Originally published August 28, 2015
By Daniel Perez
UTEP News Service
Homer Nazeran has been an educator for more than 30 years – the last 13 at The University of Texas at El Paso – but he speaks of his profession with the exuberance and passion of a rookie teacher anticipating his first day of school.
Nazeran, Ph.D., professor of electrical and computer engineering, is among the 10 UTEP faculty members to earn a 2015 Outstanding Teaching Award (ROTA) from the University of Texas System Board of Regents. This prestigious recognition is for undergraduate educators within the system’s 15 academic and health institutions who have demonstrated extraordinary classroom performance and innovation in instruction.
The other UTEP honorees are David Carrejo, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics education; Bradley Cartwright, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of history; Sandor Dorgo, Ph.D., associate professor of kinesiology; Pei-Ling Hsu, Ph.D., assistant professor of science education; Helmut Knaust, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematical sciences; Oscar Macchioni, DMA, associate professor of piano; Sasha Pimentel, MFA, assistant professor of poetry; Raymond Rumpf, Ph.D., associate professor of electrical and computer engineering; and Elizabeth Walsh, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences.
The Regents presented the awards during a special ceremony Aug. 19, 2015, in the Lone Star Ballroom of the JW Marriott Austin. Each winner received $25,000 – one of the largest prizes given in the nation for teaching excellence. The total system winnings come to more than $1.9 million.
The ROTA “affirms and strengthens my desire and dedication to transform myself further from a teacher to a coach, facilitator, supporter and mentor for my undergraduate students,” Nazeran said. “This achievement will fuel my efforts to empower and enable my engineering students to become critical thinkers, flexible problem-solvers, and lifelong learners.”
This is the largest group of UTEP educators to be honored with the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards (ROTA) since 2012 when 10 were recognized. This brings the total number of UTEP honorees to 58 since the first ROTAs were issued in 2009.
Regents’ Chairman Paul Foster praised the educators for their role in preparing the next generation of leaders and was glad the UT System was able to make this kind of investment to reward outstanding faculty.
“The efforts of these faculty members significantly enhance the educational experiences of our students and the UT Board of Regents is pleased to have this opportunity to honor them,” Foster said.
Nominees go through a rigorous selection process that involves lengthy reviews at the department, college and University levels before they are submitted to the UT System. They are evaluated on factors such as classroom expertise, curricula quality, innovative course development and student learning outcomes. Nominations come from peers, students and institutional leaders.
“All of us at UTEP are extremely proud of the 10 UTEP educators recognized by the UT System Board of Regents,” said University President Diana Natalicio. “The excellence of their work as teachers, mentors and scholars has contributed significantly to creating superb educational opportunities for our talented and hardworking students. We applaud these Outstanding Teaching Award recipients and thank them for their commitment to UTEP’s mission. We also thank the Board of Regents for supporting these generous awards to honor highly dedicated and successful teachers.”
What was most thrilling to Howard Daudistel, Ph.D., vice president of academic affairs and interim provost, was that the honorees were selected from across the University’s ranks and academic disciplines.
“These awards testify to the quality of our faculty and our continuing commitment not only to access but also to excellence in the classroom,” Daudistel said.
Here are the reactions of the other 2015 ROTA recipients:
Carrejo: “I am very honored and humbled to receive this award. It’s one of the most meaningful moments thus far in my career because it’s an honor bestowed upon me by my students and my peers. I really share this honor with them.”
Cartwright: “I’m utterly thrilled to have been selected as a recipient of the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award. It’s an honor to join such an amazing group of teachers who care deeply about their students and their craft. Receiving this award would have been impossible without the inspiration and support I get from UTEP’s students and my fellow faculty.”
Dorgo: “Earning this honor brings me tremendous joy. It is a prestigious honor to be noted as one of the many UTEP faculty members who deliver a quality education. I have really enjoyed seeing UTEP students succeed during the past 12 years and appreciate the impact I can have on their careers.”
Hsu: “Receiving this teaching award honors me and my students because teaching is what students and I accomplish together. Students at UTEP have a sincere and professional attitude towards learning. I know I can have high expectations of them because eventually students always accomplish more than what I expected.”
Knaust: “Learning how to teach is a life-long journey. While I am truly honored by this award, this is no time to rest on my laurels. I am committed to continue this journey with renewed energy. As the fifth ROTA winner in my department (mathematical sciences), I am especially pleased that its deep commitment to excellence in teaching continues to be recognized at the state level.”
Macchioni: “I feel honored and humbled to have been selected for this prestigious award. I thank my students, who inspire me to become a better teacher everyday. I have been teaching at UTEP for the past 12 years and enjoy every interaction with UTEP’s diverse student population. I find that our students are very respectful and appreciative of the opportunity they are given to study here.”
Pimentel: “I hope this award spotlights the critical work that UTEP’s Creative Writing faculty – my colleagues – are doing in this complex border culture: how we teach the craft of writing, the nuances of language, in order to excavate from our students their own narratives. I hope this award can represent how necessary our UTEP students’ stories are. It is exactly their stories that should be the stuff of American literature.”
Rumpf: “My family and I were extremely excited to hear I had won this award. I work very hard to provide students the best learning experience possible. It is great that I work for a university system that recognizes and appreciates these efforts. The thing I enjoy most about teaching at UTEP is how eager most of the students are to learn. I enjoy getting students excited with the material and watching them accomplish great things with the knowledge we give them.”
Walsh: “This award is a reflection of my efforts and that of my outstanding students and the supportive environment provided by my UTEP colleagues and dedicated staff. I have taught and conducted research at UTEP for 20 years. In this time, I have most enjoyed watching students grow into competent professionals with their own rewarding careers. When that happens, I get a sense of passing knowledge, techniques, and an attitude of inquiry from my generation to the next. And then I have the pleasure of watching the next generation take the inquiry even farther.”