TWICE IS NICE: Six UTPA faculty members win Regents' awards
Posted: 08/12/2010
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For the second time in a row, six faculty members from The University of Texas-Pan American were recognized with The University of Texas System's Regents' Outstanding Teaching Awards for their innovative teaching methods in the classroom.

Six UTPA faculty members were honored with The University of Texas System's Regents' Outstanding Teaching Awards. Pictured left to right are Dr. Elvia Ardalani, Dr. Muhammad I. Bhatti, Dr. Kenneth Buckman, Dr. Jessica Lavariega-Monforti, Dr. Hassan Ahmad, and Dr. Brian J. Warren.
The $2 million in awards were presented to 72 faculty members from UT System academic institutions on Aug. 11 during a ceremony on the UT Austin campus.

The UTPA faculty members honored included Dr. Hassan Ahmad, professor and chair, Department of Chemistry; Dr. Muhammad I. Bhatti, professor, Department of Physics and Geology; and Dr. Kenneth Buckman, associate professor, Department of History and Philosophy, and director of the Rafael A. "Felo" and Carmen Guerra Honors Program; Dr. Elvia Ardalani, assistant professor, Department of Modern Languages and Literature; Dr. Jessica Lavariega-Monforti, assistant professor, Department of Political Science; and Dr. Brian J. Warren, lecturer, Department of Communication.

"These six faculty members come from a variety of disciplines - from political science to chemistry - they are making a true difference in the lives of our students. I applaud them heartily," UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen said.

"For the second year in a row, we have proof from outside the University how outstanding the teaching is at Pan Am," he added.

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.

"These awards show that the Board of Regents and the UT System are focused on rewarding excellence in the classroom - for it is there that our institutions provide the most critical facet of the university experience: the education of our students," said Regents' Chairman Colleen McHugh.

Tenured faculty awardees were presented with $30,000 each, while those in the tenure-track category earned $25,000 each. Contingent faculty (including adjuncts, lecturers, and instructional assistants) winners were awarded $15,000. In addition to the cash awards, winners also received a bronze medallion and a certificate commemorating the achievement.

Ahmad, Bhatti and Buckman were honored in the tenured faculty category, while Ardalani and Lavariega-Monforti were recognized in the tenure-track faculty classification, and Warren in the contingent faculty group.

In the competition for the awards, faculty candidates were subjected to a rigorous examination of their teaching performance over three years by campus and external examiners. The process of selecting candidates was based on student and peer faculty evaluations and a required teaching portfolio that showcased pedagogical innovation, teaching philosophy and objectives, and continuous improvement of course materials.

To view the complete list of honorees, visit

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Recipients' Thoughts on Winning Awards:

Dr. Hassan Ahmad, Professor and Chair, Department of Chemistry

"Receiving this award is a very humbling and fulfilling experience that I am going to cherish for a long period of time. I was visiting India at the time of the award announcement and sharing this exciting news with my parents was a very special moment for me. Winning this award further fuels my desire to continue my best efforts for students' success. I believe the UTPA pre-professional science students should also be accredited for my triumph because they are the ones who demand a superior learning experience. At a time when science education is encouraged in the Rio Grande Valley, we are duty-bound to serve as the best role models with finest performance in and outside the classrooms."

Dr. Muhammad I. Bhatti, Professor of Physics, Department of Physics and Geology

"This honor means a lot to me. I am humbled as an educator. It is certainly an honor to be a winner but it is also a great honor to be nominated by the colleagues whom I respect dearly. The University of Texas Regents' Outstanding Award demonstrates our commitment to maintaining excellence in teaching, research and innovation. We are happy The University of Texas System recognized our innovative approaches to teaching and research endeavors. Of course, this would not have been possible without the support of the students, department, college, and peers."

Dr. Kenneth Buckman, Associate Professor, Department of History and Philosophy, and Director of the Rafael A. "Felo" and Carmen Guerra Honors Program

"Being awarded a Regent's Award for Outstanding Teaching imposes a great responsibility on me to live up to the commitments to teaching that have guided me throughout my teaching career. To receive the award in the company of five other amazing faculty from UTPA is a humbling experience, but an honor to be included among them. That there are six of us receiving this award from the System is a loud testament to the standards of excellence and the quality of higher education at UTPA."

Dr. Elvia Ardalani, Assistant Professor, Department of Modern Languages and Literature

"It is a great honor to receive such recognition. It is exciting and motivating to know that the UT System is supporting the efforts of professors and students alike, because we should not forget that these awards are possible thanks to the students who attend our classrooms every day. Providing a strong undergraduate education is essential within any educational framework, and The University of Texas System is well aware of that."

Dr. Jessica Lavariega-Monforti, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science

"I love being in the classroom with students, so to be awarded for doing something I love is incredible. As an educator, to me, this award demonstrates that the UT System values good teaching. With the ever-increasing research and service responsibilities faculty face, unfortunately this message can get lost at times. Therefore, this award symbolizes an appreciation for the hard (but wonderful) work faculty engages in with students in and out of the classroom, which is a core part of a teacher's mission."

Dr. Brian J. Warren, Lecturer, Department of Communication

"For me, this recognition means that the UT System truly values commitment to teaching. I am honored to represent "contingent faculty" in the UT System, who sometimes, though they often bear the brunt of the teaching responsibilities, get little or no notice for their efforts. Though it is the students who provide our teaching satisfaction on a daily basis, I am proud to know that the UT administration knows the importance of good teaching for the universities in the System."