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At graduation time, remember Arizona's outstanding profs
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At graduation time, remember Arizona's outstanding profs

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This weekend’s graduates from the University of Arizona have posed for photos, appropriately partied with the parents and put their arms high in celebration that school’s over.


But before the grueling hours of reading and paper-writing get put away in the memory box, we want to recognize the faculty members whose dedication and enthusiasm for their subjects make the years at UA enjoyable.

Take Steven Reff, instructor in the Eller College of Management Department of Economics, for example. Reff’s been recognized for his quality teaching over the years, but this year he receives the only campus-wide honor for faculty given by the students.

Reff is known for his ability to keep the hundreds of undergrads in his lecture courses interested with “humor, clear explanations and interactive techniques,” according to the UA. That’s enough evidence to make us confident he deserves the Margaret M. Briehl and Dennis T. Ray Five Star Faculty award, which includes a $1,000 prize.

Another professor recognized in the UA’s Awards of Distinction ceremony is Patrick Baliani, who earned the Five Star Faculty nod last year and this year received the UA Foundation Leicester and Kathryn Sherrill Creative Teaching award, which focuses on work with undergraduates and includes $2,500.

An associate professor of interdisciplinary studies in the UA Honors College and a playwright and translator, Baliani “works to merge literature and the arts with contemporary events as part of his teaching,” according to the UA’s announcement of the faculty awards.

The big money award – the $10,000 Henry and Phyllis Koffler prize in Research/Scholarship/Creative Activity — goes to Bruce Tabashnik. He’s a professor and head of the entomology department in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences who “has mentored more than 110 high school, undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students in his laboratory.”

The work of Brokk Toggerson, instructor in the department of physics, and Jennifer Eli, assistant professor in the department of mathematics, to improve classroom instruction earned them the Undergraduate STEM Education Teaching Excellence award and $2,500 each.

“This award underscores the value of implementing research-supported teaching reforms to better prepare the next generation of STEM educators,” Eli said in the UA release.

The Graduate and Professional Education Teaching and Mentoring award goes to Gerald Gaus, professor in the department of philosophy in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Hoshin Vijai Gupta, professor of hydrology and water resources in the College of Science’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences. They also receive $2,500 each.

“Gaus is a specialist in political philosophy who has co-authored five peer-reviewed articles with his graduate students since 2010, and is currently working on a sixth,” according to the UA. Gupta, who began as a UA research associate in 1983, has worked with more than 100 graduate students.

To these and all the outstanding teachers — at the UA, Pima Community College and our K-12 public and private schools — we salute you and offer our thanks.

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