Chemistry, Literature Instructors Recognized for Classroom Excellence
Two University of Texas at Dallas faculty members have earned The University of Texas System Board of Regents’ highest honor.
Dr. Peter Ingrao (left) and Dr. Gregg Dieckmann
Dr. Gregg Dieckmann, associate professor of chemistry in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and Dr. Peter Ingrao, clinical assistant professor of literature in the School of Arts and Humanities, are recipients of the 2018 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award (ROTA). They are among 27 ROTA winners from the UT System’s 14 academic and health institutions who will be recognized at a dinner Thursday, Aug. 9, in Austin. Each honoree receives $25,000.
The Board of Regents established the award in 2008 to recognize exemplary service to students. Including the 2018 honorees, 33 UT Dallas faculty members have received the award.
“Teaching is at the heart of every university, and UT Dallas faculty and instructors are exceptional,” said Dr. Inga Musselman, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “These awards from the Board of Regents are a wonderful recognition of Gregg Dieckmann and Peter Ingrao’s superb efforts in the classroom and their willingness to go the extra mile for our students.”
Dieckmann joined the UT Dallas faculty in 1999. He has twice earned teaching awards from the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and in 2017 he received the President’s Teaching Excellence Award in Undergraduate Instruction, a University-level award.
He coordinates the general chemistry lecture courses, which this fall will have grown to include seven lecture sections for the on-sequence course, each with up to 250 students, and one section of the off-sequence course. As associate department head in chemistry, Dieckmann also helps choose the course’s lecturers, who teach from a shared syllabus. Several of those instructors have won awards for their teaching skills.
“These awards from the Board of Regents are a wonderful recognition of Gregg Dieckmann and Peter Ingrao’s superb efforts in the classroom and their willingness to go the extra mile for our students.”
“General Chemistry is one of the hardest classes students take, and I argue that it’s also one of the most difficult to teach,” he said. “We’re not just covering a lot of material; we’re also transitioning students from the high school mindset of learning to a more mature approach to thinking and studying. So I pick the best instructors for this course.”
To reach students in such a large setting, Dieckmann said he moves out from behind the lectern and often wanders up and down the lecture hall aisles, engaging students one-on-one.
“Large lecture classes are a challenge because you’re trying to generate a small class environment in a big class,” he said. “Some students like to hide in the back. I make it a point to talk with them, and to use interesting stories and real-world examples that help connect students to the material.”
Ingrao, who earned his doctorate from UT Dallas in 2004, is known for teaching classes that delve into Southern literature, particularly the identity and religion of the South.
“Most recently I have been doing work in the emerging field of the ‘undead South.’ It’s a subcategory of Southern Gothic literature,” Ingrao said. “It’s ghosts, vampires, zombies, werewolves and swamp monsters — things that go bump in the night in the South.”
Such exploration led him to teach humanities courses that focus on superheroes from both comic books and films. This fall, the class focus will be on superheroes in film, including Black Panther.
Ingrao has taught literature at UT Dallas for 10 years, and his teaching skills have been recognized with nominations for the President’s Teaching Excellence Award and his participation with the UT Dallas Center for Teaching and Learning.
Ingrao said he is motivated by a commitment to lifelong learning and curiosity, which he encourages in his students.
“I’ve given talks on everything from Southern writers to Bruce Springsteen to Batman to Godzilla. So it’s the love of knowledge itself and realizing the value that the knowledge itself has, and remaining curious about the things you come across,” he said.
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].