Creighton Faculty Honored with Professor of the Year Awards

Released: 14-Nov-2013 8:00 AM EST
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Newswise — Two Creighton University faculty members have been named 2013 Professors of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

Gintaras Duda, Ph.D., associate professor of physics, was named a National Professor of the Year in the master’s category. Matthew Huss, Ph.D., M.L.S., professor of psychology, was named Nebraska Professor of the Year. This is the fourth time in the history of the awards that both a national and a state winner have come from the same institution.

“These honors – the most prestigious in undergraduate higher education – are richly deserved and shine a national spotlight on the distinguished faculty at Creighton who are dedicated to molding students to make a difference in the world,” said the Rev. Timothy R. Lannon, S.J., Creighton University president.

National Professor of the Year awards salute four of the most outstanding undergraduate instructors in the country—those who excel as teachers and influence the lives and careers of students. A winner is selected from each of four categories: baccalaureate colleges, community colleges, doctoral and research universities and master’s universities.

Duda was selected from a field of more than 350 top professors.
Duda uses a combination of active learning techniques and technology to maximize student learning, relying on research that shows that the most effective learning requires both mental effort and active participation.

“Most people need some social interaction to learn,” he said. “So contrary to what we may have learned as kids, it can be a good thing to visit with your neighbor in class.”

Duda has used “clicker” technology in class, to instantly poll students’ understanding of material, and incorporates Project/Problem-based Learning (PBL), experimenting with problems that mimic real-world situations, or “other-world” situations, as in the case of zombies.

In an upper-division mathematical physics course, Duda constructed a group project that modeled a zombie outbreak of the type seen on a popular television show. Students researched, devised and solved mathematical models for the spread of a zombie-like infection.

Duda also pioneered a team-teaching approach at Creighton that paired a physics class with a calculus class, interweaving the two disciplines in a way that reinforced each.

“Dr. Duda’s passionate enthusiasm for physics and continuous dedication to his students were driving factors for us to confidently excel in the sciences and sprout and grow our critical problem-solving skills,” said Anya Burkart, a 2011 Creighton graduate and biological engineering graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

His area of primary research is cosmology centering on dark matter, the mysterious, non-luminous substance that is 90 percent of the mass of the universe, which he explores through computer-based calculations as well as pencil-and-paper theory.

But Duda’s interest in effective teaching goes beyond his own classes or even Creighton. Because he feels that a lifelong interest in science may be best kindled at the middle-school level, he conducts afterschool science clubs for kids and workshops for public school science teachers.

Duda has been at Creighton since 2003 and received the Dean’s Award for Professional Excellence in Tenure-track Teaching and was co-director of the International Institute for Scholarship Teaching and Learning Scholars and Mentors for 2010 and 2011. He holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Villanova University and a doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Nebraska Professor of the Year Matthew Huss, Ph.D., M.L.S., says that his goal in the classroom is to capture students’ attention and keep it, by imparting information that is worthy of their time and will inspire them to learn even more on their own.

“He is a person who acknowledges the inherent humanness of every individual,” says Valerie Gonsalves, Ph.D., a 2004 graduate of Creighton and a Madison, Wis., psychologist. “He interacts with students in a way that allows them to feel both encouraged and respected.”

Huss has published the most prominent textbook in forensic-clinical psychology and is often called upon to testify as an expert witness, applying psychological findings to the language of the courtroom. He partners with state and community agencies to access clinical and criminal populations, experiences that serve as treatment vehicles for those with psychological difficulties, as well as research opportunities for his students. Huss mentors them in the development, design and execution of research, impressing upon them that they are witnessing firsthand the consequences of public policy decisions on real people.

“I want students to understand that there are consequences to real people in both our efforts as researchers and as practicing psychologists. We are talking about real people, with real jobs, real families and real suffering,” Huss said.

Huss received his undergraduate degree in psychology at Creighton and has taught at his alma mater since 2000. He holds a master’s degree in general experimental psychology from Emporia State University; a master’s degree in legal studies from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln School of Law; and a doctorate in clinical psychology with specialization in forensic psychology from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. He has received numerous awards including the College of Arts and Science Dean’s Scholarship Award in 2013 and the College’s Dean’s Teaching Award in 2007.

Both professors accepted their awards at a luncheon at the Ronald Regan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C., Thursday, Nov. 14.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is an independent policy and research center that supports needed transformations in American education through tighter connections between teaching practice, evidence of student learning, the communication and use of this evidence, and structured opportunities to build knowledge.


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