About CASE

Pam Russell
director of communications


For Immediate Release
Nov. 19, 2009

CASE, Carnegie Name 2009 U.S. Professors of the Year

Winners Saluted for Extraordinary Performance in Undergraduate Education

Four college and university educators who actively engage their undergraduate students in hands-on research and extensive team work are the national winners of the 2009 U.S. Professors of the Year Awards.

Administered by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and sponsored by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the awards recognize professors for their influence on teaching and their commitment to undergraduate students. In addition to the four national winners, state-level Professors of the Year are being recognized in 36 states, the District of Columbia and Guam.

The national and state winners of the 2009 U.S. Professors of the Year award will be honored today at a luncheon and awards ceremony at the Willard InterContinental Washington in Washington, D.C. National winners will offer remarks after they are introduced by current or former students.

The four national winners are:

  • Outstanding Baccalaureate Colleges Professor of the Year: Rob Thomas, professor of geology, at The University of Montana Western in Dillon, Mont. Thomas's passion is teaching geology to students in the field so they can directly experience how the Earth works. With his help, the University of Montana Western became the first public university in the country to transition from regular semester courses to block scheduling. In "Experience One," his geology students take a single course for 18 instructional days, working outdoors on real-world projects. For example, undergraduate students in his environmental field studies class conducted an analysis of stream restoration on the upper Big Hole River and drafted a 150-page assessment report-in 18 days. The project was a collaborative effort with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local ranchers to help preserve an endangered fish species.
  • Outstanding Community Colleges Professor of the Year: Tracey McKenzie, professor of sociology, at Collin College in Frisco, Texas. McKenzie creates a collaborative learning environment in which students are both teachers and learners. Much of her teaching is through "learning communities," which are interdisciplinary, team-taught courses designed around a theme. She engages students in these communities in original research and encourages them to present their work to a wider audience. McKenzie's leadership contributed to the program receiving national recognition and interest from colleges in other states. McKenzie also empowers students to take on larger roles on and beyond campus through the Student Leadership Academy, one of only a few community college student leadership academies in the nation.
  • Outstanding Doctoral and Research Universities Professor of the Year: Brian P. Coppola, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Chemistry, at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Coppola encourages undergraduates to explore the teaching and learning of chemistry-from writing the text of the course and constructing the lab syllabus to participating in peer instruction and teaching groups. He engages students on a broader level through "structured study groups," supplemental instruction sessions in which undergraduates develop original research proposals based on contemporary chemical literature. Coppola bases the questions for the final exam on the student-generated work. This concept of using teaching groups for complex teaching is finding broad appeal among many educational institutions. As co-director of the IDEA Institute, Coppola is also implementing the concept at the K-12 level and is collaborating on similar projects with international colleagues.
  • Outstanding Master's Universities and Colleges Professor of the Year: Richard L. Miller, professor of psychology, at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Miller helps undergraduate students critically examine and contribute to the knowledge base in psychology. For all of his classes, he designs optional lab experiences in which small groups define and investigate a real question that could - and often does - lead to a new discovery. Students plan and conduct all aspects of their studies, from obtaining the participants to coding and analyzing the data and structuring their papers. Many have presented and published their research results. Miller's leadership in teaching and research helped strengthen the commitment to teaching throughout the psychology department, which received the University of Nebraska system-wide teaching excellence award.

The U.S. Professors of the Year awards program, created in 1981, is the only national initiative specifically designed to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring.

John Lippincott, president of CASE, said the 2009 national and state winners represent the best in undergraduate teaching and mentoring.

"These professors have a passion for teaching that sparks a passion for learning in their students," Lippincott said. "As great teachers, they combine a profound knowledge of their disciplines with creative teaching methods to engage students within and outside of the classroom. We celebrate their achievements and contributions to teaching and student learning."

Anthony Bryk, president of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, said that the four winners have shaped both the lives of their students and the well-being of their communities.

"These dedicated teachers are not only leading their students to develop a deep understanding of their respective fields-geology, sociology, psychology and chemistry-but they are also mirroring examples of scholarship, citizenship and community involvement that ultimately will lead to contributions toward a better society and indeed a better world."

This year's U.S. Professors of the Year award winners were selected from a pool of more than 300 nominees. Judges select national and state winners based on four criteria: impact on and involvement with undergraduate students; scholarly approach to teaching and learning; contributions to undergraduate education in the institution, community and profession; and support from colleagues and current and former undergraduate students.

TIAA-CREF, a financial services and retirement investment organization, is the principal sponsor of the awards ceremony. Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honorary, sponsors an evening congressional reception for the winners at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Other sponsors of the awards program are the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the American Association of University Professors, the Association of Community College Trustees, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, the Council of Independent Colleges and the National Council of University Research Administrators.

About Carnegie

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is committed to developing networks of ideas, individuals, and institutions to advance teaching and learning. We join together scholars, practitioners, and designers in new ways to solve problems of educational practice. Toward this end, we work to integrate the discipline of improvement science into education with the goal of building the field's capacity to improve.

About CASE

CASE believes in advancing education to transform lives and society. As a global nonprofit membership association of educational institutions, CASE helps develop the communities of professional practice that build institutional resilience and success in challenging times. The communities include staff engaged in alumni relations, fundraising, marketing, student recruitment, stakeholder engagement, crisis communications and government relations. CASE is volunteer-led and uses the intellectual capital of senior practitioners to build capacity and capability across the world.

CASE has offices in Washington, D.C., London, Singapore and Mexico City. Member institutions include more than 3,700 colleges and universities, primary and secondary independent and international schools, and nonprofit organizations in 82 countries. CASE serves nearly 88,000 practitioners. For more information about CASE, please visit www.case.org.

The TIAA-CREF family of companies is a prominent financial services organization dedicated to providing lifetime financial security to those in the healthcare, academic, cultural and research fields; for people whose work serves others. An organization with $495 billion in assets under management as of Sept. 30, 2012, TIAA-CREF has more than 3.7 million participants in more than 27,000 plans and 15,000 public and private institutions.