Six Faculty Members Chosen to Receive Prestigious President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Award

Oct. 20, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas — Six faculty members from The University of Texas at Austin have been selected to receive the President's Associates Teaching Excellence Award for 2009-2010 for demonstrating a consistent level of excellence in teaching.

Vice Provost Gretchen Ritter told the recipients in a letter informing them of their award that their commitment and outstanding performance, as well as their high academic standards, "not only instruct but also inspire" the students.

The recipients include: Assistant Professor Timothy Loving, Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, College of Natural Sciences; Assistant Professor James H. Cox, Department of English, College of Liberal Arts; Associate Professor Elizabeth Hedrick, Department of English, College of Liberal Arts; Assistant Professor Benjamin Carrington, Department of Sociology, College of Liberal Arts; Professor Douglas Bruster, Department of English, College of Liberal Arts; and Associate Professor Devin Stauffer Department of Government, College of Liberal Arts.

Ritter said the award recipients would be recognized during an academic awards dinner during the spring semester. She said the recipients also would each receive a $5,000 honorarium provided through contributions from university supporters of the awards program.

For more information, contact: Robert D. Meckel, Office of the President, 512 475 7847.

26 Comments to "Six Faculty Members Chosen to Receive Prestigious President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Award"

1.  Ronald Turley said on Oct. 22, 2009

Let's see, three from the Department of English, one from the Department of Sociology, and one each from the departments of Government and Human Development and Family Sciences. That's five from the College of Liberal Arts and one from the College of Natural Sciences. Were there no deserving faculty members from business, engineering or hard sciences? This appears to be more of the typical liberal bias within academia.

2.  Joseph Allen Kozuh, Ph.D. said on Oct. 22, 2009

I agree with Ron Turley.

The same thing happens in high schools and middle schools. Eighty percent of the time it is an English or history teacher who gets the "excellent teacher award." Maybe it's because these departments are well-staffed and full of votes?

3.  Rachel Zoch said on Oct. 22, 2009

These are driven by nominations. If you don't like it, nominate some profs from other colleges.

4.  K.T. said on Oct. 22, 2009

I believe it has to do with how the subject matter hits home for the students.

5.  Elizabeth Warren said on Oct. 22, 2009

I will not make any comment about bias, but it would be helpful if you published the membership of the selection committee and their departments. It does seem strange that the Business School is the highest rated school at UT Austin but had no worthy professors for this award.

6.  Susan Bennett said on Oct. 22, 2009

Perhaps professors in the humanities are more humane in the ways they teach their students. "The medium is the message," according to M. McLuhan. Excellent teachers teach not only the content, but also connect the information to the students. Admittedly this is difficult, if not impossible, to do in a large lecture class. Brilliant research does not translate into excellent teaching. Excellence in teaching is not a liberal or conservative issue.

7.  suzy mitchell said on Oct. 22, 2009

Maybe it's because teachers in liberal arts care more about the community at large and deserve these awards. Why do you need to take away from these great teachers? Why not be proud of them and the work that UT is doing in general? I am sure each teacher knows his or her own worth and which students he or she has helped. Are the liberal arts teachers crying about the grant money and such that the research-type teachers receive? Be proud of UT and all the teachers, and put away the petty jealousies.

8.  Chris Kirk, Ph.D. said on Oct. 22, 2009

Liberal Arts is by far the largest college at UT. If you chose UT professors at random, you would expect more Liberal Arts professors on that criterion alone.

With regard to supposed 'liberal bias,' I hasten to add that simply because a professor is in the College of 'Liberal' Arts, that has nothing to do his or her political views. Similarly, one would not expect a professor to be liberal or conservative a priori simply because they are from (for example) Business or Engineering. As a result, the objections of Mr. Turley and Dr. Kozuh appear to be a bit presumptuous.

9.  Chris Kirk, Ph.D. said on Oct. 22, 2009

Here's another factor that might help to explain why the majority of this year's award recipients are from the College of Liberal Arts. Like most other professors in Liberal Arts, I teach three to four undergraduate courses per year. However, the standard teaching load varies from college to college. For example, most of my colleagues in Natural Sciences and Engineering teach one undergraduate course per year.

I am certain that excellent teachers can be found in all of the colleges at UT. However, if nominations for this award come primarily from undergraduates, then perhaps one might expect faculty who teach more undergraduate classes to be nominated at higher rates?

10.  Doug Jolliff said on Oct. 22, 2009

On Suzy Mitchell's assertion that "teachers in liberal arts care more about the community at large and deserve these awards," I have no doubt that by whatever standards the awards committee used to confer these awards, these faculty members are deserving and should be honored.

However, I do not know of any evidence or studies that indicate that faculty of one college or another is more caring about the community. Faculty who instruct architecture, for example, might care just as much about making a community function well as an instructor in microbiology cares about facilitating research into causes and cures of illness.

Also, caring about the community at large doesn't seem to be a fitting criteria for outstanding instructors. I believe that the writer might want to re-think her proposition. It really doesn't make sense.

