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Faculty honored with inaugural Regents' Outstanding Teaching Awards
Posted: 08/19/2009
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Six faculty members from The University of Texas-Pan American earned The University of Texas System's first Regents' Outstanding Teaching Awards Wednesday, Aug. 19 in Austin.

Recognized with the inaugural awards were Dr. Stephanie Alvarez-Martinez, lecturer, Modern Languages and Literature; Dr. Bimal Banik, professor, Chemistry; Dr. Deborah Cole, assistant professor, English; Dr. Robert Freeman, professor, Mechanical Engineering; Dr. Kimberly Selber, assistant professor, Communication; and Dr. Constantine Tarawneh, assistant professor, Mechanical Engineering.

"These awards demonstrate our commitment to maintaining excellence in our classrooms and send a clear message to our campus communities that we value exceptional performance and innovation," said Regents' Chairman James R. Huffines.

The awards, presented to 73 individual faculty from UT System academic institutions, are believed to be among the highest in the country for rewarding outstanding undergraduate faculty performance and innovation.

"We are extremely proud of our faculty who were recognized with these prestigious awards by the Board of Regents. These honors are a tribute to the impeccable faculty we have on this campus, who day in and day out dedicate themselves to producing some of the best university graduates in the state," Dr. Paul Sale, UTPA provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

The awards program was established by the Regents in August 2008 as the latest in a series of UT System-launched initiatives aimed at fostering innovative approaches to teaching, research and commercialization endeavors at all 15 UT System institutions.

"Clearly, we have a mandate to provide an exceptional education for our students, but our universities also play a critical role in ensuring the economic vitality of Texas. We believe these efforts will foster success in the areas of pedagogy and research, and that they will significantly enhance the educational experience for our students and sharpen the competitive edge of our science and technology activities," said Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., UT System chancellor.

Winners in the contingent faculty (including adjuncts, lecturers, and instructional assistants) category will be awarded $15,000 each, while those in the tenure-track category will receive $25,000 each. Tenured faculty awardees will receive $30,000 each.

Banik and Freeman were honored in the tenured faculty category, while Cole, Selber and Tarawneh were recognized in the tenure-track faculty classification, and Alvarez-Martinez in the contingent faculty group.

To fund the teaching awards the Regents allocated $10 million with The University of Texas at Austin receiving $5 million, and the other $5 million going to the remaining UT System academic institutions.

In addition to the awards, three faculty members were chosen from the list of recipients in each category to participate in the Aug. 19 meeting, including UTPA's Selber (tenure-track), who made a five-minute presentation to the Board of Regents about the Edinburg campus and her role as professor in the Department of Communication. Also presenting were Dr. Robert Prentice of The University of Texas at Austin (tenured), and Steven Varela of The University of Texas at El Paso (contingent).

"To be asked by the Board to talk about UTPA, a higher education institution I am proud to be a part of is very exciting. I'm ecstatic the UT System wanted to hear about UTPA and what we are doing here. It is an honor to represent our campus," Selber said.

As to winning the award, Selber said her achievement would not have been possible without the support of her college, colleagues, and students.

"The reason I've had this success in teaching at UTPA is because I've had the support of my department, the University and overall my wonderful students. When you have students who are so hungry to learn it motivates me to go above and beyond, " she said.

The process of selecting candidates at the campus level was based on student and peer faculty evaluations; teaching portfolio (which includes pedagogical innovation and teaching objectives); and student learning outcomes.

All award recipients will be honored Wednesday evening during a reception and appreciation dinner on the UT Austin campus.

To view the complete list of honorees, visit http://www.utsystem.edu/teachingawards/.