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Four COS faculty members honored with UT teaching awards

James Epperson
James Epperson

Theresa Jorgensen loves mathematics, and she's not afraid to let a classroom full of undergraduates at The University of Texas at Arlington know it. James Epperson wants undergraduates to know that it's important to explore why accepted mathematical concepts are true.

Barbara Shipman hopes students approach learning like a researcher - by asking a question and working along the bumpy path toward an answer.

Lauri Jensen-Campbell encourages students to be active participants in the learning process by soliciting their opinions and involving them in live demonstrations in class.

These four University of Texas at Arlington professors are among seven talented, dynamic UT Arlington faculty honored by the UT System Board of Regents this week with Outstanding Teaching Awards.

Theresa Jorgensen
Theresa Jorgensen

In its second year, the program rewards faculty members who deliver the highest quality of undergraduate instruction through a demonstrated commitment to teaching. Awardees also are recognized for showing a promising future of excellence in all aspects of instruction.

UT Arlington President James D. Spaniolo nominated the honorees based on recommendations from department chairs, deans and a committee established by Donald R. Bobbitt, UT Arlington provost and vice president for academic affairs.

"These awards are a significant investment in recognizing faculty who are committed to actively engaging students, and we appreciate our Regents' support for their work," Bobbitt said. "Such incentives are continuing to help make UT Arlington a place of exciting intellectual exploration."

Each nominee submitted course descriptions, student and colleague recommendations, statements of their teaching philosophies and examples of student outcomes for consideration.

Jorgensen, an assistant professor of mathematics, said sharing her enthusiasm for mathematics comes naturally. Though her doctorate is in partial differential equations, Jorgensen has focused her research in math education. She is a leader in the UT Arlington Mathematics Teacher Preparation Academy, a Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board-funded project that aims to improve mathematics education in kindergarten through 12.

"I knew that the papers I would write about solving problems in partial differential equations would maybe get read by three people," she says. "But when you work with teachers, you see the light bulbs go off in their heads and they say, 'Wow these ideas are great. I'm going to take this back to my classroom."

Epperson, an associate professor of mathematics, is director of the UT Arlington Mathematics Teacher Preparation Academy. He is also co-principal investigator on a $1.9 million National Science Foundation grant for the creation of the Arlington Emerging Scholars Program. That program is to increase the success and retention of undergraduates studying science, technology, engineering and math. In his classes, Epperson tries to encourage a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts by challenging undergraduates with complex work. Epperson's wife, UT Arlington associate professor in mathematics Minerva Cordero-Epperson, was honored with a UT System Outstanding Teaching Award last year.

"In all my undergraduate courses, I try to get to that question of, 'Why is that true?"" James Epperson says. "I want them to see that learning is not just listening to the teacher and taking it all in. You have to be involved in asking these 'why' questions."

Barbara Shipman
Barbara Shipman

Shipman, an associate professor of mathematics, also wants her students to forge their own pathways of understanding. She also is helping other educators with the publication of her Active Learning Materials for a First Course in Real Analysis, a series of classroom strategies she developed. That project is funded by a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

Shipman says it's her job to help students negotiate the bumps and pitfalls that come with being active participants in their learning. That way, the knowledge they gain will have a lasting impact.

"I don't want to lead them down the smooth path that's already been figured out," she says. "Through targeted questions, I lead them into the storm so that they can make the path their own."

Lauri Jensen-Campbell
Lauri Jensen-Campbell

Jensen-Campbell, an associate professor of psychology, said her goal is to build students' critical thinking skills, thus allowing them to keep learning long after class ends. Jensen-Campbell was inducted into UT Arlington's Academy of Distinguished Teachers in 2009.

Her research areas include bullying and health outcomes and personality and adolescent development.

"I believe teaching students critical thinking skills is paramount to a university education," she said. "By learning to think critically, students will be able to continue to learn outside of the classroom and will become better consumers of what they read and hear. It is exciting to see students challenge one another and critically examine their knowledge within the university setting."

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.

UT Arlington economics lecturer Jane Himarios was among three winners from across the state invited to speak Wednesday when UT System officials announced the awards in Austin. The Board of Regents gave 72 awards this year to faculty. Each tenured winner of the Outstanding Teaching Awards receives $30,000. Tenure-track faculty receive $25,000. Contingent faculty, which includes adjuncts, lecturers and instructional assistants, receive $15,000.

Other UT Arlington faculty members honored this year include: Anand Puppala, professor of civil engineering; Joanna Webb Johnson, senior lecturer in English; and Jane Himarios, senior lecturer in economics.