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.
Mark DeKay is an associate professor of architecture with a collaborative approach to teaching. He joined the university in 2001 after completing a Fulbright Fellowship at the Center of Environmental Planning and Technology in India. DeKay has taught courses in graduate design studio, advanced undergraduate design studios focused on sustainability, and seminars in green design, climatic design, and architectural technology. DeKay brings a fresh approach to architectural studio instruction. A student nominator said, “The most memorable thing about his studio is the way that he insists on a positive collaborative environment. Everyone’s opinion matters and everyone has something to contribute.” In 2011, he published a peer-reviewed book, Integral Sustainable Design: Transformative Perspectives. He is an honorary fellow of the Institute of Green Professionals.
Lois Presser, an associate professor of sociology, worked in criminal justice in New York City for ten years before moving into academia. She joined the Department of Sociology after receiving her doctorate in criminal justice from the University of Cincinnati. Presser seeks “to inspire students to think broadly, deeply, and personally about social phenomena.” Three years ago, she redesigned the Society and Law course to give students the opportunity to propose topics and readings and to create their own rules and sanctions for the class. “It is clear that she is continuing to push forward an innovative teaching agenda that continues to serve the department’s needs and those of students in excellent fashion,” said a nominator.
Andrew Sherfy believes instructors have as much to gain from their students as students from instructors. A lecturer in biosystems engineering and soil science, he earned both his bachelor’s and master’s in soil science from UT. He believes it is important to demonstrate to students that you are continually invested in their learning. “This shouldn’t be a challenge to us as instructors, because as those who value learning and education, we have so much to gain from our students. I learn from my students daily, and I want them to know that,” Sherfy said. One of his students said Sherfy has all the attributes of a great teacher—a sense of humor, availability, and a way of letting students know how much he wants them to succeed—and added that his method of teaching is very realistic and concrete. Sherfy coaches the university’s soil judging team, which competed earlier this year in the National Collegiate Soils Contest.
Brian Stevens engages students with a mix of humor and know-how. A lecturer in statistics, operations, and management science, he is highly regarded for his enthusiasm, thoroughness, and appreciation for the material he teaches. Knowing that attention fosters learning, Stevens applies a formula to his teaching: “Around 80 percent of class time must be spent assimilating and reinforcing relevant material while the other 20 percent is spent keeping students engaged.” One student noted, “He is very attentive with communicating with students and his door is always open for help. The effort he puts toward all of his students is truly admirable.”
When it comes to his role as an advisor, Adam Cureton, an assistant professor of philosophy, wears many hats. To the students he advises, he is part counselor, part critic, part political strategist, part spiritual advisor, part therapist, and part life coach. He understands that it all comes with the job of helping students succeed. Cureton identifies with students not only on an academic level, but also personally. He encourages creativity and original thought, and guides students to stand up for their ideas in a civilized and respectful way. He asks all the students he advises the same question—How do you plan to fight the world’s fight?—and uses the answer to help guide them in creating a plan for their time at UT and for life after graduation. One student nominator summed it up: “After every conversation, I come away more at ease, armed with his advice and knowing that I have an advisor who is constantly supportive.”
Nichole Fazio-Veigel is known as a great listener and a steadfast advocate. Her advising philosophy is relatively simple: she listens. She carefully attends to what students share to understand how best to direct their efforts. As associate director of the Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships, Fazio-Veigel works to help students believe in their own potential and be confident in their pursuit of excellence. She also offers a ready cup of tea. “If it weren’t for Nichole, I wouldn’t have as clear a vision of what I am capable of in the future,” said a student. Fazio-Veigel is currently in the process of completing a PhD in the history of art at the University of Oxford. She is a postgraduate fellow at Trinity College, University of Oxford, and received an internationally competitive ORS Clarendon Brusary Fellowship and the Trinity Graduate Excellence Fellowship in support of her research. Before returning to graduate study, she helped develop an undergraduate research program and undergraduate scholarship office at the University of Washington.