Zombies, books and world travel are just a few of the things that interest Dr. Bernie Smiley. He is also passionate about teaching students to think through literature discussions filled with characters, controversy and humor.

His students appreciate his efforts. For the second time the COM English professor has received the student-nominated Teacher of the Year Award.

Smiley, along with Dalel Serda, Susan Napoli, Susan Plasek and Elizabeth Hammett, was a finalist in the student voting. A student selection committee then visited the classes and interviewed the finalists before choosing Smiley as the winner of the award.

Marcus Helton, a student who was part of the selection committee, said that in Dr. Smiley’s class he saw passion—both his and his students. “The whole class was really into the conversation. It was like a community.”

Smiley’s goal is that students not only read and discuss but also ponder ideas for themselves. “Parroting others’ thoughts is not true thought,” he said. “That’s not learning. Learning is being able to take that idea and see where it leads. [Students] have to think for themselves.”

As a full-time professor at COM, Smiley has been encouraging students to think for themselves since 2003.