Moore earns prestigious award

A biology professor was named Minnesota Professor of the Year.

Allison Wickler

Despite its status as a large public research university, the University is also recognized nationally for its teaching ability.

Randy Moore, a biology professor in the Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning, recently was named Minnesota Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which holds the contest to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching nationally and in individual states.

Moore won the University’s Horace T. Morse Award for undergraduate teaching in 2006, which put him in the running for the Carnegie Foundation award.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education also works with the Carnegie Foundation to administer the awards.

Moore and the other 48 state and national winners were recognized at a ceremony Nov. 16 in Washington, D.C.

Moore, who teaches general biology and a seminar on the evolution-creation controversy, said he started working at the University seven years ago because of the General College program.

He said he saw his undergraduate self in many of the “at-risk” or “first-generation” college students in the General College.

“There was something very noble about that,” he said, “for a public, big-time place to give a chance to those students.”

Mary Taylor Huber, senior scholar and member of the Carnegie Foundation’s selection committee, said people can be critical of the teaching at a large school like the University.

“A lot of times the good things don’t get recognized,” she said.

An award like this can give the winning professors a platform to publicize information about their discipline and for the University to show dedication to teaching, she said.

Moore said despite some limitations, like lecture halls that are too big and students who don’t care, he tries to be enthusiastic about teaching.

“I’ve never seen a good teacher who doesn’t seem like they like it,” he said.

While he always thinks of ways to make biology interesting for students, Moore said his role as a professor extends beyond classroom learning to help students succeed in life.

“If they make an effort, I’ll meet them way past halfway,” he said. “I’ve bailed them out of jail, I’ve gone to funerals with them, taken them to the hospital. It’s more than just the facts about biology.”

Several students said Moore stands out among teachers they have had.

First-year architecture student Chanh-Truc Tran, who said students call Moore “Randy” instead of “Professor Moore,” said he likes how Moore relates biology to daily life.

“Instead of teaching about mitosis and meiosis, he talks about how cancer comes from that,” he said.

Sports management senior Garret Rasmusen said he doesn’t like biology, but Moore makes the classes engaging “by being a goof.”

“If I had to compare him with other science professors, he’s one of the best,” he said.

Human anatomy and physiology professor Murray Jensen said Moore is “very direct” and lets students know what they need to do to pass his class.

“History has shown that if you like to skip class, don’t take Randy’s class,” he said.

He said Moore is not only an international player in biology education, but is one of the most productive professors on campus.

“He writes more papers and books than many departments,” he said.

Moore said he sees the award as an endorsement of the teaching at the University and that there is more than “just research” here.