Excellence in Teaching and Undergraduate Advising is bestowed by the Office of the Chancellor and the Teaching Council of the Faculty Senate to honor outstanding work in the classroom and in advising.
Kelly Baker, a lecturer in Religious and American Studies, taught at four other colleges and universities before coming to UT in 2010. Her goal is to help students understand course content but also to think critically. She challenges them to become cultural analysts and critics. Baker’s classes are not just lectures; they are a sensory experience of print, visuals, and film. “She was flawlessly well prepared, called on nearly every student by name without hesitation, and facilitated an interactive lively discussion for all fifty minutes. I didn’t want the class to period to end,” an evaluator notes. “Watching Kelly Baker teach restores my faith in higher education and learning, and in its value to society.”
Les Essif, professor of French, also serves as chair of French studies in Modern and Foreign Languages and Literatures department. Essif is well known for his ability to integrate language and cultural instruction with theater. He uses performance as a creative critical tool and has published extensively about this technique. He demonstrates a passion for the language and encourages his students to ask creative and unusual questions about the class material. “He really challenges his students by requiring them to participate in class, continually practice their speaking skills by discussing every day, and assigning a rather heavy workload,” his evaluator states. Essif was named an Alumni Outstanding Teacher in 2002.
Fritz Polite is a clinical assistant professor in Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies. He is the founding director of the Institute for Leadership, Ethics, and Diversity in Sport and also serves as director of outreach for the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. Polite’s work extends far beyond the classroom, and he encourages his students to engage in service and new experiences. From working behind the scenes at the Super Bowl to hosting Korea’s retired elite athletes, he ensures that students learn from all they do. “He was hands down my hardest professor at UT, but also a great mentor. His class is the most rewarding class I’ve taken in college thus far,” a nominating student states.
Jeffrey Reinbolt is an assistant professor of mechanical, aerospace, and biomedical engineering. He joined the faculty in 2009. “His openness and engagement of students is exceptional. He actively works with students to develop them further than the classroom. He raises students’ expectations of themselves and their peers,” his nominator states. Reinbolt’s work explores how simulations can improve medicine. Earlier this year, he received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award that will allow him and his team to further examine human movement with the goal of improving rehabilitation for stroke victims.
Mary Anne Hoskins
As associate director, Mary Anne Hoskins helps to oversee the College of Arts and Sciences Advising Services. To say her office is a busy place would be an understatement. The center sees an average of 2,500 first-year students to help them begin their academic careers at UT. The center’s staff works closely with students at all levels, with a special focus on making sure students connect their interests with a field that will lead to the right job. Hoskins coordinates the health professions advising program and works with departmental advising. She is credited for the time and attention she provides all students. “Being the nontraditional student, and returning to college at age thirty for a second degree, I was facing fears of not being able to manage a full-time school schedule around the rest of my established life,” one nominator explains. “Mary Anne talked me through what it might be like to do this, thereby inspiring me to try a heavier course load than I had originally planned.”
An advisor for the College of Arts and Sciences Advising Services, Shanna Pendergrast became a student favorite not long after coming to UT. She advises biology students early in the program and supports faculty advisors. Pendergrast helps students learn to use university resources and develop plans to reach their goals, while coaching them to take charge of their own destiny. She has an amazing gift of remembering details about the many students she sees. “Shanna is always on top of things and efficient during our advising appointments. She goes above and beyond, deals with so many students every day, and still recognizes who I am and remembers things I have mentioned in passing an entire semester later,” one advisee shares in her nomination. “There is no greater indication of her excellence as an advisor than that she always seems to be booked whenever I want to see her,” she notes.