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Faculty Excellence Chris McCauley April 19, 2024

The Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching recognizes full-time, regular faculty members of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in teaching. Award winners must have held faculty status at UAB for a minimum of three years and may receive the award only once in any three-year period.

The CAS Excellence in Teaching Committee selected award recipients for being outstanding representatives of effective teaching and thoughtful pedagogy from the Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Arts and Humanities, and Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Natural Sciences and Mathematics: Mitzy Erdmann, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry

Erdmann earned her Ph.D. from UAB and joined the Department of Chemistry in Spring 2016. She has served as lab coordinator for the department, co-coordinates the innovative ChemScholars Program, mentors numerous students, and, also, serves as an Academic Integrity Coordinator for the College. She is both an accomplished scholar and an impactful teacher, often receiving high scores—and energized adjectives—from her students about her approach to teaching. In addition, she is committed to serving her department, the College, and UAB—volunteering on a range of committees and advising students groups—while also contributing to outreach efforts with the community alongside groups like the Center for Community Outreach Development (CORD). According to one of her nominators, Erdmann has “changed the teaching culture in the chemistry department.”

Arts and Humanities: Yakov Kasman, DMA, Distinguished Professor of Music and Artist-in-Residence

Kasman came to UAB in 2002, and, since his arrival, the piano studio (and its faculty and students) have soared. Kasman, an internationally-renowned pianist, has performed around the world, been featured on numerous CDs, and taught countless master classes to aspiring and emerging pianists. Although he is often recognized for his stellar playing, it is clear that, as an “artist-teacher,” he directs a great deal of his time, energy, and focus toward the success of his award-winning students. This is evidenced by the extraordinary schools his students go on to attend—including the Julliard School, the Peabody Conservatory, and more—as well as through his former students’ eagerness to stay connected to Kasman and, in some cases, return to UAB to perform for and celebrate with him. One of his nominators noted, “His integrity, professionalism, dedication, and commitment to excellence serve as a model for all who have the pleasure of working with him.”

Social and Behavioral Sciences: Maria Hopkins, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Psychology

Hopkins came to UAB in 2007 and has served as director of undergraduate studies since 2011. Hopkins is a celebrated teacher within the department, an advocate for community engagement and service learning, and the force behind the innovative undergraduate mental health certificate within the department. As a researcher and scholar, she actively seeks out opportunities to include both undergraduate and graduate students in meaningful, hands-on research experiences, and she serves as both a mentor and advocate for them along the way. According to one of her nominators, “She encourages students to take charge of their own learning and fosters independence and critical thinking, she makes it clear to her students that she is a resource that is accessible and that she is joining them on their journey of education.”

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