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This is the first feature in a series spotlighting UTSA’s 2015 recipients of the Board of Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award.

Since its inception, only a handful of exceptional professors have been awarded The Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award; In 2015, seven of the forty-four professors selected amongst the entirety of University of Texas system’s academic community were UTSA professors. This award- established in 2008 by the governing body of the UT system, the Board of Regents- bestows top talent in academia with $25,000 and is the highest and most competitive honor obtainable.

The Board of Regents consists of nine members, appointed by the Governor, and confirmed by the Senate. Terms for Regents are scheduled for six years, and staggered so that three members’ terms will usually expire on the first of February in odd-numbered years. In addition, the Governor appoints a Student Regent for a one-year term.

The award recognizes faculty who deliver excellence to undergraduate instruction and prioritize innovation in their teaching approach. Candidates must have an accomplished background in academia, as well as a promising future.

“The Regents’ Awards program is extremely competitive, and I want to congratulate this year’s recipients on their success. Moreover, I want to thank them for the enthusiasm they bring to their work every day. These educators represent diverse disciplines and use a variety of teaching methods in their classrooms. But what they all do have in common is an abiding commitment to the success of their students, and with that, earnestness about being lifelong learners themselves,” says UTSA Provost John H. Frederick.

Fellow educators, students, and reviewers outside of the UT System, evaluate ROTA recipients before the award is granted. Their performance, classroom environment, curriculum quality, innovation, and student learning outcomes are factors taken into consideration.

This year the recipients, representing six different departments and five colleges are:

Kathryn Brown, associate professor, Department of Anthropology (COLFA); Kirsten Gardner, associate professor, Department of History (COLFA); Patricia Jaramillo, lecturer, Department of Public Administration (COPP); Jerome Keating, professor, Department of Management Science & Statistics (COB); Ram Krishnan, assistant professor, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (COE); Deborah Moon Wagner, lecturer, Department of Anthropology (COLFA); Valerie Sponsel, professor, Department of Biology (COS).

The seven UTSA recipients also will be inducted into the university’s Academy of Distinguished Teaching Scholars later this fall and will be honored August 19, 2015, at UT Austin.

Jerome Keating, professor, Department of Management Science & Statistics (COB):

“My teaching style was influenced by those teachers from whom I learned the most and with whom I enjoyed the learning experience. In elementary school, my teachers were Irish nuns who taught with a great amount of zeal. In college, I was influenced by practical applications that provided solutions to problems that affected everyday life. I worked at Bell Helicopter, Texas Instruments and the Los Alamos National Laboratory before joining UTSA. These experiences provided a base of applications that conveyed the practicality of my lectures. I feel very grateful for this honor and quite fortunate to have so many wonderful students and great colleagues who made this possible. This is a wonderful honor to receive as one nears the end his career. I thrive on being able to convey what I know to others. The two greatest individual inspirations were my high school geometry teacher, Father Victor Gillespie, O.S.B., and Abbott Denis Farkasfalvy, O. Cist., who influenced how I taught mathematics, delivered lectures, listened to students, analyzed their questions, etc.”

Valerie Sponsel, professor, Department of Biology (COS):

“I graduated from the University College of Wales, United Kingdom, with a BSc in botany and PhD in plant physiology. I then moved to the Department of Organic Chemistry, Bristol University where I did research on plant hormones for 14 years, receiving a Doctor of Science degree. After immigrating to the United States in 1986, I worked at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Indiana University, Bloomington before coming to UTSA in 1995. I was fortunate to receive an outstanding education in the U.K., benefiting from the wisdom and knowledge of countless schoolteachers and university professors. They taught by example, shaped my understanding of science, and inspired me to continue learning. I am honored to be a recipient of a ROTA. The existence of these Awards underscores that undergraduate teaching is an important function of our institution. As I enter into a room to lecture on the first day of class it is exciting to envisage how I will get to know these students personally over the next four months. With many of them, I will make a lasting bond so that they keep in touch with me beyond the lifetime of the class, and in some cases, beyond their time at UTSA. This flux of students is one of the most exciting aspects of teaching. It continually refreshes the teaching experience and provides opportunities for me to make a difference in the lives of many students.”

Congratulations to all of the seven UTSA Regents’ Award winners!

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