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First-ever winners of College of Arts and Sciences Dean's Awards for Excellence in Teaching

  • Tuesday, 13 February 2018 13:34

The Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching recognizes full-time regular faculty members of College of Arts and Sciences who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in teaching.

The Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching recognizes full-time regular faculty members of College of Arts and Sciences who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in teaching. The individual 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 2018 winners were chosen from these three distinctive areas:

  • Arts and Humanities: Art and Art History, Music, Theatre, Communication Studies, English, Foreign Languages, History, and Philosophy
  • Natural Sciences and Mathematics: Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Physics, and Mathematics
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences: African American Studies, Anthropology, Criminal Justice, Political Science and Public Administration, Psychology, Social Work, and Sociology

The awards were based outstanding accomplishments in teaching as demonstrated by any or all of the following:

  • Broad, thorough knowledge of the subject area and the ability to effectively convey difficult concepts to students
  • Exemplary classroom instruction as evidenced by student and peer evaluations
  • Fairness, open-mindedness, and accessibility to students in and out of the classroom setting
  • An objective, analytical approach to information; clear portrayal of conceptual interrelationships; and intellectually stimulating classroom presentations
  • Ability to inspire and mentor students through advising and publication of their work
  • Effective use of innovative teaching methods and assurance that his/her courses stay abreast of current theory and use of modern technology
  • Promotion of ethical and professional values and behavior among students
  • Ability to infuse students with a commitment to life-long learning and professional development
  • Service and scholarly activities that provide excellent role models for students

The three winners, who were selected by the CAS President's Award for Excellence in Teaching Committee, will be considered for the final College of Arts and Sciences nominee for the President's Award of Excellence in Teaching. Congratulations again to all of our winners, and we'll see you all at the Book Party on Thursday, February 15 from 3:30-5:30pm

From the Arts and Humanities, Dr. Cassandra Ellis, Associate Professor in the Department of English

""Dr. Ellis' scholarship focuses on American and African-American Literature, Reception Studies, Literature and Film, Narrative Theory, Engaged Scholarship, and Service-learning Pedagogy.

She received her undergraduate degree from Syracuse University and her Ph.D. from Columbia. She's been at UAB since 1998.

In her own bio, she says, "As a teacher, I enjoy studying and teaching literature because it allows us to reimagine ourselves and trains us to empathize more with others. For the past few years, I have been developing courses through which my students and I can connect our readings and our writing with real world experiences by our service to the Birmingham community. I take inspiration from what James Baldwin, one of my favorite authors, claimed: 'Literature is indispensable to the world. The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way a person looks at reality, then you can change it.'"

Her nominator said, "Cassandra Ellis has made teaching the 100- and 200-level courses her life's work. We often think of innovative teaching as something that happens inside the major. Cassandra has proved that assumption wrong by her remarkable innovations in Core classes. She is a model of principled commitment to her students' intellectual development."

Congratulations to Cassandra.

From the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Dr. Rajesh Kana, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, Co-Director of the Undergraduate Neuroscience Program, and Director of the Cognition, Brain, and Autism Laboratory

""Dr. Kana's interest is in autism spectrum disorders, specifically social cognitive and affective neuroscience, neuroimaging, and brain and language.

After earning Ph.D. from the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, India, he completed his postdoctoral training at Carnegie Mellon University. In 2001 he was awarded the William Fulbright pre-doctoral research fellow to do research at University of California Los Angeles. He joined UAB in 2007.

Dr. Kana's nominator said that, "He is incredibly invested in his students' learning and growth, whether in the classroom or in the research laboratory. He creates a dynamic, collaborative and relaxed environment in which students feel comfortable asking questions and sharing ideas. He uses a combination of teaching styles and each method ensures that students learn and understand a different facet of the subject. He also stays highly involved in his mentees' professional development and meets regularly with them to offer his guidance. He is not just a professor and mentor to me; he has also become a role model."

Congratulations to Rajesh.

From the Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Dr. Samiksha Raut, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology

""Dr. Raut's interests include undergraduate STEM Education, future STEM faculty training via the CIRTL Lab in the Graduate School, service learning, and sustainability.

She received her undergraduate and masters degrees in biology from Nagpur University in India and her Ph.D. in environmental toxicology from UAB.

She started at UAB in 2012 as one of the primary course masters for introductory biology, and according to her, her teaching philosophy is focused on creating an all-inclusive classroom by emphasizing team-based learning, sustainability, and service-learning. Outside the classroom, she enjoys interacting with undergraduate students and serves as a faculty advisor for Phi Sigma Biological Honors Society; she was also recently and named to advise the Disabilities Advocates Club, a new student organization. She was the spring 2017 recipient of the outstanding faculty award given by the UAB Office of Disability Support Services.

Her nominator said, "Dr. Raut consistently puts forth the effort in ensuring the best learning outcomes for students through her clear and engaging lectures, her thorough and straightforward notes, and her interactive questions and videos. One of her strengths is her ability to provide real-world applications of the course content; consequently she inspires students to explore all of the possible career paths."

Congratulations to Sami.