College of Science

UT Regents honor Veerabathina for teaching excellence

Nilakshi Veerabathina, lecturer in physics, is among seven UT Arlington faculty members to be honored this year by The University of Texas System Board of Regents for excellence in the classroom.

In all, 65 educators from across the UT System were honored and will share $1.8 million in awards and were honored August 22 during a special ceremony in Austin.

"I am humbled by the honor and I believe it corroborates my teaching philosophy," Veerabathina said. "The Department of Physics and the College of Science at UT Arlington have provided an academic environment that helped me channel my enthusiasm and utilize my knowledge and teaching skills in a uniquely effective way, and I feel thankful to everyone at UT Arlington that has made it possible for me to receive this prestigious award."

The UT System award isn't the first to recognize Veerabathina for her teaching excellence. Last year, she was received the UT Arlington Faculty Service Learning Award, which is given to faculty members for innovations in engaged scholarship that integrates service learning into the curriculum.

"My teaching philosophy is guided by the ideal of service to students in particular and society in general. I believe that a teacher who can identify the individual learning needs of the students and serves such needs can positively influence the students for the rest of their lives," she said. "As a teacher of astronomy, my purpose is to motivate my students to be self-directed, excited and engaged in a process of lifelong learning and critical thinking that will help them succeed in a knowledge-driven world and contribute to the scientific advancement of the society.

"My constant endeavor is to help students understand science as a creative human activity which allows development of new technologies that offer solutions to numerous practical problems confronting the society."

Alex Weiss, professor and chair of the UT Arlington Department of Physics, said the honor is fitting recognition of Veerabathina's commitment to instill a love of learning and of helping others in her students.

"This award is well-deserved and is an excellent acknowledgement of Dr. Veerabathina's teaching," Weiss said. "She is a great motivator and her emphasis on service learning is a tremendous asset to the department and the University."

UT Arlington Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ron Elsenbaumer said the honorees were selected based on recommendations from department chairs, deans and committees.

"They are successful in the classroom because they challenge students and cultivate the quest for learning," Elsenbaumer said. "They set their students on a path to success."

In addition to Veerabathina, UT Arlington honorees include: Elisabeth Cawthon, history; Christopher Conway, modern languages; Jonathan Davis-Secord, English; Victoria Farrar-Myers, political science; K.J. (Jamie) Rogers, engineering; and Kathleen Tice, education.

A complete list of winners and their institutions is available on the UT System website here. For a video tribute to this year's recipients, click here.

The honors come with a $25,000 cash award and recognize faculty members at UT System academic institutions who demonstrate extraordinary classroom performance and innovation at the undergraduate level. The event marks the program's fourth year.

"We have a responsibility as a board to support, encourage and reward our
From left, UT System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, Vice Chairman R. Steven Hicks, Nilakshi Veerabathina and Chairman of the Board of Regents Gene Powell at a ceremony honoring Regent award recipients August 22.
most innovative and effective educators. These annual awards help advance a culture of excellence and recognize outstanding performance in the classroom and laboratory that directly benefit our students for life," said Gene Powell, chairman of the UT System Board of Regents. "On behalf of the board, I congratulate each of these dedicated professionals for their commitment to exceptional teaching and providing an education of the first class for our students."

Award nominees must demonstrate a clear commitment to teaching and a sustained ability to deliver excellence to the undergraduate learning experience. Campus and external judges rigorously examined the candidates' teaching performance over three years.

"The UT System and the Board of Regents believe educating young minds is paramount for the future of this great state and nation," said UT System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D. "These awards honor those educators who have produced proven results and have had a great impact on our students."

Additionally, students, peer faculty and external reviewers considered a range of activities and criteria, including classroom expertise, quality of curriculum, 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.

About The University of Texas System
Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking research and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States, with nine academic universities and six health science centers. Preliminary student enrollment exceeded 215,000 in the 2011 academic year.

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. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $13.1 billion (FY 2012) including $2.3 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With roughly 87,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.

Posted September 7, 2012