CASE, Carnegie Name 2010 U.S. Professors of the Year

Winners Saluted for Extraordinary Performance in Undergraduate Education


Washington, D.C.-Four college and university educators who challenge undergraduate students to become critical thinkers and engaged life-long learners are the national winners of the 2010 U.S. Professors of the Year awards. 

Administered by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and sponsored by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the awards recognize professors for their influence on teaching and their commitment to undergraduate students. In addition to the four national winners, state-level Professors of the Year are being recognized in 45 states and the District of Columbia. 

The national and state winners of the 2010 U.S. Professors of the Year awards program will be honored today at a luncheon and awards ceremony at the W Hotel in Washington, D.C. National winners will offer remarks after they are introduced by former students. 

The four national winners are:  

  • Outstanding Baccalaureate Colleges Professor of the Year: John Zubizarreta, professor of English, director of honors and faculty development, Columbia College, Columbia, S.C. Zubizarreta's passion is engaging students in reflective learning in the classroom. Instead of focusing solely on content knowledge, students are encouraged to take periodic "reflective learning moments" to think about how they learn and why their learning matters. This strategy encourages students to learn more about themselves as readers, writers and thinkers and has found broad appeal among educators for its proven ability to make learning more meaningful, applicable and durable. Zubizarreta is also noted for working "patiently and personally" with individual students, serving as a mentor as they work on undergraduate research projects and presentations. He has shared his scholarship of teaching and learning widely through his leadership of faculty development at Columbia College and through publications, workshops, institutions and conferences in the United States and abroad.
  • Outstanding Community Colleges Professor of the Year: Ping-Tung Chang, professor of mathematics, Matanuska-Susitna College, Palmer, Alaska. Chang is constantly exploring new ways to help his students learn mathematics in the classroom. Saying the "teacher talks, students listen" model of learning is ineffective, Chang leads an interactive classroom where students debate and discuss different methods to solve problems. This hands-on, problem-solving approach helps students become more confident and engaged in solving and reasoning. Chang also believes in using tests for formative assessment instead of grading. Students are encouraged to retake tests until they master the content, a strategy that has led to a boost in student confidence and a more relaxed learning environment. And for nearly 25 years, Chang has provided refreshments for students, reinforcing his belief that students are unable to learn if their basic needs are not met. Chang also volunteers to help high school students struggling with math and has worked extensively in China to develop more effective mathematics teaching methods.
  • Outstanding Doctoral and Research Universities Professor of the Year: Teresa Balser, associate professor, Department of Soil Science, University of Wisconsin Madison, Madison, Wis. Balser is committed to developing a variety of pedagogical approaches and using assessment techniques to explore what does and does not work in the classroom. She provides students time to reflect on their learning and designs activities and assignments to spark their curiosity. She believes that reinforcing learning and creating enduring understanding are more important than "rushing to cover the content regardless of whether the students have learned it." Balser wants her students to prepare for life-long learning by experiencing what it's like to "learn for learning's sake." Beyond the classroom, Balser is engaged in discipline-based education research and is one of the founders of a new national education research group in biology. She also is engaged in outreach on issues in soil science to agricultural professionals as well as K-12 students and the general public.
  • Outstanding Master's Universities and Colleges Professor of the Year: Russell Colson, professor of anthropology and earth science, Minnesota State University Moorhead, Moorhead, Minn. In each class as well as in research and advising, Colson strives to be both coach and player and to create a forum in which he and his students become "colleagues in discovery." His lecture style engages students directly and promotes critical thinking. All of Colson's classes have significant laboratory and field components. In fact, more than 1,400 students have learned geology in the field with Colson. He has developed a vibrant undergraduate research program in which he is actively engaged with students as they develop their projects, and he builds a sense of community through cookouts and games. In addition, he has built a geosciences minor and major at his institution and engaged in an array of educational outreach programs to teachers and youth.

The U.S. Professors of the Year awards program, created in 1981, is the only national initiative specifically designed to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring. 

John Lippincott, president of CASE, said the 2010 national and state winners were selected for their commitment to student learning, their use of creative teaching methods and their outreach to the larger community. 

"While these professors come from different disciplines and different kinds of institutions, they share a passion for teaching and a dedication to helping their students succeed within and beyond the classroom," Lippincott said. "They emphasize learning not just teaching, inspiring not just professing and exploring not just explaining.  In short, they are exceptional representatives of a noble profession."

Anthony Bryk, president of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, said these dedicated teachers are not only leading their students to develop a deep understanding of their respective fields, they are also "mirroring examples of scholarship, citizenship and community involvement that ultimately will lead to contributions toward a better society and indeed a better world." 

This year's U.S. Professors of the Year award winners were selected from a pool of more than 300 nominees. Judges select national and state winners based on four criteria: impact on and involvement with undergraduate students; scholarly approach to teaching and learning; contributions to undergraduate education in the institution, community and profession; and support from colleagues and current and former undergraduate students. 

TIAA-CREF, a financial services and retirement investment organization, is the principal sponsor of the awards ceremony. Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest academic honor society, sponsors an evening congressional reception for the winners at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Other sponsors of the awards program are the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the American Federation of Teachers, the Association of Community College Trustees, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, the Council of Independent Colleges, Datatel Inc. and the National Council of University Research Administrators. 

About Carnegie: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is an independent policy and research center that supports needed transformations in American education through tighter connections between teaching practice, evidence of student learning, the communication and use of this evidence, and structured opportunities to build knowledge.

About CASE: The Council for Advancement and Support of Education is one of the largest international associations of education institutions, serving more than 3,400 universities, colleges, schools and related organizations in nearly 70 countries. CASE is the leading resource for professional development, information and standards in the fields of education fundraising, communications, marketing and alumni relations.

About TIAA-CREF: The TIAA-CREF family of companies is a prominent financial services organization dedicated to providing lifetime financial security to those in the healthcare, academic, cultural and research fields; for people whose work serves others. An organization with more than $410.2 billion in total assets under management as of June 30, 2010, TIAA-CREF has more than 3.6 million participants in more than 27,000 plans and 15,000 public and private institutions.


Contact: Pamela Russell, CASE
(202) 478-5680


Nominations for the 2015 Professors of the Year are now closed.


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