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

Winners Saluted for Extraordinary Performance in Undergraduate Education

Washington, D.C.—Four educators who are transforming math, science and engineering education are the national winners of the 2007 U.S. Professors of the Year Award. Sponsored by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and administered by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, the awards recognize professors for their influence on teaching and their outstanding commitment to undergraduate students. A state Professor of the Year was also recognized in 40 states and the District of Columbia.
The 2007 U.S. Professors of the Year will be honored today at a luncheon and awards ceremony at the Willard InterContinental Washington in Washington, D.C., where they will provide remarks following introductions by former students.

The four national winners are:

  • Outstanding Baccalaureate Colleges Professor of the Year: Glenn W. Ellis, associate professor of engineering, Smith College, Northampton, Mass. Ellis joined the faculty at the renowned women’s college to help create the first engineering program specifically designed for women. He established a partnership between the engineering and education faculty that benefited the students of both programs. Using learner-centered pedagogy that is based upon research on learning, the program has drawn national recognition as a model of engineering education reform.
  • Outstanding Community Colleges Professor of the Year: Rosemary M. Karr, professor of mathematics, Collin County Community College, Plano, Texas. After leaving a four-year university to teach at a community college, Karr discovered her true passion: developmental mathematics. Using a holistic approach that empowers students, boosts their self-confidence and provides a strong foundation in mathematics, Karr developed a program that helps students master the basics and gain confidence to tackle subsequent math courses. Participants also put their math skills to work by tutoring at-risk young people.
  • Outstanding Doctoral and Research Universities Professor of the Year: Christopher M. Sorensen, University Distinguished Professor of Physics, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan. Sorensen believes that learning should be placed in students’ hands, literally. In one of 130 lab demonstrations he created for an engineering physics course, students jump off tables holding cups of water to experience a moment of zero gravity. A similar hands-on concept Sorensen developed for teaching applied optics was awarded a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation. In teaching Physics 101, Sorensen replaces standard textbook content with readings from the original work of great scientific minds such as Galileo, Newton and Einstein.
  • Outstanding Master’s Universities and Colleges Professor of the Year: Carlos G. Spaht, professor of mathematics, Louisiana State University in Shreveport, Shreveport, La. A veteran teacher with 35 years in the classroom, Spaht remains convinced that there is always more to learn about teaching and motivating students. Spaht builds rapport with students as a pathway to learning, reaching them through a combination of lectures, small interactive groups and class projects. In one of his favorite courses, he teaches math majors to prove math theorems themselves. Spaht also created a two-year program that helps prepare underserved middle and high school students for college programs in math, science and engineering. 

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

“This year’s four national Professors of the Year have had a tremendous impact on teaching and student learning in math, science and engineering at their institutions, in their communities and beyond,” says John Lippincott, president of CASE. “They exemplify teaching at its best, bringing a commitment to student learning and a passionate devotion to their field of study that inspires students and challenges them to take on even the most demanding subjects.”

Lee S. Shulman, president of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, notes that these teachers are “exemplars for all of us in the community of educators.”

“They have demonstrated a dedication to their fields and to their profession and have used their own wisdom in ways that motivate and transform their students,” Shulman says. “They instill both deep understanding and a love of learning, those dual accomplishments to which all fine teachers aspire.”

This year’s U.S. Professors of the Year winners were selected from a pool of more than 300 nominees. Judges select a national winner in each of four categories—baccalaureate colleges, community colleges, doctoral and research universities, and master’s universities and colleges—and then name state winners from other entries that meet the program’s demanding criteria.

TIAA-CREF, a financial services and retirement investment organization, is the primary sponsor for the awards ceremony. Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honorary, will sponsor an evening Congressional reception for the winners at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Other sponsors include the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the American Association of University Professors, the Association of Community College Trustees, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, the Council of Independent Colleges and the National Council of University Research Administrators.

About Carnegie: Founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1905 and chartered in 1906 by an act of Congress, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is an independent policy and research center with a primary mission "to do and perform all things necessary to encourage, uphold and dignify the profession of the teacher and the cause of higher education." The improvement of teaching and learning is central to all of the work of the foundation.
About CASE: The Council for Advancement and Support of Education is one of the largest international associations of education institutions, serving more than 3,300 universities, colleges, schools and related organizations in 55 countries. CASE is the leading resource for professional development, information and standards in the fields of education fundraising, communications and alumni relations.
About TIAA-CREF: TIAA-CREF is a national financial services organization and the leading provider of retirement services in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields.

11/15/07   CASE press release
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