University Honors Five Instructors with President’s Teaching Awards

This year’s honorees for the President’s Teaching Excellence Awards, from left: Ariel Arguelles, Dr. Robert Ackerman, Dr. Amandeep Sra, Carol Cirulli Lanham MS’09, PhD’11 and Dr. Jonas Bunte, with President Richard C. Benson.

Five UT Dallas instructors recently were honored with President’s Teaching Excellence Awards for the outstanding impact they have on students through mentoring and creative teaching.

The recipients were recognized at a reception hosted by the Center for Teaching and Learning. At the event, UT Dallas President Richard C. Benson credited the chosen educators with lifting the University’s profile and drawing the best students.

“A lot of wonderful students chose to come to UT Dallas because of you,” said Benson, holder of the Eugene McDermott Distinguished University Chair of Leadership. “They come because of the reputation you have. And they remain at UT Dallas for the same reasons. Thank you for what you do for students individually, and for what you do for UT Dallas collectively. We attract great students because of our great teachers.”


Dr. Jonas Bunte

President’s Teaching Excellence Award in Undergraduate Instruction (tenure-track)

Dr. Jonas Bunte is an assistant professor of public economy in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences. Teaching at UT Dallas since 2013, he studies the politics of finance. His classes explore how politics shapes economics and vice versa. He said his courses aim to provide students with the tools to think critically in an increasingly complex world.

“The economic and political problems faced by society are constantly changing. Consequently the explanations for, and solutions to, these problems need to continually evolve as well,” he said. “I enjoy working with students to identify the causes of a particular problem and coming up with potential solutions. I gain much gratification from watching students learn to articulate explanations to empirical puzzles and the skills to adjudicate between competing arguments. The fact that the student body at UT Dallas is so diverse is a real asset in this process of finding solutions.”


Dr. Amandeep Sra

President’s Teaching Excellence Award in Undergraduate Instruction (non-tenure-track)

Dr. Amandeep Sra is a senior lecturer in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. She began her teaching career at UT Dallas in 2011. She instructs sophomore and freshman courses and laboratories. She also serves as the general chemistry lab coordinator, faculty liaison for the Student Success Center and a summer camp facilitator.

Sra said she remembers as a student reflecting on a famous Chinese proverb: “Teachers open the door. You enter by yourself.” As a teacher, she realized that different people have different doors.

“I may have to open a small cabinet door for one, a large double door for another and even knock down a wall occasionally,” she said.

Over the years, she has come to recognize there is no single mantra.

“My teaching philosophy has evolved by first and foremost listening, realizing, respecting and utilizing each student’s unique learning style,” she said. “This enables me to tailor the learning process, making it student-centered while empowering the students to be equal partners in this process.”


Dr. Robert Ackerman

President’s Teaching Excellence Award in Graduate/Professional Instruction

Dr. Robert Ackerman is an associate professor of psychology in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. He arrived at UT Dallas in 2011 and has taught graduate-level and undergraduate courses on topics such as personality, statistics, and research design and analysis. He said he enjoys watching students’ interest come alive with new insights into statistics and data analysis.

“It heartens me to see students become engaged with a subject that many may find tedious or daunting. Students’ curiosity and thoughtful questions keep me motivated,” he said.


Dr. Carol Cirulli Lanham

President’s Teaching Excellence Award in Online/Blended Instruction

Senior lecturer Carol Cirulli Lanham MS’09, PhD’11 has been teaching at UT Dallas since 2011. She teaches a variety of sociology classes online and in the classroom. As assistant dean in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, she also teaches the freshman seminar.

“Since I teach all the EPPS freshmen, I particularly enjoy watching students learn and mature over the course of their college journey,” she said. “But whether I meet students as freshmen or transfer students, I am gratified to play a role in their education and development. It is a true privilege to mentor young people at this important stage of life, and it makes me excited to come to work every day.”


Ariel Arguelles

President’s Teaching Excellence Award for Teaching Assistants

Graduate student Ariel Arguelles teaches both Human Resources Management and Diversity in the Public Sector in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences. She has been teaching at UT Dallas since spring 2017. She said her favorite part of teaching has been interacting with students and continuously challenging them in their ideas and beliefs.

“This isn’t done to persuade them, but to encourage them to better understand not just what they believe, but why,” she said.

Arguelles said she enjoys discussing topics that are complex, emotional and sometimes controversial throughout the semester. She said she is amazed at the eloquence and vulnerability her students show.

“Seeing their eyes light up when they consider a point of view they hadn’t before or getting to watch them engage with their peers in small groups is deeply rewarding and inspires me to keep nudging them forward,” she said.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].