. He has gone the extra mile to support students by connecting them with alumni mentors, attending athletic games, and chatting with advisees about their interests outside of academics. Nothing stops Professor Pallant from working to support students — academically or personally. 

“Eric is an excited teacher. He truly enjoys hearing the thoughts of his students and engaging in dialogue about students’ perspectives, experiences, and knowledge,” noted one of the nominations for the Julian Ross Award. “Eric wants to know who you are, who you are in the truest, fullest, most core sense of identity.”