MADISON, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents has announced that two professors and one academic department will receive the Regents’ 17th annual Teaching Excellence Awards. It is the highest recognition bestowed on members of UW System’s faculty and academic staff for outstanding career achievements in teaching.
The 2009 recipients are:
- Dôna Warren, Associate Professor of Philosophy at UW-Stevens Point
- Michael Cox, Professor of Biochemistry at UW-Madison
- The Theatre Arts Department at UW-Parkside.
The caliber of the nominations for this year’s awards made it an enviably difficult selection process, said Regent Danae Davis of Milwaukee, who chaired the selection committee.
“As always, selecting the winners was extremely challenging, but it was also very rewarding,” Davis said. “The members of the UW community we honor with these awards are shining examples of the ability that excellent teachers have to impact and enrich students’ lives.”
Other Regents on the selection committee were Jeffrey Bartell, John Drew, José Vásquez, and Betty Womack.
Award recipients are singled out for their strong commitment to teaching and learning; use of effective teaching strategies to enhance student learning; and for having significant impact on students’ intellectual development.
“It is vital that our students are well prepared to succeed as contributing citizens in a globally-engaged democracy,” said UW System President Kevin P. Reilly. “To help meet that challenge, we are fortunate to have exceptionally talented professors and instructors who, through their expertise, dedication, and gifted teaching, model that kind of informed citizenship for students.”
Helping students to become critical thinkers is a key objective for UW-Stevens Point philosophy professor Dôna Warren. “By providing people with emotionally warm, psychologically safe, intellectually challenging, and carefully designed learning opportunities, either in the classroom or online, I hope to help individuals become more comfortable with ideas and better able to understand the chains of reasoning that support them,” Warren said.
UW-Stevens Point Associate Dean Charles Clark said Warren’s work with students in honing their critical thinking skills contributes to their success regardless of their chosen major and plays a vital part in developing “engaged and responsible citizens.”
Jessica Douglas, an adult returning student at UW-Stevens Point, called Warren’s impact life-changing. She said that Warren’s teaching “fundamentally altered the way I think and approach situations on a day-to-day basis, to the betterment of my life as a whole.”
UW-Madison biochemistry professor Michael Cox is well-known for putting students first, from his perpetual “open door” policy to his ongoing commitment to making new resources and opportunities available for students. A colleague noted, “He always treats students with respect, which encourages them to come to him with their questions.”
In describing his own philosophy, Cox said, “If there is one key characteristic for successful teaching, it is simply to care about the students. If students can rely on you for fairness, and know that you will be there when they need you, courses – even courses with 200 students – work out pretty well.”
Cox, who has co-authored a biochemistry textbook that has been translated into 12 languages, is known for integrating teaching and research, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. His students consistently comment on Cox’s ability to make them want to stretch their expectations. Lukas Bane, a UW-Madison senior, said, “He sets reasonable goals and makes me want to work my hardest to reach them. Not just for him, but for a shared love of science and the experience of doing something that hasn’t been done.”
The UW-Parkside Theatre Arts Department has earned an outstanding reputation for its quality theatrical productions, research, development, and presentation. It has also collected awards and regional and national recognitions that far belie the relatively small size of the program. With five tenured faculty and three artists and theatre staff, the department serves more than 60 theatre majors and 10 theatre arts minors. After launching a peer mentoring program in 2005, retention of new freshmen and transfer students has jumped from 65% to 98%.
The department describes its mission as “a comprehensive combination of classroom training, company engagement, and realized production work (that) allows for a well-rounded collegiate experience with an emphasis on critical thinking, effective communication, engaged collaboration, problem solving, and creative process.”
Graduates of the program consistently credit the excellent teaching, mentorship, and background at UW-Parkside for the exciting career opportunities they’ve been offered in theater performance and theater education. As one student put it, “Having a personal relationship with every member of the faculty and staff created an incredibly safe environment where I felt free to openly explore and take chances … I cannot imagine my career without that time to grow and become comfortable in my skin.”
The Regents’ Teaching Excellence Awards will be officially presented at the Board of Regents meeting on Dec. 11 in Madison. Each recipient will receive a $5,000 stipend to be used for professional development.
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