The University of Texas at Dallas

Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science


Department Head Honored for Teaching Excellence

Department Head Honored for Teaching Excellence

The University of Texas at Dallas recently honored five educators with annual President’s Teaching Excellence Awards, while 48 others were recognized for their completion of a national classroom teaching course.

“Teachers have such a great influence on their students,” said UT Dallas President Richard C. Benson, the Eugene McDermott Distinguished University Chair of Leadership. “We are so fortunate to have some of the most committed and innovative instructors in the country on our campus.”

The UT System partnered with the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) to offer a course in effective teaching practices to select faculty members. After completing 25 modules over two semesters, faculty received certificates in effective college instruction from the ACUE and the American Council on Education. These credentials distinguish faculty and institutions for their commitment to educational excellence.

A recent ceremony honored 21 faculty members who completed the course in 2020-2021 and 27 who completed it in 2021-2022. Also honored were five who received President’s Teaching Excellence Awards.

Dr. Shalini Prasad

Dr. Shalini Prasad

The teaching excellence awards committee receives hundreds of nominations every year and considers a broad spectrum of eligible candidates from across the University. The award comes with a stipend, and recipients are presented with medallions.

Dr. Shalini Prasad, professor and head of bioengineering, Cecil H. and Ida Green Professor in Systems Biology Science, received the President’s Teaching Excellence in Graduate/Professional Instruction.

What makes an excellent teacher?

An excellent teacher finds the balance between pedagogy and personalized learning. In graduate education, it is almost like captaining the “Star Trek” Enterprise and charting the course for new scientific discoveries.

What’s the best advice you’ve received about teaching?

Teaching has to model the Goldilocks effect — getting content delivery integrated with learning just right.

What would the students be surprised to find out about you?

I am a polyglot who uses visual memory to speed-read.

What is one of your hidden talents?

I am a “STEMinist” [someone who advocates for equal representation of social groups in science, technology, engineering and math] trained in the performing arts. I also can tell you the day of the week if you can give me a date and year — most of the time.

What is one of your favorite memories from teaching at UT Dallas?

Every year, the student teams perform a teardown of a sensor technology. One team presented me with all the torn-down parts, including the nuts and bolts, and encouraged me to reassemble it for fun. My sons and I spent some time working on “rebuilding” the sensor.

What is your teaching philosophy?

Anyone can memorize facts and figures, but, to really learn something, you have to go out and do it for yourself. Just follow your curiosity.

A version of this story appeared in News Center.