11.  jim Ayres said on Oct. 22, 2009

Rachel Zoch's simple and direct response to Turley and Kozuh is wonderful..."if you don't like it".... Professor Kirk is too kind responding to "liberal bias." Might be interesting to explore the history of teaching awards since 2000.

12.  Pauline Lopez said on Oct. 22, 2009

Congratulations to all these professors. Too bad that it sounds biased, but the recipients did not nominate themselves. I just have one question--what about Hispanics? For instance, Dr. Jose Limon, English Department, teaches and runs the Center for Mexican American Studies, and Professor Maggie Rivas Rodriguez, Journalism School, has published the documentary about Hispanics in World War II.

Pauline Lopez (UT retiree)

13.  Liz Cullingford said on Oct. 22, 2009

From the Provost's Web site, Award Description:

The President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Award was established in the fall of 1980 to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching at UT Austin in the colleges of Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences.

So faculty in colleges other than Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences are not eligible for this particular award.

How does it work? Teaching Award Committees in the various departments make recommendations to their chair, who assembles a dossier and writes a letter of nomination to the dean. The dean appoints a committee to choose which nominations go forward to the president, who then appoints a separate committee to choose the winners.

No one would win one of these awards as a result of favoritism. There are too many independent committees involved.

As chair of English, I'm proud of my three award-winning faculty, and sad to see accusations of bias based on ignorance of the eligibility rules and the procedures.

Student evaluations are the centerpiece of any nomination, as are student letters of support, peer teaching evaluations, and statements from the teachers themselves. Without student approbation it would be impossible to win this award. (Some other awards are directly student nominated.)

Other awards have different criteria. For example, the Academy of Distinguished Teachers has many members from the other schools and colleges.

14.  Tananius Ono said on Oct. 22, 2009

Hear, hear! Anon!

15.  Jessica said on Oct. 23, 2009

Maybe it is because the Liberal Arts faculty care a little more about actually teaching their subject matter and not just about their research like most of the Engineering and Business tenured and tenure-track faculty. The best "teachers" I had at UT during my undergraduate degree were typically in the College of Liberal Arts. They were excited about the subject matter, and that energy combined with excellent teaching skills made the material from those classes actually stick with me instead of just memorizing a bunch of stuff for a test.

16.  Stephanie said on Oct. 23, 2009

The criteria for the award seems to make this conversation moot--at least if you use this award as the trigger.

17.  Lance Bertelsen said on Oct. 23, 2009

Thanks, Liz. It would be refreshing if the critics of the award actually took the time to find out about the criteria and process before posting their "opinions." I hope their scholarship isn't done this way.

18.  r renner said on Oct. 23, 2009

What is a good teacher anyway? Is he entertaining, is he a generous grader, does he insist upon and get top performance in the most demanding facets of the material to be mastered, does he make the student feel good about the course and the teacher's objectives, does he make the student into a true believer, or a competent scholar, or a critical thinker on the subject? One student's great teacher may be a disaster for another. Should the collective (quantified ) opinion of his students or even his professional peers be the ones to decide? How many professors are competent to judge the "teaching" of their peers?

And are they really similar enough to appropriately allocate awards? Student ratings are valuable only as devices for privately informing an instructor of his effectiveness. They should not be used to get bragging points for administrators.

19.  Marion said on Oct. 26, 2009

Congratulations to all these fine professors! Well done and well deserved!

20.  Guillermo E. Aldana said on Oct. 26, 2009

There are good teachers in math (Guy), engineering (Blackstock, Masada, Farenthold), physics (Dicus), etc. but only so many awards. Also, these subjects tend to be harder to master and some students hold the teacher accountable for their lack of understanding.

The Engineering School has its own teaching chairs, which recognize the faculty for their efforts in teaching.

Remember, only so many awards can be given.


21.  Thomas said on Oct. 30, 2009

Congrats to all, but especially to Professor Carrington of the Department of Sociology. His class was amazing, and he was a great teacher who explained things very well and did relate the subject matter to the students. He was also rather funny and interesting.

22.  Arthur Sakamoto said on Nov. 11, 2009

How many Asian American professors at UT have ever won a teaching award that is accompanied by an honorarium?

23.  Ryan said on Nov. 11, 2009

I completely agree with Jessica. In my own academic experience, I have found that professors in the humanities tend to be more dedicated to teaching while engineering and science profs are more concentrated on their research. I am glad to see that credit is given where it is due rather than spreading it throughout the departments for the sake of uniformity.

24.  Unknown said on Nov. 12, 2009

@Chris Kirk: "Liberal bias" pertains to professors due to their profession, not for their associated scholarship. You will find any statistical sampling of college professors (something akin to more than 70 percent, I believe) to "profess" (pun intended) to being liberal.

That, of course, says nothing about why Liberal Arts professors win the award. My guess is that it is because there are more of them.

25.  Meggie Hilkert said on Nov. 12, 2009

Congrats, Professor Bruster! I had him two years in a row, and he did a fine job.

26.  Marrie Currie said on Nov. 14, 2009

I'm amused by the amount of fail in this thread.