Carleton pair get to final round of Academic Idol

Two Carleton lecturers have made it to the top 10 of Ontario’s version of Academic Idol, beating out 150 contenders across the province.

Historian Matthew Bellamy and criminologist Darryl Davies have been chosen as finalists in TVO’s Big Ideas Best Lecturer Competition by students who nominated their favourite instructors. The public is able to vote for their top choice after watching the selected lectures.

Bellamy’s lecture, A Watershed Moment: Canada and the Second World War, aired Feb. 28 and Davies’ lecture, Explaining Crime, airs March 21 at 4 p.m.

The public has from 4:45 p.m. on the day of the lecture until 3 p.m. the next day to vote. They can also vote from Tuesday, March 31, at 12:01 a.m. until Sunday, April 5, at 6 p.m.

The winner will be announced during the Saturday, April 11 Big Ideas show on TVO. The Best Lecturer also takes home $10,000 for their university.

But for Bellamy and Davies it isn’t about the fame or the money — it’s all about engaging students in the learning process.
Entertaining tales with a factual backbone are the tools Bellamy uses to bring his lectures to life.

The 42-year-old, well-known for his animated introductory courses on Canadian history, is also teaching a seminar on the history of the national brewing industry, a topic he is researching personally as well.

A typical lecture for the former member of an Ottawa rock band starts with a few big questions written on the blackboard.

“We talk around them, and bring in colorful anecdotes,” he says, admitting he wasn’t the best student himself. “Maybe it looks like we’re winging it, but we’re not.”

And his students understand what Bellamy is teaching.

“He’s got the attitude that’s really cool, but also the knowledge to back it up,” says Chris Stewart, a mass communications major who took Bellamy’s Canadian history class.

“He has a knack for the simple things,” adds Christopher Mines, a political science major who has taken two classes with Bellamy. “He can make a connection with everyone.”

Meanwhile, Davies’ lectures on criminal justice deal with different subject material, but have students just as captivated.
The seasoned criminologist uses real-life stories and the occasional guest speaker to keep things interesting.

“I don’t speak from a textbook, I speak from experience,” he says.

Davies, who dabbles in poetry in his spare time, has worked in a variety of jobs in his field including being a parole officer and teaching inmates at a Saskatchewan penitentiary.

“The most satisfying thing is when I see students carrying the torch,” he says.

Hassanain Faizi is one of these students.

“In every class there was something new because he would share his life experiences,” says Faizi, a Carleton graduate who took several classes with Davies.

Faizi, 28, remembers when he had applied to several policing jobs with no success after completing his degree. He says Davies was the one professor he kept in touch with after graduation.

“He was the one who told me to keep focused and keep on trying. He’s made an impact on my life and I really appreciate it,” adds Faizi, who took Davies’ advice to perservere and was recently hired by the Toronto Police.

Meanwhile, Bellamy says the biggest reward is when students’ eyes light up when they understand what they are being taught and are engaged.

“Any teacher realizes the immediate gratification that comes with doing the job right,” he says.

Davies adds he tries to, “challenge people to examine issues not just accept them.”

But when it comes to the Academic Idol, the pair insist they are not fierce competitors, but colleagues.

“We’re on the same side,” says Davies.

For information about voting for the best lecturer, go to

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