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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

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Inaugural Awards Recognize Excellence, Innovation in Undergraduate Teaching

AUSTIN – Seventy-three faculty members from The University of Texas System academic institutions have been selected as the inaugural recipients of the Board of Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards and will be sharing $2 million in awards.

The awards, which range from $15,000 to $30,000 depending on level of experience, are believed to be among the highest in the country for rewarding outstanding undergraduate faculty performance and innovation.

Winners in the contingent faculty category will be awarded $15,000 each, while those in the tenure-track category will receive $25,000 each. Tenured faculty awardees will receive $30,000 each. A full list of honorees and the institutions at which they teach is available online at www.utsystem.edu/teachingawards/.

“These awards demonstrate our commitment to maintaining excellence in our classrooms and send a clear message to our campus communities that we value exceptional performance and innovation,” said Regents’ Chairman James R. Huffines.

The awards program was established by 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.

“Clearly, we have a mandate to provide an exceptional education for our students, but our universities also play a critical role in ensuring the economic vitality of Texas. We believe these efforts will foster success in the areas of pedagogy and research, and that they will significantly enhance the educational experience for our students and sharpen the competitive edge of our science and technology activities,” said Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., UT System chancellor.

At the time, Regents authorized $15 million, $10 million of which was to be used for the teaching awards ($5 million at UT Austin and $5 million at the eight other System institutions); and the remaining $5 million to create a research commercialization and technology transfer center at UT Austin.

The teaching awards programs and the commercialization center will each distribute $1 million in awards over five years, beginning this year.

“We believe these new initiatives, coupled with our previous efforts to elevate excellence at our campuses, further enhances our standing on the higher education landscape, substantially improving our ability to bring together the brightest students and faculty,” said David B. Prior, the UT System’s executive vice chancellor for academic affairs.

 

Candidates for the teaching awards were nominated at the campus level, then evaluated on several criteria, including student and peer evaluations; teaching portfolio (which includes pedagogical innovation and teaching objectives); and student learning outcomes.

“It was essential to be very rigorous in setting the highest standards for these teaching awards,” Prior said. “These awards are a tangible demonstration that UT faculty advance excellence in service to our students by diligently imparting state-of-the-art information and concepts based upon scholarship and research, and by using the very best teaching methods,” Prior added.

The awards programs augment several existing initiatives authorized by the Board of Regents that provide critical financial resources to UT System institutions.

In 2004, the System launched the Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention (STARs) Program, which created a multimillion dollar fund to recruit and retain top-flight researchers to UT institutions. Researchers recruited and/or retained under the program have generated more than $200 million in sponsored research at UT institutions. The Regents are anticipated to authorize an additional $30 million in STARs funding on August 20.

In 2005, the Chancellor’s Health Fellows program was established to enhance faculty collaborations and achievements, and other communications projects, among the health and academic campuses.  That same year, the Innovations in Health Science Education program was created to recognize innovation and achievement in undergraduate or graduate health science education. The top prize for that program is $7,500.

And in 2007, the UT System initiated the $2 million Texas Ignition Fund (TIF), which recognizes extraordinary research discovery. TIF grants of up to $50,000 are used to help move inventions from the laboratory along the path to commercial use. Also in 2007, the System established the annual Chancellor’s Innovations in Education Awards – $5,000 prizes which recognize faculty who demonstrate teaching excellence; and the Chancellor’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Awards, which reward outstanding individual and collaborative accomplishments in research and innovation. Prizes in that category can reach $15,000. 

About The University of Texas System
The University of Texas System is one of the nation’s largest higher education systems, with nine academic campuses and six health institutions. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $11.5 billion (FY 2009) including $2.5 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. Student enrollment exceeded 194,000 in the 2007 academic year. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state's undergraduate degrees and educates nearly three-fourths of the state's health care professionals annually. With more than 81,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.

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