MADISON, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents has announced the recipients of the Regents’ 18th annual Teaching Excellence Awards.  On Aug. 20, two professors and one academic department will receive the UW System’s highest recognition bestowed on members of its faculty and academic staff for outstanding career achievements in teaching.

The 2010 recipients are:

  • Jennifer Szydlik, Professor of Mathematics, UW-Oshkosh. Dr. Szydlik, an award-winning professor of mathematics, joined the UW-Oshkosh faculty in 1995. She believes mathematics is “as natural for us to create and love” as art, music, or literature. Students who confess to a phobia of math leave her classes not only with a newfound appreciation of the beauty and logic behind mathematics, but also with skills widely applicable to life and learning. She received distinguished teaching awards from UW-Oshkosh in 2004 and from the Wisconsin Section of the Mathematical Association of America in 2009. A nationally recognized researcher and author, Dr. Szydlik is noted for co-authoring a McGraw-Hill Company series of textbooks for prospective elementary and middle school teachers. She earned her master’s degree and Ph.D. in mathematics, with an emphasis in mathematics education, from UW-Madison. In addition to teaching numerous undergraduate courses for prospective teachers, she is coordinator for the mathematics department graduate program and director of the department’s tutor lab.
  • Paul Thomas, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, UW-Eau Claire. A native of Australia and nationally recognized researcher in physics and astronomy, Dr. Thomas has worked at UW-Eau Claire for 21 years. His innovations in instruction reflect a strong support of liberal arts education to inform scientific pursuits and provide a deeper educational experience. He has collaboratively developed and co-taught several courses, including “Planetary Geology” and “Physics and Chemistry of Everyday Life.” A popular and demanding instructor, Dr. Thomas receives high praise from students and co-instructors alike for his enthusiasm, skill in conveying complex concepts, and high academic standards. In 2008, he organized the “Ask a Scientist” seminars, a monthly outreach program hosted at an area coffee shop that features local scientists and typically draws audiences of between 50 and 70 people. Dr. Thomas has authored numerous popular articles and peer-reviewed articles, in addition to co-editing a book about comets and the origins of life. His credits include a planetarium show he developed for the campus’s L.E. Phillips Planetarium.
  • The Department of Biology, UW-Platteville. The department’s ultimate educational goal is to transform students of biology into engaged professionals who know how to “do science.” The department carried out a complete curriculum revision under the guidance of Dr. Wayne Weber and Department Chair, Dr. Jeffrey Huebschman. The department is known for promoting a collaborative, supportive environment for students, faculty, and staff. The eight faculty and six teaching academic staff have garnered numerous UW-Platteville and UW System recognitions for teaching and advising, and have been awarded 26 grants totaling nearly $390,000 for improvement of instruction and assessment. Over 300 students have engaged in undergraduate faculty and student research collaborations in the last 15 years, and the department has branched out to create environmental classrooms in national and international settings, such as the tropics of Costa Rica. The number of students majoring in biology has doubled in the past decade and now totals over 350. To accommodate growth in the program and provide state-of-the-art teaching and laboratory space, a $2.2-million renovation of Boebel Hall is now under way.  The department and its alumni support its students financially, providing thousands of dollars in scholarships annually.

Selecting the winners was a challenging but rewarding task given the pool of exceptionally strong nominees, said Regent Danae Davis, chair of the selection committee.

“On behalf of my fellow committee members, we are privileged to see up close the depth and breadth of high-caliber teaching in this university system,” Davis said. “The winners of this year’s award epitomize the phenomenal commitment to student success and engagement that makes a lasting influence on students’ lives.”

Other Regents on the selection committee were Jeffrey Bartell, John Drew, José Vásquez, and Betty Womack.

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 stellar teaching of these honorees equips students to become involved, thoughtful citizens and our future leaders,” said UW System President Kevin P. Reilly. “I’m proud to recognize their accomplishments and creative approaches to engaging students – and the wider community – in lifelong learning.”

The Regents’ Teaching Excellence Awards will be officially presented at the Board of Regents meeting on Aug. 20 in Madison. Each recipient will receive a $5,000 stipend to be used for professional development.

Media Contacts

Michael Rindo UW-Eau Claire 715-836-4742
David Giroux UW System (608) 262-4464
Barbara Daus UW-Platteville 608-342-1282
Jeanette De Diemar UW-Oshkosh 920-424-3358