2 UT Dallas Scholars Win Regents' Teaching Awards

Aug. 16, 2010

A professor who helps UT Dallas students appreciate how economics impacts everyday life and a literature scholar with interests ranging from Faulkner to C.S. Lewis have been honored by The University of Texas System Board of Regents.

The two received Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards in a recent ceremony that also honored 70 other UT System faculty members, with whom they will share $2 million in awards.

The UT Dallas winners were:

  • Dr. Sheila Amin Gutiérrez de Piñeres, the University's new dean of undergraduate education and an economics professor in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences.
  • Dr. Theresa Towner, professor of literary studies in the School of Arts and Humanities.

“These awards show that the Board of Regents and the UT System are focused on rewarding excellence in the classroom – for it is there that our institutions provide the most critical facet of the university  experience: the education of our students,”

Colleen McHugh,
UT System Regents' Chairman

 The awards, which range from $15,000 to $30,000, honor faculty members who demonstrate extraordinary classroom performance and innovation at the undergraduate level. The event marked the program’s second year.

“These awards show that the Board of Regents and the UT System are focused on rewarding excellence in the classroom – for it is there that our institutions provide the most critical facet of the university  experience: the education of our students,” said Regents’ Chairman Colleen McHugh.

Award nominees must demonstrate a clear commitment to teaching and a sustained ability to deliver excellence to the undergraduate learning experience. In the competition for the awards, faculty candidates were subjected to rigorous examination of their teaching performance over three years by campus and external examiners.  

Evaluations by students, peer faculty and external reviewers considered a range of activities and criteria, including classroom expertise, curricula quality, innovative course development and student learning outcomes. A teaching portfolio was required to demonstrate pedagogical innovation, continuous improvement of course materials, overall teacher training experience and a statement of teaching philosophy and objectives.

“We have a clear duty to provide an exceptional education to our students. These awards not only further that goal, they help advance a culture of excellence that translates to better pedagogy and research, and, ultimately, to a stronger and more vibrant economy for this great state,” said UT System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D.

“We have a clear duty to provide an exceptional education to our students. These awards not only further that goal, they help advance a culture of excellence that translates to better pedagogy and research, and, ultimately, to a stronger and more vibrant economy for this great state.”

 Francisco G. Cigarroa,
UT System  Chancellor

Among those honored this year were 38 tenured faculty members, who each received $30,000 awards. Seventeen tenure-track faculty each received $25,000 awards and another 17 contingent faculty each received $15,000 awards.

“We believe in rewarding excellence, but we also believe in setting rigorous standards in our teaching awards. Therefore, we know these educators incorporate the very best teaching methods and that they impart cutting-edge concepts and information based on scholarship and research,” said David B. Prior, UT System’s executive vice chancellor for academic affairs.

A complete list of names and the institutions at which they teach is available online.

The awards program was established by the Board of Regents in August 2008 as the latest in a series of UT System-sponsored activities aimed at fostering innovative approaches to teaching, research and commercialization endeavors at all 15 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 $345 million in sponsored research at UT institutions.
  • 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.
  • 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 to the commercial marketplace.
  • Also in 2007, the UT System established the annual Chancellor’s Innovations in Education Awards – 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.

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 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 84,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.


Media Contact: Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu
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Sheila Pineres and Theresa Towner

Dr. Sheila Amin Gutiérrez de Piñeres (left)  and Dr. Theresa Towner

The 2010 Regents’ Awards

• Dr. Towner Honored for Engaging Approach to Literature

• Dr. Piñeres Conveys Sense of Enthusiasm for Economics

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