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Department of Biology News

Regents to honor five UTA faculty as system’s best

Five University of Texas at Arlington faculty members are among University of Texas System educators honored with 2017 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards for excellence in the classroom.

The prestigious recognition highlights select educators who maintain the highest caliber of excellence in their teaching and deliver the highest quality of undergraduate instruction in classrooms, labs, in the field and online. Honorees are nominated based on recommendations from department chairs, deans and committees.

The 2017 UTA recipients are:

  • Carla Amaro-Jiménez, associate professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education;
  • Ramon Lopez, professor, Department of Physics, College of Science;
  • Laura Mydlarz, associate professor and associate chair, Department of Biology, College of Science;
  • Kathryn Hamilton Warren, senior lecturer and graduate coordinator, Department of English, College of Liberal Arts;
  • Robert L. Woods, Distinguished Teaching Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, College of Engineering

“The five honorees this year are truly outstanding colleagues,” said UTA President Vistasp Karbhari. “Through their teaching they provide transformational experiences to our students, setting each on a path of enquiry and discovery that results in enhanced development of knowledge and of student success. They epitomize teaching excellence and, in doing so, join a distinguished list of winners from prior years. I'm extremely proud of each of them and of the impact they have on our students both in and out of the classroom. Each year, the honorees raise the bar of accomplishment, inspiring all of us to do even more to assure the very best educational experience for our students. Excellence in teaching, quality of instruction and dedication to student success are the hallmarks of exceptional faculty and this year’s winners exemplify the very highest standards.”

UTA’s recipients are among 56 faculty members within the UT System’s 14 institutions chosen to receive these teaching awards. Recipients are selected after a rigorous review of all aspects of their teaching performance by peers and judges.

“The Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards is one of the nation’s largest awards programs to honor exceptional instruction in the university classroom,” said Board of Regents Chairman Paul Foster. “It is a reflection of the value the University of Texas System and the Board of Regents place on extraordinary teaching and student success, and it represents our profound appreciation to these wonderful educators and the life-changing impact they have on students at UT institutions.”

The Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award program was launched in 2008. Each recipient is awarded $25,000 and will be recognized at a dinner on Wednesday, Aug. 23 in Austin.

Nomination letters for each of the five honored faculty members summarized their many achievements:

Carla Amaro-Jiménez is with the College of Education and known for her innovative service learning focus, such as directing a program that provides free college access and career readiness services to nine school districts that served more than 35,000 high school students in the last four years.

To support her teaching and directly impact the student learning experience, Amaro-Jimenez obtained two internal grants, the Sustainability in the Curriculum and the Innovative Teaching grants in 2010, and two grants at the federal level. She co-authored the Improving the Preparation of Teachers grant in the amount of $1.9 million, which supported UTA teacher candidates/students through scholarships, curriculum refining, and training opportunities both in the community and abroad. Her contribution to the recent Title V “Hispanic Serving Institution” provided $2.6 million in grant funding for the creation of the IDEAS Center, which supports student success on campus as well as faculty members’ teaching practices.

Ramon E. Lopez is a professor in the College of Science’s Department of Physics. A highly regarded space physicist and a passionate advocate for enhancing the quality of K-12 science education and increasing diversity in STEM fields, he is co-director of UTA’s UTeach teacher preparation program. Lopez is a Fellow of the American Association of Physics Teachers and recipient of the American Geophysical Union’s 2016 Space Physics and Aeronomy Richard Carrington Award, which is given to a single honoree for significant impact on students’ and the public’s understanding of science. He is the author or co-author of more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, as well as the popular science book, “Storms from the Sun.”

Lopez has consulted with school districts and education agencies across the country to improve standards in science education. He co-chaired the writing team that produced the Next Generation Science Standards, which provides content standards for K-12 science educators.

Laura Mydlarz joined the Department of Biology in 2007. She is passionate about leaving her mark with her students. Mydlarz is one of the key faculty members driving the new innovative ASSURE program. Achieving Success in Science through Undergraduate Research and Engagement is an immersive, inquiry-guided early-stage undergraduate research program designed to introduce students to the principles guiding modern research activities. Through this program, Mydlarz taught students critical-thinking skills and knowledge of the world of research.

Mydlarz was the recipient of the 2016 President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and a recipient of the Fort Worth Tech Titans Award, given to an outstanding university program that promotes STEM education in North Texas. Mydlarz helped establish COREEF (Community Outreach for Enhancing Ecological Fundamental) to encourage students to present to and engage K-12 students in learning about the importance of the world’s oceans and the threats to marine environments. She is a gifted educator who brings her research expertise and passion for science to the classroom, and is praised for her approach to mentoring and providing students with a service-learning experience.

Kathryn Hamilton Warren, senior lecturer and graduate coordinator, Department of English, College of Liberal Arts, is known for her dynamic presence in the classroom where she challenges students to “walk a path of self-discovery.” She has an incredible capacity to combine research and scholarship in ways that inspire others, as seen in her recent essay, “The Reluctant Reader” in The Chronicle of Higher Education; she recounted how she engaged in a productive dialogue about literature with an engineering student in one of her classes who challenged the relevance of literature to his science-based future.

At UTA, she won two teaching awards in 2016, the university-wide Provost’s Award and the College of Liberal Art’s Outstanding Teaching Award for Faculty outside the Tenure Stream, for courses taught both online and in the classroom. She teaches an unusually wide range of courses, including “Self-Determination and the Struggle for Justice in African-American Literature” and “Jane Austen,” receiving very high evaluations from students.

Robert L. Woods’ accessibility, passion and dedication are unmatched, according to his students. Believing that true learning can only come from first-hand experience, Woods founded one of the University’s most innovative and high-profile experiential learning programs, the annual FSAE Race Car project. The project consists of an interdisciplinary select group of students who design, build and race a car in competition with other colleges and universities. They learn teamwork, budget management, design compromises and partner with regional industry leaders for the materials and expertise that produce a successful product.

UTA FSAE teams have won eight national championships, the most of any competing university, and international titles in England, Australia and Japan. The program enjoys a graduation rate between 95 percent and 100 percent each year. Woods is a 2017 Minnie Stevens Piper Professor Award winner, a three time Piper/Amoco Outstanding Teacher and the 2013 Excellence in Engineering Education Award winner from the Society of Automotive Engineers International.