New award 'reemphasizes' good teaching

By Amanda Hunt

Arizona Daily Wildcat

A new teaching award has been established at the UA and it is not because a recent "60 Minutes" report criticized the university's dedication to undergraduate education.

The "word through the grapevine" has been that the award is a response to the "60 Minutes" issue, said Donna Swaim, coordinator of the University of Arizona's Faculty Fellow Program. "That is simply not the case at all."

The award, which was proposed over a year ago, was created solely to recognize professors for long-term excellence in undergraduate education. Beginning this year, two professors will be chosen every year, and named as "University Distinguished Professors."

The idea for the teaching award has gone through a process of discussions since January 1994 when UA President Manuel T. Pacheco asked the faculty fellow program for

proposals to encourage faculty performance. The award was established to "reemphasize" the importance of teaching in undergraduate education.

Based on the positive response the award has received, Swaim said, "Our original intention was right on target."

According to a memo detailing the award, the nominees should demonstrate "long-term commitment to the UA, a sharp focus on undergraduate education, outstanding scholarship, an excellent teaching record, and a strong commitment to student welfare both inside and outside the classroom."

Swaim said the difference between this award and other awards is that the awarded professors will receive a $5,000 salary increase. The recipient also gains a title of importance, she said.

Lucia Barton, administrative associate in the Office of Undergraduate Education, agreed that it is a "nice award" because of the permanent salary increase. Barton has worked closely with the organizers of the award.

The university will fund the salary increase during the first year and subsequent years will be covered by the state. This year's recipients will be recognized at an awards banquet in May.

Swaim said the award is also unique because the nominations can come from "the widest possible ranges," from departments, students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Although it is too soon to determine how many nominations will be made, Swaim says, "I hope the committee will be swamped with nominations."

A committee comprised of an award-winning professor, a member of the administration, a graduate student, Swaim and ASUA President-elect Ben Driggs will evaluate the nominations and choose the winner.

Anyone interested in nominating a University Distinguished Professor should submit at least two letters of nomination to the Office of Undergraduate Education or to Swaim in Harvill Room 347. Nominations and necessary documentation from the nominees are due April 7.

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