Outstanding profs honored with new distinguishing award

Amy Olson

Seventy-five University faculty members were recognized for outstanding teaching Tuesday afternoon at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.
These professors, representing all four University campuses, were inducted into the newly formed Academy of Distinguished Teachers.
The concept, yet another idea University President Mark Yudof transplanted from Texas, is intended to recognize and promote excellence in teaching.
Professors who have received either the Horace T. Morse-Minnesota Alumni Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education or the Award for Outstanding Contributions to Graduate and Professional Education are eligible to become members.
Eventually, the academy will consist of 80 distinguished educators, said Vice Provost Craig Swan, whom Executive Vice President and Provost Robert Bruininks, described as the chief architect of the academy.
Regent William E. Hogan II said the academy recognizes excellent teaching, which is the fundamental reason for a university.
“You’re changing people even as we speak,” Hogan said.
English professor Toni McNaron said the program is an improvement over the simple verbal recognition professors received when she began teaching at the University more than 30 years ago.
McNaron also told her fellow inductees that the financial backing of programs designed to improve teaching combined with verbal recognition is important to improve the quality of education. Academy members have valuable expertise, leadership and enthusiasm that can be harnessed to improve education, Bruininks said.
The academy’s first members were selected from a pool of professors who previously received awards; they will be active members of the academy for five-year terms.
Bruininks said all 75 recipients who responded were selected.
“Good political sense is alive and well at the University,” Bruininks said, smiling.
About 16 professors receive the Morse-Alumni award each year. In the future, the recipients of either award will be automatically inducted into the academy.
Yudof said the academy is intended to promote exceptional teaching by recognizing outstanding teachers with both verbal and financial incentives.
Members will receive a permanent $3,000 salary supplement, as well as a supplement for professional development. The recipients will also have use of the “Distinguished Teaching Professor” title throughout their career at the University.
Swan said the academy will strive to improve the quality of teaching at the University by matching academy members with new faculty members in a mentorship program. Members will also act as spokesmen and women for teaching improvements and as advisers to the chancellors, provost and president.
Yudof said he hopes the recognition and promotion of good teaching will help recruit outstanding faculty members and students.
“A good teacher can so very positively influence those around them,” said inductee James Cotter, a science and mathematics professor at the University of Minnesota-Morris.