MADISON, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will honor two professors and one academic program for their outstanding achievements in teaching, when they bestow the UW System’s highest recognition for members of its faculty and academic staff on Aug. 24.

The 2012 recipients of the 20th annual Regents Teaching Excellence Awards are:

  • Donald Hanlon, Professor of Architecture, UW-Milwaukee.  Prof. Hanlon has taught architecture at UW-Milwaukee for the past 25 years with the goal of helping students experience the joy of discovering their own creative potential in a field he calls “a powerful emotional and intellectual instrument for interpreting the world.” Regarding Hanlon’s encouragement of developing creative thought, a former student reflects, “No other lesson in my architectural education has had such a profound impact on my personal and professional development.” Hanlon incorporates innovative techniques such as meditation, Laban movement analysis, and specific methods of enhancing creativity in his design studio. His textbook “Composition in Architecture” is widely used. He also provides leadership to student groups outside of the classroom, including student-service projects in Costa Rica and, closer to home, establishing teams of students and community members to provide architectural service to many Milwaukee non-profit organizations unable to afford professional architects. In 2010, Prof. Hanlon converted one of his courses, “Architecture 101: An Introduction to Architectural Theory,” to an entirely on-line course. At about 350 students, it is currently among the largest on-line courses offered at UWM.
  • Jennifer Kosiak, Associate Professor of Mathematics Education, UW-La Crosse.
    An award-winning professor of mathematics education, Dr. Kosiak has been actively involved in improving the mathematical preparation of PK-12 teachers since she arrived at UW-La Crosse in 2004. A faculty member of both the Mathematics Department and the School of Education, she recognizes she is preparing educators for future classrooms, and blends both traditional and innovative strategies, such as rap, to help her students learn. Technology is infused into most of her courses, including SMART Boards, podcasting, and iPads. Kosiak is known for designing lessons and activities that reinforce students’ diverse background knowledge and learning styles and engaging students in collaborative work. She is a leader in the Secondary Teacher Education Program at the university and has also provided statewide leadership in mathematics education by serving on the Wisconsin Mathematics Council since 2007. She is currently working with 25 teachers on a project that is examining the integration of mathematics with reading and writing. One colleague calls her “the epitome of the teacher-scholar.” In 2010, she was awarded the Teacher Educator of the Year Award by the Student Wisconsin Education Association.
  • First-Year Interest Groups (FIGs) Program, UW-Madison. Directed by Greg Smith,UW-Madison’s First-Year Interest Groups program – or FIGs – was developed as a first-year seminar experience to help students make the transition to the university, improve academic performance, and provide students with opportunities to connect with peers and faculty. Students live and learn together in an interdisciplinary learning community, usually during their first semester. Each FIG enrolls about 20 students who are co-enrolled in three linked classes, usually including an ethnic studies course or a course that explores some element of diversity. Each FIG is led by a faculty member who teaches the core “synthesizing” class and integrates appropriate material. The program also incorporates service-learning opportunities, such as working with children in local schools, disabled clients in group homes, or incarcerated women and their families. Students participating in FIGs earn higher GPAs than most non-FIGs students, not only after their first semester, but also at graduation. One quarter of FIGs students come from underrepresented minority groups. The program is one of the strongest tools available to help students succeed on campus both academically and socially. In fall 2001, four pilot FIGs enrolled 75 students; by spring 2012, more than 1,200 students were enrolled in 66 FIGs during two semesters. The program has become a statewide, national, and international model for community learning.

Selecting the winners was both a privilege and a challenge, given the pool of outstanding nominees, said Regent Charles Pruitt, chair of the selection committee.

“My fellow committee members and I were extremely impressed with the creative and effective ways this year’s winners engage and inspire their students,” Pruitt said. “They demonstrate the powerful impact that excellent teachers can have on students’ lives and the wider community.”

Others on the selection committee were Regent Tony Evers, Regent Katherine Pointer, and Regent José Vásquez.

Award recipients are selected for their strong commitment to teaching and learning; use of effective teaching strategies to enhance student learning; and significant impact on students’ intellectual development.

“The University of Wisconsin System would not be the world-class institution it is today without our professors setting the bar extraordinarily high,” said UW System President Kevin P. Reilly. “I am proud to recognize this year’s Regents Teaching Excellence Award recipients, who are so representative of the outstanding talent and dedication seen at all our UW institutions.”

The Regents Teaching Excellence Awards will be officially presented at the Board of Regents meeting on August 24 in Madison.  Each recipient will receive a $5,000 stipend to be used for professional development or program purposes.


Media Contacts:

David Giroux
UW System

Tom Luljak

Brad Quarberg
UW-La Crosse

Amy Toburen