Seven UTSA faculty members honored by UT System for teaching excellence

award recipients

Top row: John Alexander, Mark Allen and Karen Dodwell
Middle row: Daniel Engster, Janis Harmon and Amy Jasperson
Bottom row: Ermine Orta

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(Aug. 25, 2011)--In recognition of their classroom excellence, 72 educators from institutions within the University of Texas System will share $1.8 million in awards and will be honored during a special ceremony this week. Among the awardees are seven UTSA faculty members.

The educators were honored as the 2011 Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award winners at an Aug. 24 ceremony on the UT Austin campus. The cash awards, which range from $15,000 to $30,000 -- and believed to be among the nation's highest for higher education faculty -- are given to faculty members at UT System academic institutions who demonstrate extraordinary classroom performance and innovation at the undergraduate level. The event marks the program's third year.

UTSA award recipients include the following faculty members:

  • John Alexander, assistant professor, Department of Architecture
  • Mark Allen, professor, Department of English
  • Karen Dodwell, senior lecturer, Department of English
  • Daniel Engster, associate professor, Department of Political Science and Geography
  • Janis Harmon, professor, Department of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching
  • Amy Jasperson, associate professor, Department of Political Science and Geography
  • Ermine Orta, lecturer I, Department of Management Science and Statistics

"Provost John Frederick and I are so thrilled to once again have a number of our outstanding faculty honored with this prestigious award," said UTSA President Ricardo Romo. "In the program's three years, a total of 18 UTSA faculty members have been recognized; that's a true testament to the superior quality of classroom instruction our students receive at UTSA."

A list of past UTSA recipients is available on the Faculty Awards website. A complete list of names of the 2011 winners and the institutions at which they teach is available on the UT System website.

"Exceptional university teaching has been at the core of the services our universities provide to our students since our inception in 1883," said Regent's Chairman Gene Powell. "When most of us reflect back on our college experience, one or more great educators who left an indelible mark on our lives come to mind. I think of my mentor, teacher and friend, Dr. John Bickley, in front of a class at UT Austin. Dr. Bickley would be so proud that in 2011 the regents are recognizing and rewarding great teaching."

"Today, the Board of Regents considers it a true honor and privilege to recognize another class of great educators from across the University of Texas System with not only a ceremonial event but with much deserved financial rewards. The board is committed to continuing the process of seeking out, hiring and rewarding great teachers and the board looks forward to holding these ceremonies for many years to come," Powell added.

Award nominees must demonstrate a clear commitment to teaching and a sustained ability to deliver excellence to the undergraduate learning experience. Candidates' teaching performance over three years was rigorously examined by campus and external judges.

"It is our system's responsibility to provide an exceptional education to our students, and we believe this award program not only furthers that goal, but helps promote a culture of excellence that produces better teaching, better learning and, ultimately, better prepared graduates to enter our work force," said UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, M.D. "These awards have proved to be so successful in promoting outstanding teaching that we hope to expand the program to our health institutions as well."

Additionally, students, peer faculty and external reviewers considered a range of activities and criteria including classroom expertise, quality of curriculum, innovative course development and student learning outcomes. A teaching portfolio was required to demonstrate pedagogical innovation, continuous improvement of course materials, overall teacher training experience and a statement of teaching philosophy and objectives.

Among those that will be honored this year are 38 tenured faculty members, who each received $30,000 awards. Seventeen tenure-track faculty each will receive $25,000 awards, and another 17 contingent faculty each are to receive $15,000 awards. Besides the cash awards, winners also will receive a bronze medallion and a certificate commemorating the achievement.

The awards program -- established by the Board of Regents in August 2008 -- has recognized 217 educators spanning more than 100 disciplines. The awards are the latest in a series of UT System-sponsored activities aimed at fostering innovative approaches to teaching, research and commercialization endeavors at all 15 UT System institutions.

In 2004, the system launched the Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention (STARs) program, which created a multimillion-dollar fund to recruit and retain top-flight researchers to UT institutions. Researchers recruited and/or retained under the program have generated more than $345 million in sponsored research at UT institutions. In 2005, the Chancellor's Health Fellows program was established to enhance faculty collaborations and achievements, and other communications projects, among the health and academic campuses. That same year, the Innovations in Health Science Education program was created to recognize innovation and achievement in undergraduate or graduate health science education.

The top prize for that program is $7,500. In 2007, the UT System established the annual Chancellor's Innovations in Education Awards -- $5,000 prizes which recognize faculty who demonstrate teaching excellence; and the Chancellor's Entrepreneurship and Innovation Awards, which reward outstanding individual and collaborative accomplishments in research and innovation. Prizes in that category can reach $15,000.

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About the University of Texas System

The University of Texas System is one of the nation's largest higher education systems with nine academic campuses and six health institutions. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $12.8 billion (FY 2011) including $2.3 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources.

Preliminary student enrollment exceeded 211,000 in the 2010 academic year. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state's undergraduate degrees and educates nearly three-fourths of the state's health care professionals annually. With more than 68,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.